Matt Garza buntWith the Houston Astros headed to the American League, and the attending equalization of the split between the AL (15 teams) and NL (15 teams), we’re going to see interleague play throughout the season in 2013. The net increase in interleague games is relatively small, but the fact that interleague will be in our collective face all year will probably bring the distinction between the two leagues into greater focus.

And that means a debate about the designated hitter rule.

For whatever reason, that NL designated hitter debate flared up yesterday, sparked, it seems, by an article by Yahoo’s Anna Hiatt. The gist of Hiatt’s piece:

Don’t pay attention to decades’ worth of howling from baseball purists. The DH doesn’t ruin America’s national pastime. Forcing pitchers to hit is essentially just adhering to tradition for tradition’s sake. When the AL succumbed to reason in 1973, the rule change — which takes pitchers out of the batting lineup and replaces them with a designated hitter who doesn’t play in the field — did baseball a world of good. Batting averages rose. So did attendance. The games were far more exciting. Baseball became less a battle of managers and more a competition of athletes.

Essentially, the AL game is a better game, argues Hiatt.

Craig Calcaterra then wrote in reluctant agreement:

With that in mind, it’s worth noting that, though I prefer pitchers batting, I don’t believe the National League’s rules in this regard are objectively better. Indeed, when I take my personal preferences out of the equation and look at the matter rationally, I cannot escape the logic of the DH in today’s game and the futility of pitchers batting.

The game is not played by all-around ballplayers anymore. Pitchers are just dreadful at hitting and, increasingly, are unable to even bunt particularly well. The strategy and gamesmanship my NL friends like to talk up is rather contrived when one thinks about it. Really, these machinations are more about the avoidance of pitchers batting than taking advantage of it. The whole dance in which managers spend so much energy to optimize minor matchups, often costing them their best pitchers and best hitters runs counter to the idea of my best nine playing your best nine and let’s see who wins.

Again, the thrust of the argument is that pitcher’s batting is no fun, making NL games less enjoyable than AL games. Craig’s right, by the way, that the presence of the pitcher in the lineup leads to tactical discussions about how best to operate with the knowledge that a crappy hitter is coming up after the next two hitters. Is that more or less fun? It’s probably debatable.

The decided weight of the punditry that I have observed, however – or at least those who have chosen to weigh in over the last year or so – is in favor of the NL picking up the DH, for a variety of reasons. Among them: (1) pitchers are terrible hitters; (2) the game is higher scoring and thus more fun to watch; and (3) pitchers risk injury by batting.

The opposition to the DH in the NL is generally some variation of “TRADITION!,” shouted with neck veins emerged and pulsing. The thing on that one, though, is that, as each year passes, it becomes harder to rely on “tradition” when the tradition on the other side – the AL DH – is now 40 years old. The DH is now pretty traditional. (And, for the record, I used to be a traditionalist, myself … I guess I’ve just grown weary of watching pitchers flail away or sacrifice bunt. I hate sacrifice bunts, except in extremely limited circumstances. So, I guess I’ve become biased. But that’s not why I changed my stance … )

I think both sides miss the greatest point, and it is one that cuts heavily in favor of expanding the DH to the NL.

While an AL team is able to dedicate a roster spot to finding the purely best hitter it can find, and then deploys that guy when the AL and NL square off in interleague games and the World Series, the NL team is left to pick a guy off of its bench when in AL parks. Because pitchers as hitters – whether AL or NL – are roughly equal in performance, the fact that the AL team has a dedicated DH puts the NL team at a decided disadvantage in half the games. I am not OK with this. Ironically, it is because I’m an NL guy at heart that I think they probably should adopt the DH. I can’t stand the unequal footing.

Since the DH ain’t going away in the AL, the only way to even things up is going to be the DH coming to the NL. And you purists should probably resign yourselves now to the idea that it is coming: with the DH being a player who makes a whole lot more money than a random bench guy, the possibility of 15 additional high-paying jobs is going to be enough to get the MLB Players Association on board with adding the DH to the NL. That’s 50% of your fight right there. Get a few NL owners on board, and things can change very rapidly.

  • BD

    To everyone who keeps saying the AL should do away with the DH- please stop. That is never going to happen, because it would lower average salaries with the change from a starting DH to a bench player.

