Why MLB should abolish the designated hitter

I was commenting in Tommy Buettner’s sports blog that if you are a traditional baseball fan, you should want the National League (NL) team to win since they don’t use the designated hitter (DH).

Like many other fans, I think the DH should be abolished. (It is not going to happen anytime soon because the player’s union is very powerful and the loss of the DH will result in a loss of jobs to highly paid union members.)

The designated hitter rule came around due to the pitcher’s era of the 1960s where the pitcher had the advantages of a very high mound and a huge strike zone. Even though baseball reduced the height of the mound and the size of the strike zone, it was thought that baseball needed something to increasing run scoring. Since pitchers are almost universally terrible hitters, they came up with a proposal to substitute a “real” hitter for the pitcher. However, the American League (AL) was the only league to use the DH, so the AL and the NL ended up playing by different rules.

Some of the most common reasons given for why the DH should be abolished are (in no particular order):

  • An AL pitcher can indiscriminately  brush back the other team’s hitters without fear of retaliation. 
  • It would remove the element of strategy from the game (because a NL manager has to decide whether he should pinch hit for the pitcher.)
  • Since DHs are usually big guys with power who play lousy defense, this tends to increase power as a strategy at the expense of speed and baseball fundamentals such as the hit-and-run, hitting to the opposite field and sacrifice bunting. (I don’t really agree with this one, as former Baltimore manager Earl Weaver , one of the greatest managers in history, believed in power.)

I have my own reason why the DH should be abolished. I haven’t checked this for feasibility, but this is just my opinion.

Games are , in my opinion, much better when players have to do everything, even if they don’t do them well. In the NBA, does Shaq get to have a designated free throw shooter? Heck, no. We get to watch him clank his shots off the rim.

Pitchers have historically been terrible hitters because they were spending all their time working on their pitching. However, given today’s advances in biomechanics and technology, a pitcher would not have to spend as much time working on his motion as in the 1960s.  This would allow the pitcher to improve his hitting skills to a level where he wouldn’t embarass himself. There are several pitchers today who are not pathetic hitters, such as Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs and Mike Hampton (when he’s healthy.) Also, current St. Louis outfielder Rick Ankiel started as a pitcher, and he was a very good hitting pitcher.

To summarize, I think it is quite possible if pitchers spent time working on their hitting, that they could be good enough so that they wouldn’t always have to sacrifice bunt whenver someone is on base. That would add some strategy to the game, especially when the opposing manager intentionally walks the #8 hitter to pitch to the pitcher.

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2 Responses

  1. I just absolutely could not agree with you any more.

  2. Hi Al,

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