RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.
*Written in 2014.
You read the title right.
Yes, the designated hitter rule is for pussies. Maybe I am biased as my team, the Chicago Cubs, is in the National League and maybe I am cool with my pitchers hitting, as they have no problem knocking home runs and at the very least, getting base hits and RBIs. Travis Wood, one of our starting pitchers currently has a batting average of .240 and in 25 at-bats has 2 home runs and 8 RBIs. I’ll take it!
Regardless of Travis Wood’s success in the batter’s box, I have always felt this way about the DH rule.
Over there in the American League, teams are too scared to have their pitchers bat because typically, pitchers are shitty batters. That’s a bullshit cop out! Do the pitchers in the AL make half the money since they only play half the time? No, they get paid full top dollar while on the flipside their team has to waste a roster spot on a player who sucks defensively but justifies having his job because he can hit. The AL is where veteran sluggers go to die. That may be harsh but it’s true.
There are several players in the American League that are making a career out of being good in the DH role. The biggest one right now is the Boston Red Sox’s Tito Ortiz a.k.a. Big Papi. Don’t get me wrong, I love that guy and he is a great presence not just on the field and in the dugout but also as an ambassador of the sport. However, he wouldn’t have a career anymore if he was in the National League. Why? Because he isn’t a very effective defensive player on the field. At one point he was better than decent but old age has caught up to Big Papi. Luckily for him, he can still swing like a beast and knock home runs in the clutch.
Yes, in a clutch situation, a very good hitting DH is exciting. Ortiz knocking balls out of the park during the playoffs and World Series last year was a pretty awesome display of his hitting prowess. But should a one trick pony be put on a pedestal and celebrated at the most elite level of the greatest sport in the world? I’m sorry but I think that a player in Major League Baseball should be great on both sides of the field. The DH rule keeps guys around longer than they should be.
Does this mean that I think pitchers should be criticized for not being able to hit just as much as I am criticizing designated hitters for not being able to play effectively in position roles? Yes and no. While I think that pitchers should strive to be better hitters and be as effective as possible in the batter’s box, I also realize that pitching is their priority and having an ace on the mound and a stud in the bullpen is more important than having a better-than-average guy reach first base. But yes, pitchers should make a serious effort at becoming better batters when time allows for it and they shouldn’t go up to bat and not take it seriously. The one thing I love about the Cubs pitchers is that they can produce and there has been more than one occasion where a pitcher at bat has been the offensive catalyst that produced a Cubs win.
Additionally, what’s more exciting? A DH getting hits like they’re routine or a pitcher, expected to flounder, hitting a two run homer for the lead late in a game? I’m going with the latter.
The DH is a bitch rule. It is like a fucking cheat code. It reminds me of when I used to play my cousin in Triple Play ’99 on Playstation 1, back in the day, and I used to put in the home run cheat code allowing myself to bunt homers – just to be a dick. He hated it and I don’t blame him. But how he felt is how I feel when an American League team forgoes a hitting strategy when coming to the lowest point in their batting lineup because they can just pull out their big gun.
I like the challenge and the competition and the DH rule eliminates some of the challenge and strategic planning. Sure, one can argue that when the NL plays the AL, it is an even playing field because if the AL team is at home, the NL team can use a DH but that misses the point. You see, the National League didn’t need a designated hitter until it had to play the American League. The NL shouldn’t have to lower itself but if you’re forced to play tee-ball teams, you have to play as a tee-ball team.