    If you agree that the leagues need to be the same, then the NL has to adopt the DH. Otherwise, they will never be the same.

    (*If you’re like me, and you prefer the NL, here is a funny scenario- the AL does in fact drop the DH, only for the NL to now adopt it. HA! Take that, stupid AL!)

    • Cyranojoe

      (OK, yeah, that’d be funny!)

  • Patrick W.

    I am in favor of normalizing the rules between the two leagues, and on balance, I am in favor of the NL adopting the DH. Tradition is a terrible argument if you’re trying to convince ME that the DH is bad. Four years before the DH was enacted in the AL, the pitcher’s mound was lowered by 5 inches. 5 inches! And the Strike Zone was changed (and shrunk) that same year. In the time since the DH began, we’ve added divisions, added playoffs, added Wild Card teams, banned steroids, added minimum suspension rules for corking bats, invented free agency, changed the draft and international signing rules and more.

    From my perspective, as a Cubs fan, a season ticket holder, and a guy born before the advent of the DH, the AL game is slightly more enjoyable. I live in Seattle now, and in the last 7 years I’ve been to 50 Cubs games, 75 Mariner’s games, 2 Oriole games, 1 Indians game and 1 Nationals game. I have more fun in Wrigley because it’s my team, my stadium, my favorite place on the planet. But I enjoy the game better in the AL.

  • kmr1453

    If and when the change is made, the Cubs will still have Soriano, so, they will be ready either way. I like their strategy.

    • josh2


      • Ryan

        Completely agree with this. I want his bat to stay with the Cubs, this seems like the best way for it to happen.

      • arta

        why not get a DH for guys like Barney, Stewart, etc. why stop at just the pitcher? why are teams in the AL looking for good DH guys? why do many posters say Soriano would be a good DH for many AL teams? personally i like the NL way and also think the DH is overrated. having said that, the DH is coming to the NL. just my opinion.

        Vogelbach, yes.

  • Shortcircuit

    Being a cubs fan, I am biased and if I had the decision, I would make both leagues eliminate the DH. I feel that there is a strategy that would be missed by a lot of fans, if the NL got a DH. Something that hasn’t been mentioned though, is the bench seems to be much stronger in the NL versus the AL. The NL players might be subbed in any day. A pinch hitter can see a couple pitches and then replace someone else in the line up. In the AL, players won’t play for weeks or even months at a time. An injury could occur and then that player is playing catch up. While the AL spends a lot of time investing in the DH, the NL spends more money on back up players.

    • Patrick W.

      I appreciate you recognize your bias, and I think it might be coloring your view of the AL. I don’t think it’s any less common form players to ride the bench for a long time in the NL than in the AL. Adrian Cardenas is a good example. Or Bryan LaHair over the final 5 weeks of the season. From what I’ve seen, generally speaking, you have two approaches to the DH in the AL: 1) Get a guy, bat him exclusively at DH for the season, play him 145-150 games (David Ortiz) or 2) Get a bunch of guys who are average outfielders/first basemen/power hitters and rotate them around the diamond and at DH (Mariners).

      I am doing a little research on this at the moment, but so far, nothing stands out in either league for players being on 25 man rosters and not playing much.

  • Internet Random

    Maybe the NL should adopt a rule saying that we can use two designated hitters in the lineup.

  • StevenF

    No, no, NO. I enjoyed Might Bear’s comments at 1:16pm. Those put a smile on my face.
    The DH is for players who aren’t good enough to be full-time players. If they have a skill that is “off the charts”, then maybe it balances things to have that same guy hurt you on defense. It is as it should be. Fair is fair.
    Also- In the AL, managing does not require strategic skills. They are simply a professional babysitter/counselor. How much real thinking is required?

    • Gcheezpuff

      I couldn’t agree more. I like watching NL baseball because it requires significantly more
      Strategy. The game is more fun (in my opinion) when you get to see the managers go head to head on match ups and sometimes thier decisions even can screw them or help them later if the game goes into extra innings. I don’t ever want to see the DH implemented in little league games and feel the game should always follow the same rules. Greg Maddux always referred to himself as a “baseball player” and prided himself on his abilities with the bat. I hate the idea of the DH and think it takes away from the game. Baseball isn’t just about offense and hitting home runs… The DH cheapens the whole experience for me. All 25 men should play both offense and defense.

