First Pitch: Bringing the Designated Hitter to the National League

Maury Brown of Biz of Baseball had an article today talking about why the DH is likely coming to the National League. Brown notes that the DH seems inevitable now that there are 15 teams in each league, and interleague play all year long. He also notes some of the roadblocks, such as the fact that adding a DH to the National League will drive up total salaries. Brown finished by saying that someone, somewhere is making the case for the DH in the National League.

Allow me to make that case.

First of all, I’m not a baseball purist. I embrace change, and don’t agree with doing things just because that’s how they’ve always been done, or that’s how they’re supposed to be done. That probably extends to more things in my life than just baseball, but in terms of baseball I think some of the purist arguments are silly.

The argument behind the designated hitter is that the National League has never had one, and pitchers have always been expected to pitch and hit. So in a baseball purist world we can’t have a specialized position like the DH because players are supposed to do everything? Well then explain why closers can’t pitch outside of the ninth inning. The NL has never used the DH, but there was also a time where they didn’t follow the ridiculously strict, and extremely specialized closer rules that every team follows today.

It seems that baseball is always resistant to change, and usually for no reason other than being stubborn. The DH would make the game much better, if only because you don’t have to watch a pitcher try to hit. And that’s argument number two: the magical strategy of making a team have to work around an automatic out in the lineup. Yeah, there’s strategy involved. There would also be strategy involved if your cleanup hitter had to hit from the opposite side of the plate. But that’s just a manufactured problem. There’s a much better solution. Obviously let the hitter bat from his normal side in that crazy scenario. The strategy to avoid the automatic out at the bottom of the lineup? How about put someone in the lineup who can hit. That seems like the best strategy to have.

It’s because of that strategy that National League teams have a disadvantage over American League teams. Consider the following examples:

**The Pirates, and every other NL team, have to dedicate a bench spot to a player who can play multiple positions. They need that because it makes it possible to do double switches. Usually these utility players aren’t strong on offense, and their real value comes from the fact that they can play multiple positions, even though they don’t play them well. Meanwhile, in the American League, you can have a guy who hits well, because that’s mostly what you’re going to be asking him to do.

**The Pirates lost Clint Robinson a week ago on waivers. Some said that it was no loss, since he profiled as a DH. If baseball was a fair sport, and it was possible to sign Pedro Alvarez for as long as the Pirates wanted him, they’d eventually have to let him go to the AL because he’ll eventually be a DH. American League teams were able to give Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder ridiculously long contracts at high prices, all because they could stash them in the DH spot when they started getting too old to play on the field. In a best case scenario, the Pirates would have Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Josh Bell, and Barrett Barnes playing the three outfield spots and the first base spot in a few years. Only there wouldn’t be a spot for one of those guys because the NL doesn’t have a DH. The AL has a huge advantage. They can sign hitters that teams in the NL could never consider because they don’t have the DH.

**The Pirates could never bring up a guy like Kyle McPherson to work out of the bullpen and serve as a spot starting option. He’d never get stretched out pitching in the National League. He’d go two innings in relief, then would be pulled for a pinch hitter. But in the American League, with a DH, he could go as long as he wanted. If a starter comes out in the third, McPherson could come in and pitch six innings to finish the game. And then five days later he could take the spot in the rotation of whoever didn’t make it past three innings in that start.

Garrett Jones has more value to AL teams than NL teams. Photo credit: David Hague

Garrett Jones has more value to AL teams than NL teams. Photo credit: David Hague

**Imagine if the Pirates were able to start Garrett Jones as the DH, without having to debate whether his defense is worse at first base or in right field.

These aren’t issues that the American League has to worry about. Guys like Jones have more value to AL teams, because they get all of the value from the bat, and don’t lose any value from the defense. AL teams don’t have to worry about double switches or pinch-hitting for relievers, which gives them more freedom with their bullpen and bench. There’s prospects in every NL system who have no value to NL teams, but who could be valuable to AL teams.

Let’s be honest. The American League and the National League aren’t two different sports leagues. They’re more of less two conferences in the same sports league. There’s no reason why they should operate under different rules, especially when they all have to compete in the same markets for players. It puts National League teams at a disadvantage. And before you suggest the other solution — getting rid of the DH — keep in mind that Brown pointed out this wouldn’t be an option, since the MLBPA wouldn’t agree to losing revenue and jobs. And it shouldn’t be an option, because no one needs to see pitchers hit. Especially when they only have to hit in one league, while the other league gets the benefit of an extra power hitter in the lineup.

Links and Notes

**The 2013 Prospect Guide and the 2013 Annual are both available on the products page of the site. If you order them together, you’ll save $5. Get them both to use throughout the 2013 season.

