I’m a purist in the sense that baseball (my favorite sport by
millions of light years) comes first in the decisions that are made to
affect how the game is played and seen. The sport is king. Not the
owners, the players, and definitely not the unions and agents who are
playing every angle they can and threatening the sanctity of a game
always at risk from scandal and our culture’s infatuation with louder,
faster, and dumber.
But change can be good, even in sports that have been around for over a century.
of the change that’s occurred in baseball has happened in subtle ways
and some has been forced into reality by reality. The mound being
lowered. Base coaches needing helmets. Players being able to wear +2 Gauntlets of Tolerance at the dish so their pretty little elbows don’t get hurt.
The Designated Hitter.
love the history of baseball as much as the next guy. In fact, more
than the next guy. The next guy is dressed as a bulldog and loading
Coors Light into his red, black, and white pickup truck in anticipation
of college football tailgating half a year in advance. I love the
history but I love the sport maintaining its place IN history more. The
national pastime isn’t baseball anymore. It’s not even football.
The national pastime is watching television.
had to evolve a little to keep up. The pace of the game is part of its
allure but try and sell that to a kid born in 1990 with a Dual Shock
controller in his hand.
The DH is a sore subject in baseball
debates still. My car’s stereo is permanently tuned to XM’s MLB Home
Plate [#175 on your dial] and it seems a week doesn’t by where there’s
not some reader who calls in and says the same exact jibberish about
how it ruins the game and blahblahblah.
Meanwhile the game’s been
in great shape the past few years in terms of competition, excitement,
and in putting people like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire
behind it. Yes, chicks dig the long ball. But ticket sales were
fantastic and we’ve seen a wide variety of teams win the championship
in recent years. The sport is healing.
There’s been talk of the DH coming to the National League and I personally love it.
I don’t think the strategy will be affected. It’ll just be different strategy.
are specific athletes trained for a specific purpose. I grit my teeth
whenever the ace of my staff steps to the plate. An errant pitch, being
forced to dodge a ball, the risk of fouling one the wrong way, and the
baserunning [case in point, the Chien-Ming Wang injury that should
never have happened] gaffes all put them in jeopardy each and every
time they step to the plate. It’s not needed. I appreciate pitchers
that can sacrifice or move the runner over but their collective batting
average as a whole is nightmarish. I appreciate the double switch as a
managerial choice but the same concept can be effected by bringing a
slugger off the bench or changing the defensive alignment. Pitchers are
too valuable to a team to have them sent to the DL because they took a
ball off their thumb. It’s ludicrous. Yes, part of it stems from the
specialization of the game and the sheer money being thrown around.
it’s ludicrous. The American League is no less fun than the National
League because of the DH. It also enjoys an advantage in interleague
and World Series games because the DH isn’t just a pinch-hitter you get
to use all game. It’s a person whose entire being revolves around
hitting. It’s a berserker.
I remember back when my Braves [the
Braves and Yankees are my two teams, and shut up] were playing in the
World Series and Keith Lockhart was their DH. Keith Lockhart should
have been designated for assignment, but not designated to do something
that is alien to him. Like hitting. Keith Lockhart was a nightmare at
the plate. It wasn’t a matter of if he would pop up to the infield but
when. This was the berserker the Braves had prepared to face the 1999
New York Yankees. A team that embodied all that was amazing in the
world of baseball at the time. An actual team rather than a collection
Keith Lockhart. His name is like acid on my tongue.
National League needs the DH. Well, the leagues need to be identical in
their rules and there’s no way the American League is going to
relinquish the DH. It’s a position now. Too much money is at stake.
Parity. In time, it’ll make sense. Games will be a little higher
scoring, Earned Run Averages will go up, people will complain.
over time, the equality will lead to better baseball, a better time at
the ballpark, and the old national pastime will be a little more
palatable when people watch it on the new national pastime.
it gives the players a longer career. It allows players to take a few
days off at their position and rest their legs. The grind of baseball
[even though it’s a game we’d all kill to play for a lot less money] is
considerable. The DH allows for a wide flexibility in how a staff is
used. It’ll make managing the 25-man roster that much more interesting.
better for the game’s energy and entertainment value, jacked-up
sluggers with tiny mystery testicles or one extra hitter in the lineup
who’s not a guaranteed out every time he steps to the plate?
There’s a fine line between being a purist and being a grumpy bastard that fears change.
And because I can, here’s my beloved Paul O’Neill. I wish they all had his fire.