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February 2012

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COMMENTS

The Designated Headache

Written by , Posted in General

Imagine if the fact that Sunday’s Super Bowl is being played in Indianapolis at an AFC stadium meant that both teams were allowed to use their placekickers.  Imagine that the Patriots, as an AFC team, had been using a placekicker for field goals and extra points in all but their road games against NFC teams.  Imagine that the opposite was true for the Giants–that they had barely used a placekicker all season, since NFC rules force them to go for two points after every touchdown, and that field goals weren’t allowed.  That having a placekicker for the Super Bowl sorta leveled the playing field, but that their kicker’s lack of experience made it less than advantageous, and that the alternate rules forced them to alter a game plan that had successfully carried them to the Super Bowl in the first place.  And while they could still go for two on every extra point play, it would mean that they’d sacrifice the ability to kick field goals.

Imagine Eastern Conference NBA teams could select one player to shoot all the team’s free throws–regardless of if he was on the floor during the foul–but that Western Conference players all had to shoot their own foul shots.

Imagine some professional futbol soccer teams played with eleven men a side, while others played with twelve on the pitch field.

Of course those scenarios are ludicrous.  Why would a sport’s governing body create such an inequality within their own game?  Why would they introduce inconsistency into their own sport, and give half the teams a significant advantage over the others?  Why would they think there’s nothing wrong with playing the same game by two separate sets of rules?

Why indeed.

The Designated Hitter rule (rule 6.10 for those of you with a handy copy of the MLB rule book) creates a laughable inequality within the game.  Introduced in the early 70’s, the idea for the DH was first suggested back in 1906 by legendary manager Connie Mack.  It seems pitchers–with a few notable exceptions–have always been light hitters, and the DH was a way to cover up their ineffectiveness at the plate and put the best possible product on the field.

In the end, the DH rule creates far more problems than it solves.  And the worst isn’t that it routinely pulls the best hitters from the NL into the AL.  It isn’t that it creates two sets of rules for the game, or that it can drive a wedge between the pitching staff and the rest of their team.  It’s not that it grants an unfair advantage for the AL in inter-league play and the World Series–even though it does.

No, the biggest problem regarding the Designated Hitter is that despite the poor logic behind it and the inequality it creates, the rule is likely never going away.  More than two full generations of baseball fans have grown up with the DH rule in place–in fact, the rule is older than me by six years.  Losing the DH now would be as jarring for AL fans as it would be for basketball fans if the NBA ditched the three-point line.

And let’s face it, the fans who benefit most from the DH rule are some of the most important to Bud Selig–and particularly the fans in the AL East.  As Jedi pointed out yesterday, Selig’s move to expand the number of teams that reach playoffs is a direct concession to the AL East, as was his introduction of the Wild Card in the first place.  Doing away with the DH would be a direct insult to the fans Selig values most.

So rather than wait for the end of Selig’s tenure (since it seems he–like Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Betty White–cannot be stopped) and a wave of common sense to wash over the MLB, let me suggest that the DH rule should be extended to (gulp) the NL as well.  Because if everyone in charge is happy to overlook the unfair advantage it creates, there’s no point in accepting the disadvantage on principle.  Holding out against the DH is making a point no one is listening to.

  • Jedi

    As much as I hate it, you might as well put it out there for all – it’s a part of virtually every level of baseball in some form or another anyway.

  • Seymour Butts

    test

  • Seymour Butts

    test

  • Norm Bothwell

    I used to be against the DH, but now I’m for it.
    I like seeing hitters hit and pitchers pitch…and I hate that NL pitchers get to have what basically amounts to 3 free outs per game.

  • Norm Bothwell

    I used to be against the DH, but now I’m for it.
    I like seeing hitters hit and pitchers pitch…and I hate that NL pitchers get to have what basically amounts to 3 free outs per game.

  • Chuck

    While I dislike the DH in principal, both leagues should use the same rules.  It would be like if the NL decided to move the mound in 5 feet.  The DH gives the AL an unfair advantage in both interleague and the World Series so the easiest way to equalize the leagues would be to allow the DH in both leagues.  The side effect of this is that the game becomes much more simple for the managers.  It sucks much of the strategy out of the game.

  • Norm Bothwell

    Chuck, I hear that argument (strategy) all the time, but I don’t see it any more. How much strategy is there, really?
    The Cubs bullpen (and every other team) is set up so that one guy handles the 9th inning, two guys (a righty and lefty) handle the 7th and 8th. So those are pretty much no-brainer moves on what pitchers to bring in.
    If you have to pinch hit before that, you usually fall back to your 4th – 7th best reliever.
    As for what pinch hitters, you usually have 2 back up IF and 2 back up OF (1 RH and 1 LH each) with 1 back up catcher. If there is a righty on the mound you bring in one of the lefties…you have 2 guys to choose from. Same from the other side.
    I don’t feel that any of those decisions are so strategically interesting that they make the game more entertaining than being able to keep your starting pitcher in the game longer and face an actual hitter instead of a lineup spot that collectively hits 142/176/183 for a .359 OPS.

