What’s Wrong With Baseball #9: The Designated Hitter

The designated hitter. Bob Costas: “Baseball is simply a better game without the DH.”

This will definitely not resonate with younger readers, who have never known an American League that played with real baseball rules, but it can if they will think hard about the differences in the National League and American League games. Joe Torre is getting a lot of sympathy for being offered a contract Steinbrenner knew he would turn down. A great manager gets the short end of the stick, right?

Not entirely. While I do think Torre is an excellent manager, should he choose to continue managing and end up in the National League, he would have to do a lot more managing, thinking, strategizing. The strategies surrounding a pitcher who hits, having to consider removing him when the need to pinch hit arises, double switches, etc., means NL managers simply think a lot more. Few of them nod off in the dugout.

And the game is better. There is no guarantee Torre could still think like a National Leaguer (he did spend his career there). Of course, he has had to do that in the World Series he has managed in, so he should be able to do it.

So the main reason the DH is bad for baseball is Bob Costas’ “Baseball is simply a better game without the DH. ”

There’s a second reason. Stats, though thrown together as major league stats, just don’t mean the same thing in the two leagues, especially for pitchers, who obviously, since they never get to pitch to pitchers, have higher ERAs in the AL. It’s mixing apples and oranges. Players’ career stats can’t really be compared. It’s even more of a mess since the introduction of inter-league play, which is clearly good for baseball.

The advantages of pitching to pitchers in the NL is somewhat offset by the fact that good pitchers get to pitch longer in the AL because they don’t get lifted as quickly. But fewer young pitchers get to develop this way. And this means that hitters have a disadvantage in the AL because they are facing good pitchers longer. The only hitters to gain an advantage in the AL are the aging guys who hang on for a few extra years because they don’t need to go into the field. (So where is Barry Bonds going to go?)

But it’s too late to rectify it on the stats end. And it’s too ingrained in the AL psyche to ever change. So I offer the #9 thing that’s wrong with baseball simply as food for thought. It’s never going to change, so we’ll live with it. And I’ll keep enjoying National League games more than American League games.


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