Here's an argument that has divided baseball fans ever
since Ron Blomberg was the first player to step up to the plate with "DH"
written next to his name on the lineup card. Should the DH be adopted in both
major leagues or dropped?
I think that there is
little question that it should be retained and used in both major leagues. The
major advantage is obvious and well-documented: it gets a real hitter into the
lineup in place of the pitcher. The major argument of DH opponents is that it
"removes strategy from the game".
What "strategy" is
being removed? Supposedly, it's the decision of whether or not to leave in the
pitcher in the late innings of a game or take him out for a pinch-hitter. Yet,
is there really any decision to be made in almost all of those
Consider, you are the
manager. Your team is behind 2-1 in the top of the 8th inning. You have a
runner on 1st with one out and the pitcher is due up. The only decision to be
made here is based solely on whether or not you trust your bullpen to keep the
game close. If you have a decent reliever available, you pinch-hit. If not,
you let your pitcher bunt the runner to 2nd and play for your lead-off man to
get a clutch hit. There's no decision here. In reality, not having the DH
means that either of those decisions is detrimental to your club. In the first
instance, you take out your best pitcher. In the second, you give up a precious
out late in the game. This is good?
Oh, yes, let's not
forget that having the DH means that managers won't have the opportunity of
making the infamous "double switch". This "strategy" means not only removing
the pitcher, but also removing a starting player from the lineup and replacing
him with a benchwarmer so that the new pitcher can bat in a different spot in
the lineup. This isn't much of a brain strain on a manager, either. Do
American League fans miss not seeing this "strategy"?
Nobody would argue
that a baseball team consists of 9 men. However, the pitcher is not one among
equals on the field. He is the one player whose presence or absence can most
affect his team's performance. The only other players in any major team sport
whose impact on his team is as important as the baseball pitcher would be the
hockey goaltender and the football quarterback. There are special rules that
apply to those players because of their importance. Baseball's DH rule is one
of them. The pitcher's job is purely defensive in nature - as opposed to the
rest of his team, who must contribute both in the field and at the plate. Why
not let the pitcher do his job and have a real hitter substitute for him in the
Unless, of course,
it's more exciting and "strategic" to see a pitcher take feeble, fruitless cuts
at mediocre fastballs and kill a promising rally.
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