The real reason I love the DH!

The real reason I love the DH!

I’m likely in the minority as I write this, however, I have my reasons and understand both parts of the issue. The issue I’m talking about it the designated hitter.

Now, if you knew many of my beliefs about the game, its history and the presence of the wild card, let alone the second wild card, you’d probably assume that I would be against making the DH universal.

I’m not. I love the DH for many reasons, a lot of which, are born out of personal preference and it certainly doesn’t hurt that I grew up watching an American League team and was born after the implementation of the DH in 1973.

Yet, it’s been an argument that began as soon as the AL adopted the DH and the NL did not. It has always been there with each side arguing the same points over and over again.  While my main point isn’t a new idea, it’s not as common as the ones you hear everyday. Its about what people would be missing if there were no designated hitter at all.

The AL dugout empties at the 2016 ASG to honor David Oritz. Getty Images.

Most purists say the designated hitter negates strategies the manager needs to use in deciding when to take a pitcher out of the game, when to have them attempt to bunt or in the case of some pitchers let them swing for the fences. They’ll tell you that AL managers have a much less stressful job not having to make certain decisions.

For others it’s a matter of tradition, an almost religious matter that no logical argument that can persuade them from believing.

Madison Bumgarner, Getty Images. (prob. the only time  you'll see him on this blog ever)
Madison Bumgarner. Getty Images. (prob. the only time you’ll see him on this blog ever!)

Even I’ll agree with the argument that watching certain pitchers hit can be fun. Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants often puts on a show and Bartolo Colon’s homer off of James Shields was probably the biggest event of the 2016 season – at least so far. Some pitchers can actually rake. However, the average pitcher can’t.

Proponents of the universality of the DH cite reasons such as keeping pitchers healthy. This argument came to a head in 2015 when the St. Louis Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright tore his ACL while running the bases, rendering him out for the season. Around that same time Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals’ injured his thumb while batting.

While Scherzer admitted that he enjoyed hitting, he said he “wouldn’t be opposed to” adding the DH to the National League, that it would “make sense.” It keeps pitchers healthy.

Bartolo Colon, homer, dh
Bartolo Colon takes James Shield deep! #TeamBartolo!!. Getty Images.

Even though what happened to Wainwright is actually pretty rare, and most pitchers just aren’t great hitters. It’s a matter of numbers according to Baseball America. More often than not the pitcher being in the batter’s box results in an out for the team.

Also, the majority of pitchers are kept to honing their craft, not taking batting practice. This is especially true in the minor leagues, unless they spend their time in the minors solely with a NL organization. Many pitchers don’t even get more than a handful of at-bats until they make it to the Major Leagues. It’s hard to argue with statistics.

Ken Rosenthal writes that it goes way beyond keeping pitchers healthy or whether or not they are good at the plate. Rosenthal argues that it is about leveling the playing field.

“Interleague play is necessary on everyday of the season, thanks to the creation of two 15-league team leagues in 2013. The lack of a DH in the NL creates inequities not just in the actual competition but also in roster construction.”

That is true, as are all the reasons stated above. For me, the argument for the designated hitter is simple. It prolongs the careers of many beloved players.

Take for example, the ovation given to Boston’s David Ortiz at Tuesday’s All-Star Game. Most baseball fans like Big Papi and most enjoy watching him hit home runs like the champion he is.

If it weren’t for the designated hitter would Ortiz still be playing today? Probably not. Yet, there are people are even calling for him to postpone his retirement, which is supposed to come after this season, because he is just that good.

dh, edgar martinez, designated hitter
Edgar Martinez. Getty Images.

The best example of the need for the DH is the long-time Seattle Mariners’ DH Edgar Martinez. Martinez, who spent his entire 18-year big league career with the Mariners and is now a candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, came into the league as a third baseman in 1987.

However, just before the 1993 season and after winning his first AL batting title in 1992, Martinez tore his hamstring during an exhibition game and it never fully healed. Had there been no designated hitter position, Martinez’s career would have been over and baseball fans would have never seen one of the game’s greatest hitters.  

Although people argue that his role as the team’s DH should make him ineligible for the Hall of Fame, over the next 12 seasons Martinez dominated the hitting statistics. He was a seven-time all star, won two batting titles and led the league in RBI as recently as the 2000 season before retiring in 2004.

Like Ortiz, fans would be missing out on years of watching a truly great player and personally, I believe that is the biggest reason to have the DH in both leagues or at least make sure it is always present in the American League.

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 The FanRag Sports Network, Today’s Knuckleball and Jen Rainwater

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