  • ncsujuri

    If you look at the average and total attendance figures for both the NL & AL you can see an upward trend in both leagues but the NL doesn’t have a DH, how can that be?!?! I vote NO DH!!!!

  • Tocamichi

    So let’s expand the rosters and have 9 defensive players and 9 offensive players…or to create more offense (revenue), we can have 5 outs in each half inning and each batter gets 5 strikes in a 5 inning game…or limit the outfield fenses to 300 feet and 200 down the lines…pitch underhanded…pitching machine?…better yet, let’s just turn every baseball game into a HomeRun Derby!…casual fans like the HomeRun derby more than the actual game anyway…and we ARE catering to the casual fans to get more revenue to pay the players even more, right?
    Where does it End?
    IMHO, it ends when you take the fun out of it.
    No DH

    • Internet Random

      I think you should also be able to earn runs with a singing competition portion of the game… something in the vein of American Idol.

      • hansman1982

        Oh, or give style points to guys who can do sumersaults when they cross home plate or perform an excellent floor routine on the basepaths.

        It would be interesting if baseball had scoring rules similar to football. 6 points per run with extra points for XBH.

        • Internet Random

          If we’re going that route, we need to get Reed Johnson back.

    • Patrick W.

      Show me one person who is advocating any one of those things and we’ll talk. The question is, should the NL adopt a rule change that matches a rule in the AL that has been in existence for 40 YEARS. If you were born in 1973 you have never known baseball without a DH. If you were born in 1969 you have never known baseball without a mound that wasn’t 5 inches taller.

      • Internet Random

        “Show me one person who is advocating any one of those things and we’ll talk.”

        The point is that most of the pro-DH arguments also support these propositions, which are carefully chosen because no one wants them.

        • kranzman54

          Really, there are people that think the game should be a home run derby, 5 outs, and 5 strikes? How did ESPN miss this?

          • hansman1982

            Tim Tebow is not yet on board. As soon as he is…WATCH OUT.

          • Internet Random

            “Arguments” does not equal “arguers”.

        • hansman1982

          If you’re not careful, MLB will end up being a whole new sport where men in pink and lavender dresses do their best to be civil to each other and at the end of the game they sing the Barney song while Western Civilization implodes into a supermassive black hole.

          All because you want the DH.

          • Cubbie Blues

            Did we all just get a glimpse into your act?

            • hansman1982

              No, my stage act is far less funny…

              Let that sink in for a minute.

              • Cubbie Blues


          • Internet Random

            Sounds preferable to designated-hitter rule.

        • Patrick W.

          Nobody is proposing any of that. Not one of those things is being proposed. Classic straw man.

          • Internet Random

            No, it’s not, because no one is actually arguing against five strikes or the other patently absurd examples. They are listed to show that many of the arguments (not “arguers”) that people use to support the designated-hitter rule are weak, inasmuch as those same arguments can be used to support rule changes that are patently absurd.

            So it’s not even remotely a straw-man argument, and even less so is it “Classic”.

            • Patrick W.

              Fair points. Arguments does not equal Arguers. I misread what you wrote.

              You clarified the OP’s point to equate the arguments for the DH (presumably you mean ‘It makes more offense’, ‘it makes the game more fun’) – classic reductio ad absurdum, which is a style I don’t care for much personally, but makes your point well.

              I guess I would say that absurd suggestions of “Why don’t we just do X, see how absurd that is? The end result would mean more offense, so if that’s your goal, since these suggestions are crazy, your suggestion is crazy too” don’t fit here. Awarding points based on singing ability would be a fundamental change to the game. Adopting a rule that has been in place for 40 years is not a fundamental change to the game. It was 40 years ago, but now that we have the benefit of living that 40 years we are equipped with the answers to the question: What’s next? 5 outs a half inning?. The answer is: Nothing is next. No other major changes to the game play has happened since the adoption of the DH in the AL. There is no slippery slope. Why are the traditionalists not arguing for reinstatement of the old pitcher’s mound? Because it made the game better for most.

              • Internet Random

                “If you were born in 1973 you have never known baseball without a DH.”