  • Buddy

    After all these years, I’m still torn when it comes to the DH. On the one hand, I think pitchers should have to bat (unless you’re pinch hitting of course). On the other hand, the DH has prolonged the careers of some great players. I guess I need to toss a coin in my mind.

  • BLPCB

    testing

  • Anonymous

    I like the DH in the NL. Saves a team from losing their best pitcher for 2 months because of a batting injury

  • Doc Raker

    The DH bores me. Al line up-hitter, hitter, hitter, hitter, hitter, hitter, hitter, hitter, hitter. NL line up- leadoff hitter, 2 hole hitter, high average hitter, RBI hitter, RBI hitter, RBI hitter, tweener hitter, worst position player hitter, pitcher. Do you let the pitcher hit? Do you bunt the pitcher? If you pinch hit who pinch hits? Do you double switch?
    Back to the AL line up- Let’s change pitchers. When? Doesn’t matter, whenever you want to. Who is up? A hitter. What number in the line up is up? Is there a difference?
    Pitchers bunting, pitchers standing on the on deck circle before being called back for a pinch hitter, pitchers hitting in the 6th inning and then getting light up in the 7th inning is all part of the NL game that makes it interesting. AL games are a boring parade of hitters.

    • Norm Bothwell

      All those questions are easily answered. And I don’t think you really believe the AL doesn’t follow the same lineup rule you wrote for the NL; just substitute ‘pitcher’ with another ‘rbi hitter’.
      If you find that the pitcher standing in the on deck circle before being called back for a pinch hitter is interesting, than the DH most certainly is not for you.

  • Doc Raker

    The DH bores me. Al line up-hitter, hitter, hitter, hitter, hitter, hitter, hitter, hitter, hitter. NL line up- leadoff hitter, 2 hole hitter, high average hitter, RBI hitter, RBI hitter, RBI hitter, tweener hitter, worst position player hitter, pitcher. Do you let the pitcher hit? Do you bunt the pitcher? If you pinch hit who pinch hits? Do you double switch?
    Back to the AL line up- Let’s change pitchers. When? Doesn’t matter, whenever you want to. Who is up? A hitter. What number in the line up is up? Is there a difference?
    Pitchers bunting, pitchers standing on the on deck circle before being called back for a pinch hitter, pitchers hitting in the 6th inning and then getting light up in the 7th inning is all part of the NL game that makes it interesting. AL games are a boring parade of hitters.

    • Norm Bothwell

      All those questions are easily answered. And I don’t think you really believe the AL doesn’t follow the same lineup rule you wrote for the NL; just substitute ‘pitcher’ with another ‘rbi hitter’.
      If you find that the pitcher standing in the on deck circle before being called back for a pinch hitter is interesting, than the DH most certainly is not for you.

  • eddie von white

    B-CAPS – Has that actually ever happened? If so who and when?

    When you give up on principle, what have you left? And what will you give up on next? Even if no one is listening, at least you have your self-respect.  Keep the DH out of the NL.

  • eddie von white

    B-CAPS – Has that actually ever happened? If so who and when?

    When you give up on principle, what have you left? And what will you give up on next? Even if no one is listening, at least you have your self-respect.  Keep the DH out of the NL.

  • Rich Beckman

    I hate the DH.  I hope it does not get to the NL in my lifetime.

    I would point out another reason it will never be done away with in the AL is that the players union would not allow it.

  • RichBeckman

    I hate the DH.  I hope it does not get to the NL in my lifetime.

    I would point out another reason it will never be done away with in the AL is that the players union would not allow it.

  • Smitty

    I think the DH ruined baseballs’ strategy..as Doc so eloquently pointed out. I love the game of it..its almost like a chess match..putting the DH in the NL would turn me into a basketball fan..and no one wants that

  • Buddy

    In 1985, Rick Sutcliffe pulled a hamstring trying to beat out an infield hit. If memory serves, he tried to come back too soon, changed his delivery because of the pain in his leg, and then trashed his arm. 

    • Anonymous

      Sure did-the year right after going 16-1 and winning the CY award for the 84 Cubs, there first title since 1945.  Never was the same guy again, tho he did go 16-11 with the 89 Cubs, never was consistent and eventually lost velocity on his FB as the season went on. Really a shame-Sutcliffe was also ROY with the LAD in 79, hurt his shoulder, was traded to Cleveland, and took 2 years to regain his arm strength. Could have been a really good one except for the injuries.

    • mutantbeast

      Sure did-the year right after going 16-1 and winning the CY award for the 84 Cubs, there first title since 1945.  Never was the same guy again, tho he did go 16-11 with the 89 Cubs, never was consistent and eventually lost velocity on his FB as the season went on. Really a shame-Sutcliffe was also ROY with the LAD in 79, hurt his shoulder, was traded to Cleveland, and took 2 years to regain his arm strength. Could have been a really good one except for the injuries.

