There are some constant feuds in America that will go on forever with no clear victor. Coke vs. Pepsi, McDonald’s vs. Burger King, Ford vs. Chevrolet, and the Yankees vs. the Red Sox. While on the subject of baseball, an equally diverse debate is that of the designated hitter.
The designated hitter, introduced exclusively to the American League in 1973, allows for a position player to bat for the pitcher. The DH was initially invented to spike lagging offensive totals and to spark interest in the game.
Now, 43 years later, these same reasons and many more have the MLB contemplating the future of the DH once again. As attendance has sagged, TV ratings have fallen, and pitchers have become offensive pushovers, the possible introduction of the designated hitter to the National League has become an attractive idea for the MLB.
Here are three reasons for why the MLB should expand the designated hitter to the National League.
One of my colleagues over at Major League Mayhem, Will Ogden, recently spoke out as to why the MLB should eliminate the designated hitter. Check out his article here:
1. The Designated Hitter Keeps Players Healthy and Extends their Careers
It is rare in the MLB today to see a true, strict, designated hitter on a big league roster. Only David Ortiz, Victor Martinez, Kendrys Morales, and Alex Rodriguez are strict DHs on their teams. The remaining primary DHs play a fair amount of their time in the field, and can at least hold their own out there.
Thus, the designated hitter has become a bit of a revolving door for some franchises. While one player may start 7 out of 10 games at DH, that player can take the field for the other 3 games, allowing some creaky veterans a “half-day-off”.
This in turn allows for players’ careers to be extended. In his article, Will argued that if a player cannot field, they should not be on an MLB roster. While that makes sense on an ethical standpoint, that would mean that David Ortiz, Edgar Martinez, Don Baylor, Frank Thomas, and Paul Molitor would have had their careers cut short, as they have all been identified as primary DHs over their careers.
The DH let those aforementioned players get a second lease on their MLB lives, and some of them even took that opportunity to the Hall of Fame.
2. Pitchers are Automatic Outs, and the MLB Needs Offense Now
A popular hashtag lately has been #PitchersWhoRake, which is meant to showcase pitchers who excel with the lumber. While there are a select few hurlers that are competent in the batter’s box (Will mentions Jake Arrieta, Adam Wainwright, and Francisco Liriano, but don’t forget Zack Greinke and Madison Bumgarner either), the cruel reality is that pitchers are an automatic out in the MLB today.
The stats that you see in the above graph are absolutely pitiful, and that is including the few pitchers that rake. By comparison, a league-average designated hitter should hit over .250 with at least a .750 OPS.
There is nothing worse than seeing a rally killed by the pitcher because he has to bat. In fact, a recent Cubs-Nationals game saw the Cubs’ chance to pour more runs on in the 12th inning squandered by pitcher Trevor Cahill striking out. The Cubs went on to lose the game thanks to their lack of insurance runs, something that a DH could have provided.
The MLB needs offense right now in the worst way, thanks to declining fan interest around the United States. Baseball is losing the interest of the younger generation in general. If the DH was implemented to the National League, more runs would be scored and fan interest would skyrocket.
3. The DH is Already Part of the Game
There are no tangible, concrete reasons to remove the DH other than tradition, and even that is a flawed argument. The DH has been tradition in the American League for 43 years, and has seen its use expand to the minor leagues, college, and high school baseball as well.
The DH is already part of the game, and for better or for worse, it isn’t going anywhere.
For MLB fans, their minds are particularly hard to change on the designated hitter. Either they support it adamantly, or completely despise its existence.
As a fan of an American League team with a strict DH (the New York Yankees), I obviously tend to see the pros of the DH more than the cons, but I also enjoy interleague matchups and the unique opportunities that they present.
When the Yankees travel to a National League park, it is somewhat exciting to see how Joe Girardi will manage his lineup that given day, and how he will utilize his bench and bullpen. Having the dichotomy of the designated hitter on the grandest stage, the World Series, is also neat; it forces both managers to adapt.
As a compromise, I would also support it if the MLB kept things the way that they are right now, with the DH in the American League and the pitcher batting in the National League. If expanding the DH is too radical, keeping things the same could be a happy medium.
Regardless, the DH will likely stay a part of the MLB forever in some way or another. I doubt that we will ever see an MLB without the designated hitter, so it’s about time that the obstinate opponents of the DH come to accept the DH as part of the MLB for good.
This post can also be found on Major League Mayhem. Check out what’s going on over at MLB Mayhem at http://www.mlbmayhem.com !