                I’d say I’ve known it both with (AL) and without (NL).

                “Why don’t we just do X, see how absurd that is? The end result would mean more offense, so if that’s your goal, since these suggestions are crazy, your suggestion is crazy too” . . . .

                I would characterize it more like this: “More offense, by itself, isn’t a sufficient reason to change the rules. If it were, then these (undesirable) rule changes should also be desirable. But since they’re not desirable, more offense, by itself, plainly isn’t a sufficient reason to change the rules.”

                “Adopting a rule that has been in place for 40 years is not a fundamental change to the game.”

                It’s certainly a fundamental change to the National League.

                “It was 40 years ago, but now that we have the benefit of living that 40 years we are equipped with the answers to the question: What’s next? 5 outs a half inning?. The answer is: Nothing is next.”

                While I that would probably be the case, there’s no way to know that.

                “No other major changes to the game play has happened since the adoption of the DH in the AL.”

                That could be because those in the know have seen just how unsavory the designated-hitter rule has been. [cool winky emoticon here]

                “There is no slippery slope.”

                While I generally find slippery-slope arguments to be weak, just saying this doesn’t make it so. Things do sometimes (if rarely) slide down the slope, and there’s no good way of knowing what’s going to before it does. That said, I have to concede that I don’t think that a slippery-slope argument by itself prevails here. Far from it.

                “Why are the traditionalists not arguing for reinstatement of the old pitcher’s mound?”

                Maybe they would if they got to see it. I haven’t had that opportunity. But I have been watching National League baseball for many years. (I’m dreadfully close to being as old as the designated-hitter rule.) In that time, I have found more to enjoy in the game than home runs, and I have found real baseball to be vastly superior to designated-hitter ball.

                “Because it made the game better for most.”

                This is a good argument to drop the mound another inch or two.

                * * *

                Parting thoughts: I’m under no delusions that I’m going to get my way here. MLB is made up of people, and they are going to do what people too frequently do–take the path of least resistance.

                • Internet Random

                  Correction: While I think that would probably be the case, there’s no way to know that.

    • kranzman54

      No, I think yours is a little too unrealistice, maybe for now just a DH for the pitcher. Yours is probably the next step though.

    • Mike

      @ Tocamichi: I agree. I think constantly changing the rules to make the casual fans happier, etc. is just placating. I like the DH in the AL and the pitcher hitting in the NL. There should be a differences in the leagues….it’s a nice contrast. And, while there are some very horrible hitting pitchers, some of them have made it fun….like Carlos Zambrano. Some of those pitchers can hit pretty well. And, with the pitcher hitting, it encourages the art of the bunt….a facet of the game that wasn’t as prevalent as it used to be. Additionally, I was also against interleague play. While interleague play is kinda fun, it ruins the fun of the playoffs and world series, as there is too much exposure to the other league in the regular season.

  • Andrew

    It seems the consensus is that it’s most important to make the rules the same for both leagues and since the AL is less likely to get rid of the DH than the NL is to adopt it, I feel like I have to root for the NL getting the DH. In all honesty I think it would be better for both to make pitchers bat. Pitchers are generally good hitters in highschool but unfortunately most of the minor leagues have a DH so the first time the pitchers pick up a bat is when they reach the NL majors.

    • Mike

      @ Andrew: Great point regarding pitchers hitting in high school vs. being replaced for the DH in the minors.

  • Matt

    I’m not a fan of the DH myself, but hey, if Vogelbach continues to grow and make his way through the system it’s a way that the Cubs can have both him and Rizzo on the roster together.

    • Cubbie Blues

      I think that has been Vogelbach’s problem, he keeps on growing.

  • TigerCub

    I agree that NL baseball is more entertaining, more strategic, more exciting for all the reasons mentioned above. An AL manager’s job is 50% over by the time his team takes the field. I also know that the NL has won 9 of the last 18 World Series. I agree that increased IL play creates a new scenario where the DH rule is more relevant to NL teams. I think some proponents of the DH rule being expanded to the NL are ignoring that NL front offices are ready and willing to reallocate resources to make their teams as competitive as possible. Maybe the expansion of the DH will be needed for competitive balance in the future, but I don’t think we know that currently. Until we do know that, it would suck to have to watch an inferior game (IMO).