  • Anonymous

    The one thing I will say against the DH-the pitcher has fewer easy outs,so it can shorten a pitchers career. Im  wondering if anyone has done a study of pitchers who pitch in ballparks in the AL east compared to say, the NL West. Id bet pitchers who pitch the majority of there careers in the NL have longer careers(Javier Vasquez or AJ Burnett come to mind)

  • Doc Raker

    Norm- of course the AL follows the same line up philosophy but to me when I watch an AL game that is what it seems like. The rhythm of the line up seems lost. Injuries are part of the game, I don’t see an unusually high rate of pitchers getting injured while batting and who is to say a hamstring that was pulled running the bases would not be pulled while pitching or running wind sprints at practice. The DH significantly reduces the intellectual chess match of the game and the chess match is what makes it interesting to me. Baseball is boring if you simply wait for a run to be produced. It is the games within the game that makes baseball the greatest game.

    • Norm Bothwell

       I hear ya…I won’t use ‘injury’ as a reason for the DH. Those can happen anywhere, anytime.
      I guess I don’t see it as a chess match, I see it more like checkers.

  • Doc Raker

    Norm- of course the AL follows the same line up philosophy but to me when I watch an AL game that is what it seems like. The rhythm of the line up seems lost. Injuries are part of the game, I don’t see an unusually high rate of pitchers getting injured while batting and who is to say a hamstring that was pulled running the bases would not be pulled while pitching or running wind sprints at practice. The DH significantly reduces the intellectual chess match of the game and the chess match is what makes it interesting to me. Baseball is boring if you simply wait for a run to be produced. It is the games within the game that makes baseball the greatest game.

    • Norm Bothwell

       I hear ya…I won’t use ‘injury’ as a reason for the DH. Those can happen anywhere, anytime.
      I guess I don’t see it as a chess match, I see it more like checkers.

  • Doc Raker

    Rick is correct, the MLBPA will never allow the DH to go by by unless the roster is expanded. 

  • Eric Smith

    I hate the DH and hate watching the AL.  There’s no excitement in baseball if the manager isn’t facing that choice of having to go to his bullpen in the 6th or let his pitcher bat with RISP.  The DH makes baseball pointless.

  • Eric Smith

    I hate the DH and hate watching the AL.  There’s no excitement in baseball if the manager isn’t facing that choice of having to go to his bullpen in the 6th or let his pitcher bat with RISP.  The DH makes baseball pointless.

  • Timo

    I don’t like the DH for all the reasons mentioned here. But besides having the question if having a DH is interesting or not the main question, at least in my opinion, is the follwoing: Is the DH an advantage for AL teams?
    Well, I think it is clear that it is easier to retain good hitters in your team and lineup, if you have a DHp spotin the lineup. E.g. you can offer Prince 9 years, since you think that he can at least play as DH for some of these years. But is the DH an advantage for the AL team in a world series or in interleague play? I think it is not, because the disadvantage of having our pitcher bat if he has not done that on a regular basis is the real disanvantage. For a NL team you simply substitute your pitcher for another guy who hits in the lineup. No big change there.
    So in the end I believe the DH creates inequlity between the teams, but the same could be said for different sized markets or cities. Not all teams are equal, so why should they be equal? In my opinion the DH is boring, but not a problem as long as the NL avoids it.

    • Timo

       P.S: I like the new comment format.

  • Rich Beckman

    mutantbeast,

    I swear I heard Bill James in an interview many, many years ago talk about that subject.  He was remembering a time before he became at all well known.  He once heard an announcer make the claim that the DH was shortening the careers of pitchers.  He said that was just the kind of stuff announcers would say that drove him nuts because he knew there were no numbers behind it.  So he ran the numbers and discovered the announcer was right.  Starters in the AL were pitching more innings and their careers were shorter.

    Now that’s how I remember this from a long time ago, so it may not be worth much.

  • I think that between the big-length contracts issue (noted above) and the soon-to-be everyday nature of interleague play, we are likely seeing the final year(s) of two different rule systems. The NL rules, though romantic, are likely going away sometime sooner rather than later.

    Unlike others, though, I’m wholly indifferent on the topic; my only opinion is that there should be a uniform set of rules since interleague games count for the playoffs just like any other games. Which rule is used really doesn’t matter to me. Baseball’s baseball either way.

  • Anonymous

    The fact that we will have daily interleague in 2013 won’t change anything. It just means instead of 3 weeks of non-stop interleague play, it will be spread out over the entire season. I did some math, right now there are about 300 interleague games played a year.

    • I disagree with you. The everyday nature of interleague play will keep the inequality a topic of conversation all year long rather than boxed into a small timeframe. That’s a big difference, IMO.

      • Anonymous

        Now you are talking about something completely different. It might keep the arguments going, and I agree with you it will, but it will not drastically increase the number of interleague games played.