**I was asked earlier on Twitter (@timwilliamsP2) about my avatar. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a picture:

timpirates

 

That picture is hanging in my office, and was painted by my ex-wife about eight years ago when I was in college. The fact that I’m wearing a Pirates jersey in the picture is coincidental. It was painted off a photo in which I just happened to be wearing a Pirates jersey.

Anyway, the comment I get most often is that the avatar must have something to do with frustration with the Pirates, or frustration with some of the responses I get on Twitter. Sort of.

The pose is kind of a joke with my friends. I get headaches a lot, with pain between my eyes. So when one of my friends would do something annoying, or even when it wasn’t really annoying, I’d pinch my nose like they gave me a sudden headache. It’s much like Cartman on South Park, although I had been pinching the bridge of my nose well before South Park came out.

Like I said, it’s coincidence that I was wearing a Pirates jersey. I think I was pinching my nose because someone wanted to take my picture at the time. Or maybe they wanted a picture of me pinching my nose. Either way, that’s my pose of frustration, and it just so happens to have a Pirates theme. So I guess it fits the comments that I get — either that it represents frustration with the team, or or that it’s me taking a deep sigh in reaction to some of the crazy messages on Twitter. That’s not really the backstory to the photo, but it’s kind of why I uploaded it one day, and it’s definitely fitting.

**This is really impressive. From July 15th, 2005 to this afternoon, the Tampa Bay Rays had not used a starting pitcher who was signed as a major league free agent. The list of pitchers they’ve used during that time has some really good names, and some forgettable names.

Prospects

**Prospect Watch: Oliver Has Good Debut, Cunningham Shows Power.

**Is West Virginia Primed For Another Year of Breakout Players?

**Introducing the Organizational Probable Pitching Chart.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Minor League Previews.

**Minor League Schedule: 4/5/13.

Pirates

**Pirates Pregame: McCutchen Making Moves on the Base Paths.

**Seeing Similarities in the Pirates’ Two Losses.

Draft

**Baseball America Releases Mid-Season Top 50 Draft Prospects.

**Jim Callis Thinks the Pirates Should Draft Colin Moran.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • TonyPenaforHOF

    Sorry Tim but I have to disagree with your premise on the pitcher hitting while giving an alternative which fixes the contract advantage of the AL.

    In both leagues why not let a team use the DH for any player in the lineup except the pitcher?

    With this proposal here is what you get:
    – The contract advantage is gone by keeping the position but letting everyone share the opportunity equally.
    – You can bat a slugger for a light hitting, slick fielding player. Think of a DH hitting for Barmes. That gives the fans better hitting and better fielding.
    – You keep the strategy aspect for double switches and late inning moves. Watching American League baseball is like watching a mens softball team – lots of hitting, some defense and not a lot of thought. Baseball is a thinking man’s (or woman’s) game. This is why it appeals to so many generations. The older I get the more about the game I discover. Taking away the strategy weakens the intellectual aspect those who really know the game enjoy.

    Thoughts?

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Tony….FINALLY….we agree on something! :)

      “You keep the strategy aspect for double switches and late inning moves. Watching American League baseball is like watching a mens softball team – lots of hitting, some defense and not a lot of thought. ”

      AL ball is BORING!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • http://twitter.com/jlease717 jlease717

        Exactly. It’s not a video game, it’s baseball and it has strategy. AL baseball is dull to watch, at best.

    • http://twitter.com/AJ21PSU AJ21PSU

      So instead of having the DH hit for your worst hitter in the lineup they hit for the second worst hitter? How does this solve anything? All this would give you is the option of having a defensive specialist as a starter everyday (a la Brendan Ryan).

      • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

        This would be my response too. Why go through the trouble just to let the pitcher bat?

        • TonyPenaforHOF

          It’s not a simple issue. There is an art to the game of baseball – it’s not just numbers.

          This is a business and any good business model realizes the larger the market share they capture the more popular they are the money they will make. It’s a way to maximize the markets for both kinds of fans.

          Purists would love the gamesmanship – the late inning match ups, the strategy for pinch hitters, bullpen use etc…

          Fans of offense would have a better hitter in the lineup and the union would be happy because players would double the market to extend their careers.

          Defensive minded fans could see some great plays made by a defensive specialist who would have been sacrificed for offense.

          Everyone gets more of what they want except those fans who don’t appreciate the art of the game – and if they are watching now they would keep watching anyway with the new changes.

  • Sandoz

    Well said TP4HOF. I agree with your argument wholeheartedly. Adding DH would remove a big part of the tactical nature of the game, which I enjoy. It would also give us less fodder to complain about Hurdle.

    But, beyond the intellectualism of the game, for me, not having the pitchers hit removes some of the magic from the game. It is very cool when a pitcher dominates on the mound, then comes up and smacks a game winning homerun, a la Kershaw. Although these Ruthian feats rarely occur anymore, they would cease to exist completely if the DH was implemented in the NL. Allowing the pitcher to hit still allows room for that ultimate ballplayer to emerge, even if it is for only a single night.

