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4th Inning: Get rid of the Designated Hitter

Editor’s Note: Doug believes baseball is broken and would like to fix it. He plans to discuss an issue a week for the coming weeks. Read here for the topics he plans to help baseball fix.

One question to Mr. Weiner (MLBPA director): would you be willing to lose 14 jobs at the Major League level to gain 50 jobs at the Minor League level and gain 200 more potential Major Leaguers at the minor league level?
It’s time to end the second most ridiculous rule in all of sports: eliminate the designated hitter.

Are the Lakers allowed to shoot threes in the West but the Celtics can’t in the East? Do the Steelers have to play four players both ways in the AFC while the Packers can use 22 different starters in the NFC? There is no amount of logic that can be used to justify a different set of rules for one league opposed to the other. Ridding baseball of the sports pariah of old timers hanging on will also eliminate an unnecessary expense.

Each Wednesday article builds on the last one. If I got you to buy into the first inning, I’m sure it was easier to follow along each successive inning. I’ve expanded the game to two cities, brought amazing endorsement opportunities for some of the players by putting them in Brooklyn and increased the revenue pool for the MLB Players Association by giving them 50 more jobs. In doing these three things, I ask the union to accept DH-free baseball.

An American League team is constructed differently than a National League team. An NL team uses a bench player for its DH or gives a weak fielding starter the “day off” by improving the team’s defense while still keeping a bat in the lineup. An American League team simply uses their starting designated hitter — a player who has an entire routine of preparing for each at-bat down to a science. The NL DH during Interleague play just feels like he’s pinch-hitting four times.

Whenever the two leagues meet, one of the teams is at a terrible disadvantage. In all of sports, home field advantage in an Interleague contest is at its highest. I will stop saying “home-field advantage” in baseball and start using “road-team rule change.”

The World Series is somewhat of a farce. The best AL team over 162 games might not be the best at winning without its DH. If a pitcher in the National League works harder at his bunt game and being a good hitter, he has a huge advantage over the other starter. In the American League, his work ethic is completely short-changed. Every swing he took in the cage is wasted and it benefits the opposing pitcher’s lack of work. The DH is baseball socialism (cue America the Beautiful and farm back drop with boy having a catch with dad in a shirt stained from the falling fruit of Grandma’s apple pie).

Let’s say the Packers played nine man football (no offensive tackles). When they get to the Super Bowl, they now have to place two backups on the offensive line for the championship of the world.

How have we gone years with this making sense? Two games with one set of rules, then three games with one set of rules and then two games with a set of rules we played with at the beginning.

There is absolutely no difference in this ignorance than saying half the NBA will no longer play with a three point line. Why put a shooter on your roster? There’s no need to spread the floor if a 25 foot shot is worth the same as a layup. The NBA Finals would be a nightmare. Ray Allen would rain threes for 2 games and then completely lose effectiveness for a week.

Compounding baseball’s problem is the farce of the All-Star game. The ASG doesn’t just determine home-field advantage in the World Series but it also determines who gets to play by what rules. Continuing the cross-sports analogy, Carmelo Anthony could hit a last second shot for the West, get traded to the East forcing his new team in the finals to play more games against his opponent under the rules used by Anthony’s old team.

The DH makes baseball into athletic softball. Pitching stats are completely skewed. Is it harder to pitch in the AL? Of course but you also get the advantage of pitching yourself out of jams because your spot isn’t coming up in the order. You give up two runs through 8 innings in the NL, you’re out of the game because you’re coming to bat and your team needs runs. In the AL, go finish what you started.

AL managers earn their wins because managing is about managing the human beings first. However, never compare managing in the AL to managing in the NL. An NL manager is forced to manage his bullpen around his own batting order. He has to set up matches an inning or two later versus a certain pinch hitter who will bat for their pitcher. He has to weigh whether he should let the starter stay in one more inning despite signs of fatigue because the lineup didn’t turn over in the last half inning.

National League baseball is faster. National League baseball is more cerebral. National League baseball is more strategic. National League baseball is … baseball.