  • Anonnifan

    There is something charming about the lack of parity between the two leagues. It creates a sort of asymmetrical show down in the world series and during inter-league play that forces creativity in lineups and thinking. When Matsui was World Series MVP a few years ago, he did so despite only playing in the three home games. That would be gone if we normalized the leagues. So would the distinction between AL and NL pitchers, managers having to make tough calls late in the game, the strange phenomena of having a NL pitcher who CAN hit well, and many other nuances to the game that some of us still appreciate. I’d hate to see the NL adopt the DH rule. It would make me sick to my stomach. I think the AL has an advantage in the World Series. Three or four of the games are played with an extra batter in the lineup who is paid to hit. Still, I’m not all about parity, and I don’t see why everyone has to be. Not everything in sports needs to be about parity. A little lack of balance can lead to a more thoughtful and varied experience.

    • Patrick W.

      You do know that no NL manager has EVER turned down the use of the DH when the rules allowed it right?

  • justinjabs

    I am in the boat that having a crappy hitter come up to bat four times every day IS exciting. I love being forced to utilize the bench for pinch hitters. I love debating whether or not to let your ace go the full nine in a one run game when he’s batting in the 8th. I like bunts.

    But I’m probably the weird one.

    • justinjabs

      And when the pitcher does come through … remember Jason Marquis’ grand slam v. the Mets a few years back? I think it makes it more exciting.

  • Toby

    When the DH was first instituted, it was because attendance was down. It was tried as an experiment to sell more tickets and it was put into the AL because they were having more problems than the senior league for some reason. It was never intended to be permanent, but it became that way because of inaction by the league. I used to joke that if they wanted more scoring it would have been better to shorten the basepaths than eliminate the strategy that goes with having a pitcher hit. Babe Ruth would be in the HOF as a pitcher had the DH always been around.

    With interleague all but assured that it will always be around, I now think its time to ditch it and level the field between the two leagues.

    Besides, Vogelbach is never going to play 3rd.[img][/img]

  • Dustin S

    The pitcher’s spot in the order adds far too much strategy to consider removing imo. I usually pass on watching AL games for that reason. Surprised this would even be considered. I know it will be in the AL forever and that is fine for those niche DH players to squeeze out a frw extra years, but keep it out of the NL. It would be like removing field goals from football, which a person could probably have a better argument for.

  • Kyle

    People can wax philosophical and poetic all they want about the immense strategic challenge facing NL managers, but it’s not really there. 95% of the decisiosn they make are “by the book” and 99% are 51/49 types that won’t make a spit of difference in the long run.

    If you really want to see that sort of dynamic strategy in a similar game, try cricket.

  • Bilbo161

    The DH is not my favorite thing. If you can’t play D you don’t belong on the field at all. I have fond memories of the advantage you get with a pitcher that
    Can actually hit. And I like the problems managers have with lineup issues caused by a hitting pitcher. It’s called strategy, and managers have to be good at it.

    That said, with Vogelbach coming in a few years, DH might sound better to us Cub fans then.

  • kranzman54

    If we aren’t careful, baseball is going to become like the Republican Party with their unwillingness to change…irrelevant. Every sport, I mean every sport with exception of bowling, makes changes to cater to culture. As do businesses, churches, television, and movies. Sorry purists, baseball is not immune.

    • Cubbie Blues

      Ha, you said bowling and sport in the same sentence. No soup for you 3 days.

      • kranzman54

        Sigh, okay see you guys in 3 days.

  • JungleDrew

    It’s not that I consider myself a traditionalist, nor am I adamant about not having a DH, but I would like to play a bit of the devil’s advocate on this….

    And as far as the advantages/disadvantages during world series play, if the NL keeps winning the All star game it actually forces the AL team to find a spot in the roster for their best hitter who may be a liability defensively, and we could end up with more Buckner type moments (I know he wasn’t a DH) which have become far more memorable in the history of Baseball than any DH accomplishments. And the NL has won the last 3 All-star games and World Series games.

    Also, over a 40 year time period World Series wins are pretty much evenly split NL-AL since the introduction of the DH.