  • NorCal Buc

    Tim, NO.

  • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

    That’s a pretty good oversimplification of the issue to make your argument appear stronger Tim. Have you watched much AL baseball? You might as well eliminate the manager and almost all decision making to be made in the game. There is virtually no pinch hitting or bench use during the regular season. There is also much less management of the pitching staff since moves only need to be made strictly based on pitching situation and not game situations. A critical aspect to the cerebral portion of the game is deciding when to sacrifice hitting for pitching and vice versa. That is how the game was designed and how the game should be played. The NL game creates difficult choices and those choices are what makes baseball great. It involves the bench much more regarding pinch hitting and double switches. The DH is an abomination and an afront to sport. There is no other example of a position that only participates in one segment of the game (offense) without any defense role. Its a completely artificial creation to increase run scoring to placate the lowest common denominator of fans. Your closer analogy is terrible, many managers use closers outside of the 9th and there is no rule regarding their usage. If you like the DH, you might as well make baseball like football and have 9 guys for hitting and 9 guys for defense.

    BTW, I agree that it is almost certain to happen unless they expand by two teams in the near future. It will be a sad day for baseball when all of the intrigue and tough decisions are eliminated in order to get less than 0.5 runs a game added.

    • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

      Oh man, I can’t believe I forgot another critical issue in that pitchers need to be required to hit as a primary deterrent to throwing at guys. If you go DH, then pitchers never have to worry about their turn in the batter’s box and what might come along with that. This concept is central to teams being able to police themselves and keep stupidity in check. Its already an issue with closers like Chapman never having to hit.

      • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

        Closers never hit anyway; how many PAs did Chapman or Hanny have last year? You want to get someone for Chapman nailing a guy, you hit Votto in the kneecap.

    • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

      Wholly and utterly disagree; look, NL pitchers hit a grand .129 last year. If your pitcher is hitting with a runner on first and less than two outs, what is he doing? He’s bunting–it’s all but automatic. If you’re down 3-1 in the 7th, and the pitcher comes to bat, you pinch hit–again, it’s all but automatic. What is strategy, but the choice between viable alternatives? Having an non-hitter doesn’t increase strategy, because it does not increase viable choices–if you have an actual hitter in the 9th spot in the order, you can do things: you can hit and run, and an attempted steal has more value because the guy at the plate can drive in the guy from second. What does having the pitch get you? Another 150 or so plate appreances from guys who aren’t good enough to start, twice as many sacrifice hits, and two automatic outs at the plate per game. It’s time–long past time, to be frank–to take the bats out of the pitchers’ hands.

      • gorillagogo

        You’re just cherry-picking a few examples where the manager’s choice is obvious and saying that proves there’s no strategy involved. There are plenty of times when there’s a legitimate tradeoff between keeping an effective starter in the game vs pinch hitting and trying to eke out a run. Those are teh “viable alternatives” you say don’t exist.

        • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

          Such as?

          • gorillagogo

            Whenever your starter is pitching well but your team can’t score. Say a scoreless game in the 7th, you have a man on 3rd with 1 out. Do you pinch hit for the pitcher, in the hopes that you can push that run across, knowing that the other team is more likely to score against your bullpen. Or do you keep the guy pitching a shutout in the game, hoping he can either put the ball in play or that the next guy up can get a hit?

            • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

              Yes, but is that a viable option? Is any major league manager NOT going to pinch-hit for the pitcher in that situation on the vain hope that a .129 hitter might make contact? You can argue that having a major-league hitter in that situation adds strategy by making the opposing team have to decide how to handle a guy who can hit there– and if that example doesn’t consitute cherry-picking, I don’t know what does.

              • gorillagogo

                You asked for a specific example, and when I give one you accuse me of cherry-picking. That’s ridiculous.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      “Have you watched much AL baseball?”

      I grew up an Orioles fan. Does that count?

      “You might as well eliminate the manager and almost all decision making to be made in the game.”

      Promise?

      • TonyPenaforHOF

        Tim you can’t be serious. How can you really understand and enjoy all facets of the game if you take out key variables? Who doesn’t watch a baseball game and try to match wits with the manager as they manage? Heck most of what we do on this site is play the role of GM and owner – and to be candid most of us are just killing time until the real games start so we can watch the athletes perform and the game strategy unfold. Without that it becomes an athletic exercise with little or no cognitive thought.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          Managers don’t really have any great strategy these days. Most of the moves are predictable. And almost all of the moves as it relates to a pitcher batting are predictable. It’s not like some managers are better than others at decisions involving the pitcher hitting. They all make the same moves in the same situation. Then you get one who bats the pitcher 8th, and you get outrage from people saying the pitcher should only bat 9th.

