Is the designated hitter a legitimate position in baseball?
As baseball continues to evolve, even purists need to adjust to change. It’s doing so more quickly than it has in the past. Everyone involved with the game needs to learn to agree and keep up, which includes the argument of the designated hitter.
The designated hitter position has been around for 43 years and people still debate whether or not the rule should exist. With all the changes that happened so quickly over the past 15 to 20 years, why is this the one that no one can agree on?
Change is nothing new in baseball. It began in the modern era, but change came on quickly at the turn of the century.
The focus on sabermetrics, statistics and most importantly the creation of the WAR statistics have changed the way that the game is watched. There are other changes, too. It took approximately 70 years to get to expansion and even longer to get the designated hitter rule and the implementation of the wild card. Now there’s the idea of speeding up the pace of play, the addition of the second wild card and instant replay all within the last couple of seasons.
The real problem here is that there is still a debate over the designated hitter. Some want it implemented in the National League, while others claim that it ruins the “strategy” in the game. Whatever side of the fence one is one, the DH position is still being undermined.
It’s time the DH is recognized as a legitimate position, which means he inclusion into the National League.
First, no one really wants to watch a pitcher hit (unless that pitcher’s name is Bartolo Colon) and it makes pitchers more susceptible to injuries, which is the last thing that needs to be added to the recent Tommy John surgery epidemic. It also takes a spot away from a hitter who could actually help the team.
The DH position even extends the careers of players, allowing them to play longer and show off their offensive talent whereas otherwise they would be forced into early retirement.
Recently I heard the DH position being compared to a pinch-hitter in regards to extending careers, but pinch-hitters don’t play in the majority of games and being a pinch-hitter is not a designated position in either league.
A team’s closer is another example that was recently compared to the DH position. Closers pitch just one inning in games in which they are needed and multiple are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A designated hitter may not always play in the field, but he will likely have a spot in the team’s lineup on a daily basis.
The designated hitter (in the American League) and a team’s closer are both legitimate and needed positions on a baseball team. It’s just very surprising that with baseball making so many changes that are simply accepted, that people cannot fully embrace the DH. They need to accept a change that was put into place 43 years ago. Whether it’s Hall of Fame voters, fans, coaches, executives or players, it seems that no one can agree on the debate about the DH, and that should be handled before newer changes such as the pace of play or instant replay.
It’s a debatable subject that impacts good players’ careers and, like Edgar Martinez, keeps some from admittance into the Hall ff Fame. I say initiate the DH in the National League as well, and let these stellar hitters into the Hall. If everyone can accept all the other recent changes then they should be able to deal with the idea of having their pitchers not attempt to hit.