    For a position that is only honored for it’s offensiveness, there are very few full time DH’s that rank in the top 50 in any offensive category. In fact Paul Molitor is the only one who ranks in the top 10 of any offensive category at #8 in hits (soon to be #9 is Derek Jeter plays even mediocre baseball through the end of his contract). And the top DH in home runs is David Ortiz coming in at #50 on the all time list.

    And what about pitchers who want to take at-bats and are generally good at both pitching and batting, like fan favorite Carlos Zambrano? If the NL switches to the DH, then pitchers will never bat in the minors and therefore at even younger ages kids will become either a pitcher or a batter. Some may elect to go for positional play so they can bat, and we may lose out on that occasional ace type pitcher simply because they wanted to hit (not likely, but possible).

    And where will specialization end? We have closers, and DH’s now (both of whom we argue about the best of which being Hall of Fame worthy)… are we gonna get to a point where each batter has a designated runner like Tony Campana? Are we gonna have a field full Darwin Barney’s who play defense, and a lineup full of Slammin Sammy’s who only bat? Expanded the roster to 40 for the full season and water down the entire baseball market? I don’t care one way or another if the pitcher bats, but I definitely don’t want to watch an entire season of September call ups.

    I like the way the game is played in the NL because it is the way I played it myself growing up. And when I would watch Cubs games with my Grandpa we didn’t need a DH to make the game seem more exciting.

  • Adventurecizin’ Justin

    There’s not one pitcher who is paid well because he can hit. Pitchers are paid to pitch. Putting pitchers in a batters box or forcing them to run the bases contains so much risk. Why put that kind of risk on those investments? The DH for both leagues is a logical decision, in my opinion.

  • ers

    Here is a suggestion
    Eliminate the DH expand rosters from 25 to 26
    Allow the manager to insert a player as a pitch hitter 1 time where both players are still eligible to remain active player.
    Example a pitcher comes up to bat a runner on second the manager can choose to go to his pitch hit specialist hit for the pitcher after the at bat the pitcher can go back into the game and the player is eligible to be used again.
    Not quiet a DH and it sure would add strategy
    Also in September the roster should be set at 28 before the game and if a players is on the 40 man roster they can be moved on and off without affecting eligibility or using waivers. I do not like when one team can use 35 players and the other team might have only 27 talk about unfair and effecting the out come of a championship race.

    • kranzman54

      Pretty sure you have just come up with a plan that will upset/dissappoint/disgruntle/frustrate/infuriate all parties involved.

  • Yohler

    I don’t know if it was addressed before my comment, but one problem is NL teams can’t give out contracts like AL teams can, because they have no option to hide them at DH on the back end of their career. This is why the AL is better in terms of talent than the NL. Bring on the DH.

  • Polar Bear

    Screw it…go straight fantasy league while we’re at it. Everyone has the same salary cap and al players are free agents. At the beginning of the seasons teams are selected and at the end of the year, everyone is a free agent again. Substitute hitters and runners will be used. If the game is tied after nine innings, we have a home run derby until someone wins. The possibilities are endless!!!

  • hardtop

    what we the nl needs to do is lead the campaign to fire selig. AL sucks, DH sucks, inter-league play sucks.
    of course, the nl owners will never do that; they are planning to buy their next tropical vacation home and rolls royce with the money the yankees coming to their stadium is going to bring in. makes me ashamed to be a fan.

  • Bret Epic

    It’s really a tough situation and maybe I am old school, but I’d like to keep the NL without a DH. I can see the reasons why there should be one, but what about pitchers that are good hitters or pitchers that want to bat? Would they hypothetically be allowed to be hit even if they’re pitching?

  • Matty V

    I’m for the NL-style not because of tradition for tradition’s sake, but because I think that if you are able to play in the field on defense, you ought to bat on offense. I realize that pitchers are not good hitters, but I do think, with some dedication, they can learn to do things like bunt a runner over and choke up and put the ball in play when necessary. I just don’t think it gets worked on, so we see pitchers standing with the bat on their shoulder or helplessly flailing away.

    The strategist in me really does like having to decide if now is the time to take the pitcher out and do a double switch or leave him in because he’s cruising on the mound. (Plus, you’d never get some great moments like Sean Marshall pitching to a batter, playing Left Field for the next, and coming back in to pitch again.)