          Managers can still make decisions with a DH. But you mention this:

          “Without that it becomes an athletic exercise with little or no cognitive thought.”

          In my opinion, there’s no cognitive thought involved with strategy involving pitchers. The fact that you have to make a decision doesn’t mean the decision that was made was a result of smart thinking or something that no other manager would do.

          • Dropkickmurphys

            No they don’t. They all do the same thing. They create match up lineups. They sac bunt with the pitcher without thinking. They use match up relievers. They have 7th and 8th inning set up relievers and closers. There is no strategy, there is no thinking, they all do exactly the same thing. Everyone could manage the Tony LaRussa style game.

          • TonyPenaforHOF

            If we want innovation we need to create a climate designed to foster it. Your solution would replace moves that are predictable with fewer moves – which increases the predictability even more!

            Give this example some thought. Most people would give the former Pirate Gorky Hernandez a good to very good defensive rating. Imagine him at PNC Park in left field, with a professional hitter like Jim Thome hitting for him. Not a bad signing for the Bucs as a player and good for a player like Thome to continue his career. On top of that we add more options for the GM and Manager to perform – which makes the games less predictable and fosters a climate for innovation.

            If you do the opposite and hit for the pitcher, all you get is more offense, more predictability and a less intellectually stimulating product.

            • jg941

              So if you’re DH is hitting for Gorkys, who is hitting for the pitcher? Are you allowing multiple DHs?

              • TonyPenaforHOF

                No, read the first comment at the top.

        • Dropkickmurphys

          Me. I know I can match wits with every manager. I could manage every game each night from home. They all do the same thing.

      • jg941

        :-)

    • Dropkickmurphys

      “You might as well eliminate the manager and almost all decision making to be made in the game.”
      I don’t want to see managers messing up the game.

      “There is also much less management of the pitching staff since moves only need to be made strictly based on pitching situation and not game situations.”
      Good. Why do I want to see the second line (relief pitchers) when I can watch the better pitchers.

      “A critical aspect to the cerebral portion of the game is deciding when to sacrifice hitting for pitching and vice versa.”
      No there isn’t. Its a process now, if there is a runner on first and less than two outs, you sac bunt with the pitcher. There couldn’t be a less critical issue in baseball, than sac bunting. Its the dumbest move in the game.

      “That is how the game was designed and how the game should be played.”
      Not true, that era died when Babe Ruth showed up.

      “The NL game creates difficult choices and those choices are what makes baseball great. It involves the bench much more regarding pinch hitting and double switches.”
      Wrong. It creates bad choices. Double switched commit resources based on a hypothetical eventuality. Its inefficient use of limited resources. The sac bunt is the worst use of limited resources.

      “The DH is an abomination and an afront to sport.”
      No, overly involved managers, who think the game is about them, are an abomination to a beautiful game. You play baseball, you don’t manage it.

      “There is no other example of a position that only participates in one segment of the game (offense) without any defense role.”
      True but nearly all relievers, especially closers have no offensive role. Same thing.

      “Your closer analogy is terrible, many managers use closers outside of the 9th and there is no rule regarding their usage.”
      No they don’t. Look at closers appearances to inning pitched, they’re almost identical. That means they are being used in one situation and only one situation. Remember the 19 inning game with the Braves when Hurdle never used Hanrahan? It was because the Pirates never had a save situation.

      Baseball’s best day will be when managers make out a lineup card and go to sleep. If the DH gets us closer to that day, good.

  • http://battlingbucs.wordpress.com battlingbucs

    I’m not a purist and I embrace change when I think it improves the game but I prefer my baseball without a DH. To me the game just has a better flow and better fits the name baseball. The pitcher hitting represents station to station offense and the DH represents power. So in essence a pitcher hitting is “base” and a DH hitting is “bat”. To me baseball played with a DH is more batball than baseball.

    I’m all for standarizing the leagues though. I am going to suggest abolishing the DH in both leagues. I know most say the MLBPA would never go for it. But what about giving them something in return for this consession. Specifically I’m thinking adding 30 major league jobs by expanding the roster size to 26. Surely the MLBPA would be hard pressed to pass up that kind of offer. What union wouldn’t love to expand their ranks?

    • rohabi

      Good argument. One of the major complaints about baseball is that the games take too long. Well, guess what, more hitting and run scoring is not going to quicken the game.

      Absolutely hate the DH. Maybe we should add a rover in the outfield too.

      • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

        Actually (per baseball-reference.com) the game times in each league–this is for 2010–were virtually identical, with the AL’s being about a minute shorter.

  • http://users.rcn.com/wtmiller/pirateprofiles.htm WTM

    Boo!!

