Reminder: pitchers batting is dumb. Bring on the universal designated hitter.
I was driving around bourbon country in Kentucky between Saturday and Tuesday and missed this, but given that arguing about the designated hitter is almost as enjoyable to me as a fine Kentucky bourbon, better late than never.
Speaking at a St. Louis Cardinals fan event over the weekend, Cards GM John Mozeliak said that there is “more momentum” building among National League general managers and owners to bring the DH to the Senior Circuit. This idea used to be dismissed out of hand by most NL execs and, as recently as a year ago, Rob Manfred said that there wasn’t much interest in the matter in the NL, so it wasn’t a priority. It was particularly notable that a Cardinals executive was saying this given that Adam Wainwright missed almost all of last year after injuring himself while batting, so it’s fair to say that sentiment truly is changing.
I assume that, eventually, the National League will adopt the DH. Not because people in the NL wake up and decide “hey, it’s so much better!” but, rather, because it just makes things easier in terms of roster construction and rules for interleague and World Series games. And, more to the point, because it will likely serve as a labor issue given that an extra position player on a roster, likely a veteran, makes more money than that 13th relief pitcher and the players would prefer more major leaguers to make more money. If and when it happens it will be a matter of pragmatism, not a matter of one side of baseball’s now-43-year debate decisively prevailing.
Of course, as we have discussed here at length, the DH is the better option now. No matter how much you like tradition, how much you argue that it’s better for “tactics” and “strategy” and no matter how happy it makes you when a pitcher does manage to hit a home run, on the whole pitchers can’t hit a lick and the risks to NL pitchers while batting, however small, are not worth the benefits. If they were, teams would teach their minor league pitchers to hit and would expect more than three feeble swings and a quick walk back to the dugout. They don’t, however, which clearly reveals that, in reality, NL teams have zero interest in their pitchers hitting.
Given that pitchers are ineffective hitters and that even the NL doesn’t care if they hit, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the adherence to pitchers batting is an argument from tradition. Anti-DH folks will deny this because they don’t like to be characterized as reactionary old fogeys, but it is undeniably about tradition and aesthetic choice. There is a place for tradition in society, but not when it’s so overwhelmingly about tradition and so little about pragmatism, as the denial of the DH in the National League is. Aesthetic choices are important to people too, but by definition that’s a style-over-substance argument, not one which makes for better or worse baseball, objectively speaking.
I don’t expect to convince a ton of hardcore anti-DH people that I’m right about this. We’ve all had these arguments in the past and we know that the DH vs. no-DH thing is more like arguing religion than anything else. You won’t do it because people find it impossible to avoid doing so, but I feel obligated to say “save it” when it comes to your angry comments below. I realize the anti-DH people think this is all wrong and that your mind will not be changed.
But given Mozeliak’s comments, it seems inevitable to me that whether or not you agree with any of this, NL folks, is beside the point. Your preferred league seems like it will eventually change its mind on the matter and its venerable rules will be unified with those of the AL. Right and wrong, good or bad will have nothing to do with it. It just will be.
So, rather than yell about how the DH is an abomination unto God, use your comments below to answer this question: whaddaya gonna do about it? How are you going to react when your 50 OPS+ pitcher is no longer able to take his three feeble hacks and then sit back down? Will it be something you simply adjust to quickly like interleague play and the Astros being in the AL or is it truly going to disturb your baseball fandom? Yes, I realize I’m being a bit snarky in the way I ask that, but I do sincerely want to know if this truly changes the game for you or if, rather, it’s just something you’ve argued about for so long because it’s a baseball argument.