    From a distance, the DH-rule is kind of silly. Imagine if the NBA adopted a rule that Centers don’t ever have to take their free throws when fouled. Most Centers are poor free throw shooters and it’s painful to see Shaq or Dwight Howard throw up brick after brick. Wouldn’t basketball be better if you could bring in a Reggie Miller or Ray Allen to take the free throws for them? Scores would be higher and the game would be more fun. I realize this isn’t a perfect apples to apples comparison, but the idea itself seems silly.

    However, with all that said, I’m conceding that the DH isn’t going away in the AL. And, as much as I believe the things I wrote above, I think I’m coming around to the DH in the NL side. Fairness is my biggest reason. As has already been stated, the NL is at a distinct disadvantage in AL parks. Plus, in NL parks, the AL team has a great late-inning pinch hitter that the NL team may not have.

    With the ongoing interleague play that’s going to continue, I think it’s just a matter of time until it’s adopted in the NL. I’ll personally miss the “old” NL-style, but will adapt and be ok going forward.

  • sdcoddi

    I agree with the DH for the NL. Too much disparity between the leagues. It’s not fair to the NL that they don’t have that extra really good bat for the DH position. It’s also not fair the the AL to have to pay $13M for a player like Big Papi to compete with other DH’s, when the NL doesn’t have to spend that extra amount in the DH. Could this be why NL pitching is usually better, b/c the DH money is spread out among the other players?

    I think that along with expanding the DH to the NL, MLB also needs to consider expanding rosters. When the 25 man roster was used in the 70’s, relief pitchers were just beginning to be used. The roster was your 8 fielders, 5 starting pitchers (mostly) and then your bench players. Bullpen usage has really changed since then and more relief pitchers are on teams and being used by teams. Roster sizes should be expanded to 30 players per team (or at least 28) to accommodate this change. This would allow teams the flexibility that they need to have a solid bench along with a solid bullpen. It also allows for the DH option.

    Going along with this, 40 man rosters would need to be bumped up. Maybe move them to 45 players.

  • TSB

    How about a designated runner? Anytime a Cub player gets on base, put in Campana. He could finish the year with 700 stolen bases and win the MVP award! For a player with only one set of baseball skills!

  • Myles
    • Brett

      Everything is solid … except the part where you dump on my primary argument with sweeping statements that aren’t really accurate. Like, suggesting that the White Sox are at a disadvantage because they have to sit their DH when they play against an NL team? … when the NL team never would have had a plausible opportunity to carry someone like Adam Dunn in the first place? Come on, dude. That’s just incorrect.

      • Myles – WSCW

        Lets think about it, though. When Adam Dunn is in the field, he is the “pitchers hitting” of left field or first base. You can put him in the field, sure… but he’ll be atrocious. You are, in effect, playing with a 24.5 man roster. When the NL has to field a DH, they are pulling from a pool of players that they are already confident can hit major league pitching. They already pinch hit or spot start. The “true DH” like David Ortiz or Dan Vogelbach or Adam Dunn can spot start, but the drop off is essentially the same defensively as the drop off from a “true DH” to whoever you’re slotting at DH.

        Which brings me, actually, to an argument I neglected to make (and I think it’s a salient one). There basically is no such thing as a DH. As I’ve shown, only 6 players had 81 games or more as a DH. Let’s call DH what it really is, which “a fielder’s day off”. It’s just a way to get a bat in the lineup without that guy having to take the field. There isn’t a plethora of DHs now and there never was (the maximum number of players in a season with 81 or more games at DH? 9, in 1996. No other year has more than 7). Teams are adding some offensive value (by replacing the pitcher with a fielder), but in over half the cases the difference is from your pitcher to your best bench bat, more or less. That’s like replacing your pitcher with Reed Johnson, or Joe Mather. For every Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz (who both, incidentally fielded there positions about as well as Miguel Cabrera fields 3B), you’ve got the Mastroianni/Morneau/Doumit/Mauer/Willingham timeshare, or the Jones/Ibanez/Rodriguez/Jeter/Chavez/Swisher timeshare.