  • gorillagogo

    “So in a baseball purist world we can’t have a specialized position like the DH because players are supposed to do everything? Well then explain why closers can’t pitch outside of the ninth inning”

    This is a pretty specious argument. First off, you’re distorting the argument that people make in favor of having pitchers hit. It’s not that players are supposed to “do everything”, it’s that having a DH breaks the substitution rules that every other position is subject to. It means that pitchers don’t have to play on offense, while DH’s don’t have to play on defense. DHing removes a significant portion of the strategic element.

    Secondly, the closer is a role that managers created to help manage their bullpens. It’s not a position codified in the MLB rulebook. Comparing that to the DH — which has very explicit rules regarding how it can be used and substituted for — is comparing apples to cocoa puffs.

    “And before you suggest the other solution — getting rid of the DH — keep in mind that Brown pointed out this wouldn’t be an option, since the MLBPA wouldn’t agree to losing revenue and jobs.”

    Just because Brown says so doesn’t make it true. I’m sure the MLBPA would agree to eliminate the DH in exchange for increasing the roster size to 26 or 27.

  • Cocktailsfor2

    “Well then explain why closers can’t pitch outside of the ninth inning.”

    That’s not a change in the ~rules,~ as the DH would be – that’s “just fall-in-line-with-something-that-worked-once” idiocy on the part of the manager.

  • http://www.facebook.com/yo.derama Yo Derama

    Is this a late April Fool’s day article? Absolutely NO.

  • jg941

    Tim, I agree with most of the other commenters on a couple things: the comparison of the DH rule to the recent pattern of closer micro-usage is a little apples-and-oranges, although I’m not sure what other comparisons are out there that you could make that would be more appropriate.

    The other is that I’m a lifelong anti-DH guy and love the added strategy aspect in the NL – to me, it just does make the game more interesting, intuitive and fun(ner) to analyze.

    BUT……..that being said, you mentioned the one thing that finally made me start to seriously think (last year) about the value of spending energy on defending my lifelong position on the subject vs. the value of the sport itself benefitting from the elimination of such a fundamental disconnect (although I had always hoped it would be the AL DH that was eliminated).

    The thing that really made me stop and think was Albert Pujols’ contract. (BTW, to, me Pujols is the best overall player of this generation). Even though there were plenty of previous examples, what that contract (should have) made you realize is that the two leagues are now officially competing on entirely different playing fields, in that, for every player past 30 years old, one league – the AL – will have a clear and obvious advantage at every negotiating table for the best hitters (and maybe pitchers) from this point forward.

    The ability to ignore the natural, physical decline in the field over the final stage of a player’s career creates an entirely different marketplace for final (or late) career contracts.

    As every 30-35 year old field player hits the market for (theoretically) his final chance to earn money from playing basbeall, what NL team can, in good conscience, slide a 10-year deal across that table? A 39-year-old center fielder? Shortstop? Catcher? There’s only so many spots open in the NL at first base for the other 7 position players to ride-off-into-the-sunset to.

    So maybe you think the AL just becomes the old-guy league, as the NL continues to lose those late-career guys to the longevity of an AL/DH retirement path. But for all of those years, the AL will also clearly be the league with an ever-widening advantage in hitting, higher overall WAR (with, to Tim’s point, the elimination of the declining defensive aspect of WAR), while also increasing the flexibility on the pitching side that is referenced above.

    Regardles of your stand, you HAVE to acknowledge that new reality above…..you have to. You (or I) can still stand our ground on prefering the NL-way, but you need to admit that the NL has now permanently lost that player advantage.

    One other writing-on-the-wall thing that you HAVE to accept and see the downside in is that virtually every feeder program for the MLB has now moved to a DH philosophy – high schools, colleges, international leagues, and the MLB’s own minor leagues. The only exceptions that are still out there are more voluntary, wishy-washy committments to pitchers still hitting at the AA and AAA levels of NL-only farm systems (and maybe one of the leagues in Japan).

    The thing is…….it AIN’T going back, boys and girls. Your argument is no longer the NL way vs. banning the DH – the DH will not be banned. Your (And my) argument has now morphed into the NL way vs. virtually everything else in baseball that surrounds the 15 teams in the National League of Major League Baseball.

    So you have to decide if – for the good of the major league game – the playing field at the MLB level IS actually level, that the game these guys will play when/if they get there is actually the game they’re actually being trained to play on their way there, and whether everyone’s admirations and preferences for the strategies of the MLB NL game (including mine) will have to take a “hit” for the greater good.

    I’m now (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) firmly on the fence for the first time ever, and I have a feeling that the next big 10-year AL signing, or the next time I watch Clint Hurdle trip over said NL strategy in a game, I may get knocked over to the dark side of said fence.

    • leadoff

      The sad part is that the NL is slowly being forced to accept the DH as well as the fans that don’t want it, for sure it is coming to both leagues, but that does not mean any of us that don’t want it have to like it. It could also mean the end of the Pirates in Pittsburgh, they are close to being priced out of baseball, this might be the breeze that blows them off the cliff.

