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REPLY #8 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) While I always like to see a well defended contest (I recall a wag's comment, something like, "what, watch a bunch of semi-giants score two hundred and thirty points, two at a time?!?") I am ambivalent about the DH. There is a sense of nostalgia for lost youth, but it probably doesn't make all that much difference in my appreciation of the game.
(MB) Nostalgia certainly has a place in the grand old game of baseball, but how far are fans really willing to go to preserve it? Do they wish for the return of the dead ball, no night games, pathetic excuses for fielder's gloves, ballparks with center field fences 480 feet away, and so on? On the other hand, it would certainly be nice to go to a Sunday doubleheader and not have it cost enough to make you wonder how you'll scrape up next month's rent. In any case, there must be something more than nostalgia involved in any opposition to the DH.

(R) However, your argument that the pitcher is purely defensive, while the rest of the team goes both ways holds no water at all.
(MB) How so? The pitcher begins every play with the ball in his hands and play cannot continue until he delivers the ball to the batter (or to a base occupied by a runner). His job is to prevent the batter from hitting the ball at all or to induce him into hitting the ball into fair territory such that it can be easily handled by one of his teammates. No other player on the field is directly involved in every play on defense.
    The average pitcher who goes 9 innings may be involved in over 120 plays on defense with each one potentially either leading to or preventing runs being scored. On average, that same pitcher might bat 3 or 4 times. No other player has this ratio of defensive to offensive plays. In fact, in every game you are likely to find at least one (if not more) position players who have more turns at bat than chances in the field. These simple facts support my argument about the pitcher being defensive while the rest of the team goes both ways.


(R) You liken the pitcher to the football quarterback. What about the linebacker, defensive end, corners and safeties? But for a few specially talented individuals, all are defensive specialists.
(MB) I compared pitchers to quarterbacks (and goaltenders) in that their respective games have unique rules to cover their unique positions within the game. Football used to be a game where players played both offense and defense. In fact, Arena Football still does that -- with, of course, exceptions for the quarterback. The NFL has never had rules that demand that players play on both sides of the ball.

(R) Why should the super-gold-glove short stop who can't hit the curve be treated any differently than, say Dick Butkis?
(MB) Because there are no rules that say that any NFL player must play both offense and defense. Just imagine the incredible injury toll that mandatory two-way play would introduce into the NFL. Baseball does not allow free substitution of players with reentry into the game.

(R) Why not have an offensive team of big fat guys who can swing for the fences, and a small swift defensive alignment that never lets anything catchable through? If the point of the game is to score as many runs as possible, and in some sense, of course it is, what's wrong with that?
(MB) I don't think it's necessary to extrapolate the DH rule to fanciful extremes. Heck, even recreational slow-pitch softball leagues for the over-40 crowd (like me) don't do that. The point of the DH rule is not to score as many runs as possible, but to promote additional offense and add more excitement to the game by getting rid of the inevitable rally-killing at-bats produced by a pitcher's incompetent attempts at hitting.

(R) At the very least, allow the catcher, the hardest working guy on the team (he catches for all the starters without letup, and has to squat and stand, squat and stand...throughout) to skip batting. He shouldn't need that extra agravation, and he's also indispensible to the defense.
(MB) For a catcher, I think that hitting adds to his traditional role as a team leader. Also, examples such as Craig Biggio, Todd Zeile and Dale Murphy show that teams will move catchers out from behind the plate if their special offensive skills overshadow their defense. Of course, these players *could* DH if they needed a break...*grin*

(R) Whudduya think?
(MB) I think it's gonna be another great season in 1999. Play Ball!!!


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