Sports Opinion: Is the DH good for baseball?
Major League Baseball is striking a balance for the designated hitter (DH) position by placing it in the American League and excluding it from the National League. And this is the one thing that I am in favor of. Major League Baseball Rule 6.10 was officially passed in 1973. Although only adopted by the American League, this rule states that a team can designate a player to hit for the pitcher known as the DH. Since 1973, the American League has always had a DH while the National League has only done so in interleague games, All-Star games, and World Series games that are played in American League ballparks.
In terms of the arguments for and against the DH, the list is long and distinguished and I find both sides very persuasive. This is why I support the current system that Major League Baseball has for the DH, because I support both forcing a pitcher to hit while also believing in increasing offense and protecting pitchers.
Despite being created in 1973, the idea for a DH was first proposed in 1906 by legendary manager Connie Mack. Mack's thinking was that pitchers were so terrible at hitting that it was embarrassing to the game to put them in the batter's box.
This was because at the time, pitchers dominated the league like never before. For example, in 1968, Denny McLain won a ridiculous 31 games, Bob Gibson had a miniscule 1.12 ERA, and Carl Yastremski led the American League in batting with a .301 average.
In this decade, hitters faired so poorly that in 1969, Major League Baseball introduced rules to level the playing field such as lowering the mound from 15 to 10 inches and bringing the upper limit of the strike zone from the top of the shoulders to the armpits. I would argue that these new rules did wonders for the league by making the game more up tempo, exciting, and interesting. In 1969, they also implemented the designated pinch hitter (DPH). And while this idea did not last, it did lead to the creation of the DH four years later.
Now, I do concede that watching National League pitchers is a bore; but getting a chance to see an American League pitcher, who hasn't had to hit all year, be forced to walk to the plate in Game 7 of the World Series is actually quite entertaining and exhilarating.
Today the DH has two main uses: to get a potent hitter but sub-par fielder into the lineup and get a strong pitcher but weak hitter out of the lineup or to give everyday players a day off to rest. But despite its usefulness both in resting players and in increasing offensive output, the DH rule is still very controversial.
"Purists" within the game of baseball are against the DH because it takes away an entire aspect of the game by creating power hitters who can only hit but cannot field. As pitcher Rick Wise said in 1974, "The designated hitter rule is like having someone else take Wilt Chamberlain's free throws."
While I completely agree with this argument, I find the claim that allowing someone to hit for the pitcher further emphasizes the notion that pitchers are not athletes is much more appealing. People who feel this way, like myself, believe that a baseball player, regardless of whether they are an "un-athletic pitcher" or an "un-athletic David Ortiz" should still be able to both field their position and run the bases.
However, for every argument against the DH there are also the positives that the designated hitter brings. First of all, the DH creates more offense and leads to more run scoring and although some may argue that increased scoring is bad, there is no arguing that chicks dig the long ball.
As Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley put it, "The average fan comes to the park to see action, home runs. He doesn't come to see a one-, two-, three- or four-hit game. I can't think of anything more boring than to see a pitcher come up, when the average pitcher can't hit my grandmother."
That's what the DH really does—it makes things more interesting. It affects strategy in both leagues. In the National League, pitchers must hit, and therefore the decision to pull a pitcher late in the game becomes drastically more important. While in the American League, pitchers do not have to hit, but they have to deal with an extra batter.
Look, I am not one to tell a league how they should make their rules. There are aspects of nearly every rule that I do not fully support. But, I think it's important to have some differences between the National and American Leagues, if only for the simple fact that it makes the game more interesting.