      • Dropkickmurphys

        It can get worse than 20 straight years of losing. I don’t think so.

    • gorillagogo

      Pujols’s contract doesn’t prove anything about whether the NL should adopt the DH. Yes, AL teams currently have the “advantage” of being able to offer 10 year contracts to the extremely small percentage of players that are aging superstars, but they wouldn’t if they got rid of the DH. That doesn’t even begin to address whether giving 10 year contracts to guys in their 30s is a good idea or not — getting rid of the DH might actually save teams from making horrible long term decisions.

      Moreover, Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies in part because he would rather pitch in the NL. Greg Maddux spent his entire career in the NL because he didn’t want to pitch in the DH league. For some reason nobody is pointing to those guys as a reason to get rid of the DH, and with good reason. They are outliers just like Pujols.

      Finally, Jason Giambi spent the last four years of his career with the Rockies. Jim Thome signed with the Phillies at the age of 41. Teams are still able to sign aging sluggers if they think those guys can be effective. They won’t get tens of millions of dollars, but why is that necessarily a bad thing?

      Your other argument — that MLB should adopt the same rules that amateur and minor leagues use — is backwards. Should MLB start using aluminum bats because high school and college teams do? Of course not. MLB should not be imitating amateur teams for the sake of imitating amateur teams. If adopting the DH is truly in the best interest of MLB (I don’t believe so, but many people do), they should adopt the DH for that reason, not because some minor league team is doing so.

      • leadoff

        There are examples of players that like the DH better than other players, but if you polled all the players in both leagues, I would not be afraid to bet more of them would vote for the DH than against it.
        IMO the Players would vote for it.
        The MLB executives would vote for it, the only ones that would not are the low revenue teams.
        The Union would vote for it. (Union Management)
        Pro football and basketball have proven marketing wise that scoring a lot of points increases revenue and value to these teams.
        When you think about it, it boils down to money.
        Do the teams and the league make more money with the DH or without it?
        The answer can be found by figuring out if the National League makes more money than the American league.
        MLB already knows the answer to that.

        • gorillagogo

          I read somewhere that on average NL teams outdrew AL teams the last few years. That tells me you can’t just assume the DH automatically means more money for baseball.

          I also don’t see how you can assume that players and management would vote for it. There are just as many players that would get squeezed by the DH as would benefit — all those bench guys that play 5 different positions would suddenly be a lot less valuable. Plenty of pitchers would be against it too.

          As for management, you have 15 NL teams with long histories and vocal fan bases. You think the Cubs and Giants and Dodgers are just going to willy-nilly vote for expanded DH when large numbers of their season ticket holders are vehemently opposed to it? Let’s see some actual data on what management thinks before we just assume it’s a done deal.

          • leadoff

            I can assume it because the DH is inevitable for both leagues and for it to happen it will have to be voted upon, that means the players union and management will have to agree upon it, that is where my assumptions are coming from. IMO, inner league play is what will force this to happen sooner rather than later. It is not what I want, but I don’t think the fans are going to have a say in it.

            • gorillagogo

              So the DH is inevitable because the league and players union are going to vote for it. The league and players union are going to vote for it because it’s inevitable. That’s a tautology.

      • jg941

        Well, on the pitchers you might be right that it’s more 50/50, because you’ll see examples of guys going long in both leagues for whatever their own reasons are (i.e. the two most recent big, long pitcher contracts happened to be AL guys (Verlander and Felix H.), but the next one(s) (Kershaw maybe) may go long in the NL, who knows.

        But on the rest of your points – as you well know, the DH will NOT be gotten rid of in every other place that it exists (everywhere but the MLB NL and the Japan Central League), so you gotta take that off the table, like it or not.

        And your Giambi example is perfect – sounds meaningful that he has been there late in his career for FOUR years, right?

        Except, in those 4 years, still as an .800+ OPS hitter, he has gotten a grand total of about 400 at bats, solely BECAUSE he no longer has the functionality in the field. And, oddly enough, about 75 of THOSE ABs were because he was used as a DH in Colorado’s inter-league games. Do you think he would have had more than 400 total ABs in the AL as a DH in 4 years? He’s not a good support for your argument.

        And Thome? The Phils signed him “at the age of 41″ for a grand total of 60 ABs, the majority of which were as…….guess what?…….their DH in inter-league games :-). And then he was traded back to an AL team. Thome’s an even worse support for that argument than Giambi, and you will be hard-pressed to find any better ones, trust me.

        Finally – something I’m sure you also know – the argument for the NL to conform with what everybody else is doing doesn’t reduce to just doing what the “amateurs” are doing. It’s what the entire system that develops players to be professional baseball players is doing, so just call it that.

        And you have to acknowledge at least (as I have) the irrationality of changing it at the last step, and then only if, by chance, they happen to land on THIS half of the MLB teams.