        At the heart of it, this is the best reason to actually adopt the DH. 162 games is a huge, huge grind. Since it is difficult to just use off days to recuperate, the ability to not play defense but still contribute to the game is a tempting prospect. Is it inherently better than testing a player’s ability to play day in and day out? Our hero worship of Cal Ripken Jr. would have his believe that’s not the case. (Want to hear something incredible? Cal Ripken didn’t play DH a single game during his streak. How crazy is that?) If the choice between a shorter season (or a season the same length with fewer games, or a longer season with the amount of games) or adopting the DH is on the table, I’ll be first in line to sign up for the DH. It is, in my opinion, the best argument for the position.

        Getting back to “dumping on your primary argument,” I didn’t mean to offend you, but I don’t think my statements are poor. I think my logic is sound; if you’re hiring Adam Dunn to play DH, he’s not playing good defense. That is a consideration (tying up assets in a player that also squeezes your roster) that is worth thought, just as much as not fielding a DH is on the NL side.

        Also, pitchers in the NL or inherently better than AL pitchers by lieu of MLB hitting experience. Maybe.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          “When the NL has to field a DH, they are pulling from a pool of players that they are already confident can hit major league pitching.”

          NL DH’s have done poorly in interleague play: last year, they had an average OPS of 0.705 whereas AL DH”s had a collective average OPS of 0.758. In many years, the difference has been greater than that between the AL and NL pitchers, although that was not quite the case this year: NL pitchers had an average OPS of 0.329 whereas AL pitchers had an average OPS over 0.270.

          At any rate, the AL teams clearly have a superior pool of players for DH duty, and the position is almost certainly responsible for that: yes, teams are using the DH to give guys days off from the field a lot, but there is a primary DH on most AL teams.

        • Randy

          Myles so your saying that letting the pitcher hit and carrying Campana is better than having a DH. If Vogelbach continues to develop his bat and becomes that smasher he could be, isn’t a line-up with him at DH and Rizzo at first better than a pitcher hitting and Campana on the bench. I’m sorry, but if he had to sub at 1st for Rizzo, I don’t think his defense would be that bad that it would negate the difference in offense between him vs pitcher/Campana. It also doesn’t hurt your bench because you realistically lose just 1 pinch hitter, which is not needed anymore. You still have your 9 regular hitters, 4 bench players, and 12 pitchers. Bench would include 1 C, 1 infield, 1 OF, and 1 super utility or which ever you need more depth at. The biggest plus is that it also opens your options up when chasing Free-Agents. If you have a stud at a position and another stud comes available at the same postion, you have the option of having both on your team.

    • Mike

      @ Myles: For the greater part of your article, I love the arguments for keeping the pitcher hitting. It far outweighs any weaker points, and, even better, very effectively squashes the arguments for adding the DH to the NL. Well thought out…..I wish I would have authored that. You rock!

    • Leo L

      well done, ALL good points.

  • Mike

    I think that mlb needs to keep the pitcher hitting in the NL. Different facets of the game offer more intrigue. Consider the great bunting skills of Vince Coleman. He wasn’t a great hitter, but he used his size (smaller strike zone), speed and strategy to get on base. You never quite knew when he was going to try and bunt, or square up to bunt and then swing away. That man got on base A LOT with this strategy. His base stealing abilities also put the defense out of whack, as the opposing team would throw more wild pitches and throw away more balls trying to pick him off 1st base or 2nd base. It really was a beauty to watch, even if you weren’t a Cardinals fan (I’m a Cubs fan). Great bunting, speed and, in turn, throwing off your opposition, are great when done properly, and lead to some very exciting baseball. MLB would be wise to keep pitchers hitting in the NL for a similar reason: it is a different facet of the game that the AL does not have. It forces a different strategy and makes a manager and/or player to play to their existing strengths. And, yes, I am a Campana fan. No, he is not the same as Vince Coleman. However, Campana does have some of the same skills. If used properly, Campana could be a very exciting part of the Cubs in the present and near future. Is he an everyday player? Maybe not. But, I do think they are holding on to him for a reason: he has value. He can throw off the defense and steal two bases in an inning. Heck, even if he comes in as a pinch runner, he could steal two bases. That base stealing ability is something the Cubs have been sorely missing for a long, long time. So, I say, keep the pitcher hitting, and keep Mr. Campana.