Should MLB Unify The Designated Hitter Rule?
Each week, two PressBox baseball writers weigh in with their thoughts on a different question. Interleague play has taken over baseball once again, so Stan "The Fan" Charles and Matt Palmer debate whether Major Leauge baseball should unify the designated hitter rule.
As we look ahead to next season, when the Astros' move to the American League will dictate at least one interleague series from the start of the schedule to the end, is it time for MLB to unify the DH rule?
By Stan "The Fan" Charles
It is time to unify this rule. AL teams are at a distinct disadvantage in head-to-head play, while the National League suffers in only one small way. Let's start with the NL, and what they suffer. In their home parks, it is business as usual for the senior circuit. But when they play in an AL park and have the DH, more often than not, they do not have nearly the investment in a substantive hitter-only player. Often you'll see the guy that is normally the team's best pinch hitter sent up to the plate four times. That's not even close to what the Red Sox get from David Ortiz, or the Angels from Kendrys Morales.
On the flip side of the coin, the rules in NL parks make this edge unfair to AL teams in multiple ways. Because the DH can't bat in NL parks, the AL teams have to look at other options to get one of their best bats in the game. They can play him at a defensive position, though he isn't deemed good enough to play there every day, thereby lessening their defense, or they can move a regular player in the field to a different position, again weakening their defense.
The AL also loses because their pitchers, who rarely take batting or bunting practice, get quite literally put in harm's way, facing pitches faster than 90 mph, thereby risking injury. If you doubt this, go out and try to stand in and bunt a fastball from A.J. Burnett.
The real losers here can be the fans, who see a lesser brand of baseball with two separate rules. In the NFL, they don't make players that are no good on defense play defense. In baseball, the DH is this one small way to have the offensive side of the game elevated and made more interesting. Watching pitchers bat lost its appeal for AL fans in 1973, when the DH rule first came into effect.
There's one last point to make. No less an expert than Orioles manager Buck Showalter was a guest on Ripken Baseball on SiriusXM radio and was asked about which rule was more challenging. Showalter said the decision of when to leave a pitcher in or take him out was much more difficult and strategic in the AL, because of the DH.
Showalter cited the ever-present fact that in the NL, the score dictates all. There is less strategy on this point in the NL game.
After 39 years, with the AL and NL going to 15 teams each, and at least one interleague series going on at all times, it's high time to change the rule, and make the NL conform to a better and more interesting game.
By Matt Palmer
No. MLB’s wounds are typically self-inflicted.
Baseball, more than anything, is about mystique. Even when people aren't in love with it, the romanticism of the game can suck them back in. While Bud Selig has been commissioner, the league has torn down all the small things that made Major League Baseball different.
Interleague play, while occasionally fun, has destroyed much of the mystery that went with a baseball season. There was something interesting about taking down your own league in order to get to the other guy's champ.
Teams didn't see one another. When they actually matched up, there was an air of unpredictability to it. Now, there's a chance people can say with reasonable certainty that one team is better than the other based on the games they've played with one another during the season.
Baseball was special among all other leagues for that reason. Interleague play has been going on for 15 years now. That, too, has lost its uniqueness, making questions like this a natural.
That goes to my point. Baseball officials and owners should have, perhaps more than any of us, relished the sacredness of the game. Instead, its history meant little to them as they made an effort to grow the game.
Major League Baseball grew and expanded to new towns during the last 20 years, but its executives' greed has left the league weak and, no matter what the announced attendance numbers are, led to half-empty ballparks.
Interleague play is a gimmick. Although the Phillies fans might have come to Baltimore in droves this past weekend for a regional battle, that's not going to be the case with other teams. Pittsburgh fans aren't coming in the same numbers.
Rather than grow or evolve, Major League Baseball should consider reverting back to what it was before the late 1990s -- two separate leagues with unique identities. Restore some pride to the game, the players and the World Series.
Posted June 12, 2012