        And I’ll just add an assumption about your attempted analaogy to an aluminum bat. I’ll assume again that you are aware that this is solely a safety issue – nothing about game rules & regs, or fundamentals/basics.

        At the top end of the foodchain, bigger/faster/stronger starts to affect player safety, and as I hope you are also aware, the effort has been well underway for some time now to slowly dumb-down composite bat “performance” standards to wood-bat standards, so you won’t see that disconnect around much longer either.

        As a purist (like me), maybe you’ll get a tear in your eye when you see high school and college players start using wooden bats again, and maybe that’ll help offset the tears you shed when that first NL DH steps to the plate.

        • gorillagogo

          “But on the rest of your points – as you well know, the DH will NOT be gotten rid of in every other place that it exists (everywhere but the MLB NL and the Japan Central League), so you gotta take that off the table, like it or not.”

          Wait, what? My point was that it doesn’t matter what other leagues are doing. I never said other leagues should drop the DH. Who cares what college or minor leagues or the Mexican League do? It’s completely irrelevant to the discussion.

          As for Giambi or Thome, who cares how many at bats they got? I never said they would get more at bats with NL teams. Just the opposite, really, because I specifically said they would get less money. My point is these guys had the opportunity to sign with some AL team but instead chose to stay in Denver or Philly with a reduced role. Other guys can do the same if they ditch the DH.

          • jg941

            Dude, do you KNOW where MLB players come from? Where they’re trained? What they’re trained to do?

            High school, college, minor leagues and international leagues – THAT’s where EVERY major leaguer comes from. You’re suggesting, for instance, that we train the pitchers to just pitch, don’t let them hit, at every level along the way, and then when they make it to the majors – and not the entire majors, just HALF of the majors – you think it’s THEN a good idea to hand a bat back to a pitcher and tell him to hit?

            Somehow, “completley irrelevant” doesn’t quite get at the connection, does it?

            And if you honestly think that Giambi and Thome “chose” to play in the NL (even though they then headed right back to the AL) solely so that they could get less playing time and make significantly less money, well, they’re probably glad you’re not their agent, but they might hire you as their PR guy. :-).

            Look, I don’t like the DH either – but the argument at this point is whether it’s better for the future integrity of the game that the NL continues to be the only part of organized baseball that continues to ban it, or whether it’s better for the game that everyone is on the same page, once and for all.

            The “kill the DH” fight is lost, gorilla, and the “Retain the DH in the NL only” is about to be lost for good because at the end of the day, the game’s relatively better off with everyone at least following the same rules, and none of the arguments that I’ve seen, including yours and even my own against the DH, improve the integrity of the game more than a level playing field.

    • rohabi

      It’s a sad when we let a money issue influence the rules of the game. But, sadly, that seems like the way it’s going. I hate the DH.

    • TonyPenaforHOF

      Why can’t we have it all!

      • jg941

        Hear, hear! :-)

        Can we also go back to using “ghost runners” (or at least be able to substitute for the slow-footed catcher is he’s on base with 2 outs, so that he can “get his catcher’s equipment on” (wink, wink…nudge, nudge….:-)

  • leadoff

    The “DH” issue to me has to be settled period.
    My thoughts are that both leagues must have the same rules, no matter what they are, the National league and the American leagues are forced to build different teams, if they have to build different teams they should eliminate inner league play.
    I do not like the DH, but I am for progress and rule changes.
    What the DH does is take a lot of the drama out of baseball and managerial moves beyond the obvious moves.
    Bringing in the DH to the National league pushes low revenue teams further down the food chain, they can’t afford 10-15mil for a part time player.
    Because something was done 75 years ago does not make it automatically wrong now, we have to get out of this change is always good mode that this country is in.
    I think Hurdle would be a better American league manager than he is a National league manager, strategy is not one of his better traits.
    Attendance at National league games seems to do alright without the DH.
    After the DH is settled we probably will have a controversy where one league will want total instant replay and the other league will want partial instant replay, where does it stop?
    I am not for any kind of replay in baseball. I know the we need to get it right, I and saying no we don’t. These games are played by humans and they are officiated by humans, human mistakes are accepted with players and they should be accepted with officials.

  • John Eshleman

    I’m very open about not liking the DH in baseball (my fantasy team name is “MakeThePitcherHit”) largely from a strategic perspective. However, to me it is more important that the leagues have the same rule in place, for the many reasons Tim so clearly points out. And since the AL DH isn’t going anywhere, it feels time for the NL to follow suite. The purist vs. change piece to this is a fun thought exercise, but more important is creating a level playing field between the leagues.

