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The Designated Hitter – Past its Prime?

April 6, 1973, Ron Blomberg stepped up to the plate to face Luis Tiant.  It was opening day and with the bases loaded, Blomberg walked driving in the first run of the game.  This run would mean little in the bigger scheme of things as the Red Sox won 15-5 that day in Boston.  However, the significance of this one at bat was the new position that Blomberg played that day, the designated hitter. 

The designated hitter (DH) has been a source of controversy ever since.  The American League adopted the new rule of a hitter batting for the pitcher in 1973 to help boast attendance.  The idea had been tossed around before (including by Connie Mack in 1906) but was not voted in until 1973.  The DH did exactly what it was planned to do.  It helped boost attendance by providing more offense than that of the National League.  The NL never adopted the rule and has continued to have the pitchers hit.  But should the AL do away with the rule?  Or should the NL adopt it?

Everyone had different opinions on the DH.  Many people like the added offense it provides, but is something lost with its addition?  I feel like a lot is lost.  I prefer the NL style of play where more of the roster is used on a day to day basis including pinch-hitting and double switches.  Something is lost when the manager does not have to plan out all the lineup changes for the night based on when pitchers will hit.  There is a game within the game that is lost, and I feel it is a huge loss.  I also don’t like how AL pitchers can hit a batter without any fear of  retaliation since they don’t have to face the opposing pitcher.

I am also not a fan of many of the players who hang on for years after their prime purely as a hitter in the AL.  I feel that if you can’t field, you shouldn’t hit.  There are two parts to baseball, offense and defense, and I think everyone should have to do both.  This also lead us into the mixed up world of salary levels.  I am all for a salary cap and floor, and who is it that is typically a DH?  It is an older player who demands more money.  This just adds another high priced player to the rosters forcing salary levels up.  The richer teams of course can add the best of the best, while the smaller market teams opt to have a younger player, who is typically cheaper, hit as DH. 

Of course, you have to take my opinions with a grain of salt.  I am a baseball purist who was against inter-league play and Milwaukee switching leagues.  I like things to stay the same.  I do see how inter-league play has helped, but I think the DH is past its prime and should be laid to rest.  Even with this feeling, I am fully aware of the difficulty this would cause throughout all of baseball.  Some pitchers get to the majors and haven’t hit since high school.  Colleges and minor league teams use the DH and unless they were a standout at the plate as well in college, the odds are they haven’t hit much by the time they get to the majors.  Would I like to see the DH disappear?  Yes.  Do I think it is going to happen?  No.  It will at least give us something to argue over each winter.

What do you think should happen?  Do you like the DH, or would you rather see the pitcher hit in both leagues?


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2 Responses to “The Designated Hitter – Past its Prime?”

  1. Leon says:

    I do agree that it completely changes the strategy of the game. Nothing bores me more than looking at an AL boxscore and not seeing a single switch in the lineup. I mean, where is the managerial skill in that?

    Definitely by having the pitcher hit, it increases the level of strategy and moves. From pinch hitting, pinch running, bunting, and double switches. It changes how everyone approaches the lineup leading up to the pitcher’s spot. It definitely puts a whole new wrinkle to the game.

    However, it does pains me to see pitchers injured while hitting or running the bases. I mean it’s hard enough to keep an arm healthy all season, so something relatively “freakish” like swinging the bat or running the bases can change the fortunes of a team. Take C. Wang last year or say, Mark Prior. They were some of the best pitchers in the league and now their careers are probably about over.

  2. The Journeyman says:

    But running the bases is part of the game. If you subject both leagues to it then there is no issue. “Freakish” injuries can happen anywhere. There have been guys on the DL for sneezing wrong or falling in the shower. I think the added value you get with the strategy far outweighs the risk of getting injured on the basepaths.


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