The season-ending Achilles' injury of Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright has reignited the debate around baseball involving the designated hitter and whether it should be implemented in the National League.
Among those in favor of adding the DH to the NL is Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer, who told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports his thoughts on the issue this past week. Scherzer happens to be sidelined right now with a bruised right thumb, suffered during an at-bat in his last start.
Scherzer told CBS basically that fans do not pay to see pitchers hit and taking the bat out of their hands could be a solution to the league's lack of offense. He referred to him swinging a bat as a "wet newspaper."
Well, all that didn't sit well with Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner, who just happens to be widely regarded as the best hitting pitcher in baseball. Here is what he told the San Jose Mercury-News when asked about Scherzer's comments:
“He knew the rules,” Bumgarner said. “Whatever much he signed for – what did he get, again? – he didn’t have a problem signing his name. He didn’t have a problem with hitting then. I’m sure he had his pick of anywhere he wanted to go.”
“What if he got hurt pitching? Should we say we can’t pitch anymore?” Bumgarner said. “I hate what happened to him. He works his butt off out there. But I don’t think it was because he was hitting. What if he gets hurt getting out of his truck? You tell him not to drive anymore?"
With the "signing his name" comment, Bumgarner is referring to Scherzer inking a record-setting deal to jump from the American League back to the NL and join the Nationals. It was his choice to do so, as Bumgarner contends.
It's hard to tell exactly what portion of the league agrees with Scherzer and what share would side with Bumgarner. Most managers I've heard speak on the subject are in favor of not having a designated hitter, as it puts more of an onus on them to use their bullpen and double-switches, for example. Lots of pitchers also seem to like not having a DH, as many enjoy to hit themselves, and of course they usually do not mind getting to face a pitcher every ninth batter when on the mound.
Position players, on the other hand, generally like the designated hitter, as it creates another job and another opportunity for players who have lost a step on defense. Scherzer mentioned David Ortiz by name in the CBS Sports article, as Ortiz has become the recent face of the DH. Ortiz has enjoyed an excellent run late in his career that probably would not have been possible without the DH being in place.
It is a debate that doesn't seem likely to end soon, but any time a star player gets injured when something like this is in question, the focus will be magnified. Just look at how the injury to Buster Posey in 2011 paved the way for rule changes involving plays at the plate.