  • Happydude1

    I’m honestly on the fence as to whether the NL should adopt the DH, but I do agree with most that the rules need to be the same for both leagues, especially now with interleague year round.
    My biggest beef is the NL is at a huge disadvantage to the AL during interleague games. No NL team is going to pay and a guy like Ortiz to sit on the bench because he can’t play the field. The AL can, however – because that guy is the DH and hits in the middle of their lineup.
    Because of the way NL teams are constructed, the marginal value added by adding another hitter is far less for and NL team than an AL team.

    It’s no surprise the AL usually dominates the NL in interleague play, especially at home.

  • bohringer9

    A DH would be exceptionally bad for small market teams, as the position is one of the highest paid on the market. The roster spot it is replacing, likely a utility player, is among the lowest paid of roster spots. The difference in salary relative to production for utility players is very small, meaning the Pirates can add value to this spot cheaply. Adding value through getting a better DH would likely be extremely expensive on the trade of free agent market. DH’s would likely become more expensive as the quantity demanded increase, and without large increases in suitable players for the role.

  • Dropkickmurphys

    Tim, on this one, we are in complete agreement. While I’m not necessarily a fan of the DH, I’m less of a fan of watching feeble pitchers hit. I’m even less of a fan of watching managers “strategize” (actually it isn’t strategy, its tactics). Most of all, I loathe the sac bunt and anything that gets rid of or limits that stupid move, I’m for.

    Lets get by the change thing. If things don’t change, they die. The American League was dying, the DH brought it back.

    The argument about specialized isn’t an argument. The entire bullpen is specialized now. Every role in the pen is sacrosanct. All but one or two relievers can only pitch one inning or to one type of batter. At least a DH faces multiple pitchers. Furthermore, look at players in general. Would anything think of moving Neil Walker to third? No, even though he played there before, its now etched in stone that he can’t play anywhere but second. Baseball has been specialized since Tony LaRussa created Dennis Eckersley, its time to move to the DH.

    As it relates, to manager’s “strategy” (again its tactics), I hate it. I don’t go to games to see a manager control the game like a South American dictator. I go to the players play. There is nothing interesting about a double switch. Actually, its generally counter productive because it commits resources for a hypothetical situation. Did I write that I loathe the sacrifice bunt? If I want to see a chess match, I will go to one. When I go to a ball park, I want to see baseball played by baseball players.

    Then there is the fact that the DH provides more opportunity to see the best pitchers in that game. Relievers are relievers because they can’t be starters. The DH allows the starter to stay in the game, because the manager doesn’t has to involve himself by taking the starting pitcher out for a less good reliever. I paid good money to see the game’s best players, not the last guy out of the pen.

    Its time for the NL to just accept what is going to happen eventually, and use the DH. If it keeps a player like Andrew McCutchen with the Pirates longer and keeps Clint Hurdle out of the game, its a win-win.

  • weltytowngang

    Well, since we’re changing. Let’s really change!!! Let’s have 9 defensive players and 9 offensive players. Defense just play defense and o;ffense just plays offense – that way just the best plays defense and just the best plays defense. Oh, and lets divide the game into two halves (10 innings) and one set of defensive players and one set of offesnive play the first 5 innings and a differenent set play the second 5 innings. Let’s get into it and really change.

    • rohabi

      Why not? Jeez this is stupid. Baseball should be a game played by nine players. When someone gets subbed out they’re out of the game. That will be next, I suppose. A resubstitution rule, like 8 year olds play. I’m getting so worked up about this right now I could spit. I with Bob Walk. BAN THE DH! He mentioned during a spring training game that he missed the difference b/n the two leagues, i.e. different umps, no DH in NL, etc. I hate the DH. I cheer for NL teams over AL teams 90% of the time. Let’s have the pitcher toss underhanded to make sure no decisions have to be made by the pitchers and catchers on what to throw. Then we can see the best underhanded throwers pitch well into their 80s since they don’t ever have to the stinking bases. For crying in the beer.

      • Dropkickmurphys

        The NL format means that many more players than 9 play each game. In the NL, you have more relief pitchers, more pinch hitters, more double switches, and while it means no more players, the perfectly dreadful sac bunt. If just about the best few players against the other best few players, the AL game is much closer to the traditional game.

  • weltytowngang

    I like underhand; that way no one gets hurt by pitch and no more rhubarbs (not sure of spelling). And instead of calling it baseball, we could call it Substitution Ball.

  • Dropkickmurphys

    NL Baseball: Dull, slow, predictable, station to station, see glove first players and relievers, and far too much managerial influence.

    AL Baseball: Exciting, run scoring, players running around the bases, see the best players more, managers take a nap. Better baseball.

    NL Baseball = Sac Bunt

    AL Baseball = Home Run

  • Brian

    If the DH means we can improve our inexcusably awful offense and a defensive novice like Pedro Alvarez a DH, I’d take it.

    I don’t buy into this whole art and strategy of double switches; it’s just a gimmick to overpay managers.