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REPLY #6 TO
"DESIGNATED HITTER"



Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

(R) I feel I must take exception with your statement:
"I think that there is little question that it should be retained and used in both major leagues."
I would say that there is tremendous question regarding that belief.

(MB) When I say that "there is little question" about something, I mean that I consider the weight of evidence and argument to be overwhelmingly stacked in favor of it. Obviously, there will still be those folks (possibly many such folks) who will still voice their disagreements. For example, the Flat Earth Society is still a going concern, but I feel that "there is little question" that the Earth is neither flat nor stationary.
In the case of the DH, there are still many who don't like it, but since I still can't say that I've heard any arguments against it that begin to balance the weight of the arguments in favor of it, I say that "there is no question" about that it should be retained and used in both leagues.



(R) My main gripe with the DH arises from the fact that the members of a baseball team are (dare I say) baseball players. They are not center fielders or catchers or first basemen or even pitchers. The are baseball players.
(MB) That's really not the case. The vast majority of major league players don't (or can't) play more than 1-2 positions -- which is why versatile utility men are so much in demand. There are exactly *0* major league pitchers who play any position other than pitcher. When's the last time you saw a catcher play shortstop or a center fielder play anywhere on the infield (other than first base)? Consider the disasters that result when Jose Canseco tries to be a relief pitcher or when Bobby Bonilla plays third base. Baseball is -- and always has been -- a game where defensive players have specialized at their given positions. Sure, Ken Griffey, Jr. might be able to physically play shortstop, but he certainly couldn't do it at the "major league level".


It makes even more sense in these days of more highly-paid and seemingly more-easily injured pitchers. It must make a general manager cringe to see his multi-millionaire free-agent pitcher with the long-term contract go up to take his feeble cuts and get buzzed by a 90+ mph fastball. I can't imagine how this spectacle is supposed to "improve" the game.
(R) I am especially disheartened by your statement (reply to reply #5) that pitchers shouldn't bat because they get paid to much and are easily hurt.
(MB) As you can see, my original comment (quoted above) was a bit different. My basic arguments in favor of the DH apply without regard to how much the pitcher might be getting paid. As far as injuries go, consider the commentary one always hears when a right-handed pitcher hits left-handed (or vice-versa). The announcers always wonder why he bats that way and places his pitching arm more in danger of being hit by a pitch. It's especially prevalent during interleague play when the American League pitchers hit. In the case of righty-hitting, lefty-throwing Randy Johnson during a recent ESPN telecast, they went so far as to wonder why manager Lou Piniella would even have Johnson pitch in an "unimportant interleague game" where he "would have to hit and expose his arm to being injured by a pitched ball".


(R) I am afraid to say that I don't quite follow the logic; players from many positions are paid well. I would love to see some stats that indicate that pitchers get hurt more often than non-pitchers.
(MB) As I've already shown, this is not my argument. But, to address the issue, my arguments are only made stronger by the extra concerns added on due to high player salaries and the importance of injuries to pitchers. It's not that pitchers get injured more than other players, but that injuries to front-line starters have a greater impact on their team. I'm sure that no manager or GM wants any of his players to be injured by a pitched ball, but I'm sure that the loss of Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine would mean more to the Braves than the loss of Chipper Jones or Andres Gallaraga. At least, the potential loss of Jones or Gallaraga due to being hit by a pitched ball could be rationalized as a necessary risk to gain their offensive firepower. There is no similar way to rationalize the similar loss of Maddux or Glavine. Bobby Cox must grit his teeth mightily every time his starting pitchers bat against a wild opponent.


(R) Perhaps we should have separate defensive and offensive squads for baseball, much like in football. That way would could get rid of the shortstop (another traditionally poor hitter) or the catcher (notoriously slow on the basepaths) from the batting order.
(MB) There's no reason to go to extremes. The pitcher has a special place on a baseball team, much as does the hockey goaltender or the football quarterback. The pitcher's job is -- and always has been -- defensive while his teammates are expected to contribute on offense, as well. No pitcher will ever be benched or platooned for his shortcomings at the plate and none will ever hit for himself when a base hit is needed in the late innings to tie or win a game. Baseball has always acknowledged the special nature of the pitcher. The DH rule addresses that. It says nothing about any other position.


(R) Or, maybe, we could allow more strikes for someone with a lower batting average. This would allow a more even level of offensive production from all regions (top, middle, bottom) of the batting order.
(MB) Why do you think that batters find themselves located at the top, middle, or bottom of the batting order in the first place? It's because of their relative performances vs. the pitching they face. Also, batting average alone is not the primary indicator of a player's offensive value nor does it necessarily correllate with his place in the lineup. Should a powerful slugger with a low batting average (e.g., Harmon Killebrew) be allowed more strikes than a high average singles hitter (e.g., Rod Carew)?
    In any case, you're still talking about real hitters whose abilities are vastly superior to those of all but a miniscule percentage of pitchers who have ever played the game. It is interesting and instructive to note that managers do not have to employ the DH in games where it is allowed, but when's the last time you saw an American League game where the manager did not use it in favor of letting his pitcher hit? If "strategy" was more important than offense, why wouldn't these managers just refuse to use the DH?



(R) I guess I just feel that if your pitcher is so bad at hitting that you panic at his appearance at the plate maybe he shouldn't be on the team.
(MB) Give me even one example of a major league pitcher whose job in the rotation or out of the bullpen depends upon his abilities (or lack of) at the plate. One of the worst-hitting pitchers of all-time was Sandy Koufax. He would have taken his regular turn in the rotation even if his lifetime average would have been .000 with 100% strikeouts. The same could be said for any pitcher currently on any major league roster. Pitchers aren't expected to be able to hit. If they just survive their turn at bat, the manager has to consider it a plus.


(R) Or, if that player is such a bad fielder that he couldn't possibly play right field anymore, than maybe he should go home.
(MB) Not every DH is somebody who is no longer capable of playing in the field, but certainly the position is likely to be one of the few options left for players who can't (or shouldn't) play defense. But, since baseball is a game of scoring runs, a position whose sole purpose is to aid the offense hardly detracts from the game and the player who occupies that position is no less of a contributor than any of his teammates.
    In the 1998 season, there are only 14 full-time DH slots available in the majors, as compared to 240 slots for full-time two-way position players. I consider this to be a small investment in players for a much larger return in offense, the enjoyment of watching veteran professional hitters (such as Edgar Martinez and Paul Molitor) perform, and a generally better game.



(R) While accepting mediocrity may lead to higher scores, it doesn't lead to better baseball.
(MB) What "mediocrity" is being accepted by using the DH? On the contrary, it eliminates the appalling mediocrity of the pitcher's futile attempts to hit. I can't see how this doesn't produce a better game.


(R) I'd just as soon watch a little league game than watch any game involving a DH.
(MB) I've got news for you -- Little League uses the DH rule. It's just that you don't see it employed very often since the pitcher is often the best all-around athlete on Little League teams. Many Little League managers use the DH in any case just to allow more of their kids to get into the game. In fact, the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs is the only professional, college or high school organization in the country that does not permit the DH rule to be used.
    I'm curious, why would the simple use of the DH make a game unbearable to watch? Will you refuse to watch the World Series games in which the DH is used? The American League has the home-field advantage this year in the Series, so will you be planning on switching your set off when Greg Maddux and David Cone face off in Game Seven just because they won't bat for themselves?




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