The designated hitter. The term has already evoked a certain emotion by just reading it for the baseball fan. Since the institution of the designated hitter in 1973 to allow a player who does not play a position on the field to hit for the pitcher, there seems to be this unbalance in the game. The rule, adopted by the American League in MLB, and since has been used by most high schools, collegiate, amateur, international and youth leagues in the world, has become a hot topic again with some recent restructuring of the game.
Once the Houston Astros moved to the American League West Division, it placed 15 teams in each league resulting in inter-league games being on the schedule everyday. And I'm sure even that's a notable stick in the mud for some traditionalists. However, with a meeting between two teams that play under two different rules everyday, what do we do with the designated hitter? Keep it? Abolish it altogether? Or keep it the way it is?
This baseball fan prefers the designated hitter. Why? Simply because I'm inline with the movement that baseball needs to modernize it's game. The designated hitter has prolonged careers (for both position players and pitchers) and would provide a uniform rule for the sport throughout the world.
Think about it, there are kids who pitch in High School, are drafted as pitchers (or even go to college as a pitcher) make it to the big show, and will be asked to hit Major League pitching. For most, they haven't swung a bat in real situation since High School. And now they'll have someone the likes of Justin Verlander staring down at them!
|If it weren't for the DH, we would've never been able to see this guy hit...|
|...or even this guy.|
And honestly, I'll be forward in this thought which might produce some laughter from those who are against the DH - I just hate watching pitchers hit. And I was a pitcher in college! I just do. I don't know how else to explain it.
[side blog: To be honest, I wish I had a designated [fill in task here] at work. But that's just wishful and rather ridiculous thinking on my end.]
However, I do understand the other side of the coin. The pitcher is a fielder, he's a baseball player - he should hit! I know, I know. And I am often intrigued with the National League style of play, especially the strategy involved later in the games.
|Nice swing there, Mr. Dickey|
|Jeff Samardzija showing his strike zone discipline here|
Which ever way it's presented, I truly believe the baseball population is split on the issue.
To DH? Or not to DH?
With that said, I wanted to present some rather, well, interesting (possibly wacky) ways to compromise the issue of the DH for both leagues.
Scenario 1 - Home Team Chooses Option
This one seems rather simple enough. In all inter-league games, the home team should be given the option prior to game time whether they would like to use the DH option or have the pitchers hit.
Teams with pitchers who can handle the bat would most likely elect no DH. Or, say for instance a National League team is playing the Boston Red Sox, they can elect to have the pitchers hit to force the Red Sox decision of what to do with David Ortiz.
Either way, it keeps the leagues with their respective DH/No DH rules, while giving the host team the option in those odd inter-league games. An option that very well could come into play during the World Series.
Scenario 2 - Alternate Rules From Year to Year
Even simpler! This used to be customary with home field advantage for the World Series before you know, the All-Star game started to matter and was the deciding factor for it, and all that jazz.
Basically, the rules will alternate every year. One year, all inter league games will use the DH, and the next, they won't. Easy. Alternating seems rather arbitrary and unbiased, and would help a team in the off-season prepare their roster for the upcoming season.
Next year a DH year and you're a National League team? Might be wise to stock the bench with a guy you can trust in that role when it calls.
Scenario 3 - Designated Hitters are well...Designated For The Year
Now, I'm going to start thinking outside of the box, and this is the first one which would be applied to both leagues. A universal rule for all games. How about each team having to designate a designated hitter for the year?
One player will be the official designated hitter on each MLB roster, and he is the only (yes, ONLY) person that can be used in the role for the year. I'll repeat, he is the only player that can hit for the pitcher in a game all year. If he is injured, tired, or as is the case these days, suspended, you cannot replace him and your pitcher must hit until he is available for play. Official designated hitters are allowed to play the field if needed as well.
And I know what some are thinking...what if you put your DH in the field, how does that affect the lineup? Well, it's your typical double switch. Pitcher assumes lineup position of player that was substituted out of the lineup.
Scenario 4 - Designated Hitter Only For Starting Pitcher
Now this one might be my favorite, and yes, it's a bit unconventional as well. For both leagues, this rule would give the DH to both teams in a game until that team removes their starting pitcher from the game. Once you remove your starting pitcher, you lose your DH, and the incoming pitcher must hit for themselves.
Strategy very much comes into play. How long to keep your pitcher in the game dictates your ability to provide offense moving forward. This scenario also keeps the National League's late-inning feel of double-switching and pinch hitting as part of the game. It would also reward teams who have pitchers that go deep into games.
Example: If Matt Harvey is tossing a gem through 7, and Terry Collins gives him the hook, the Mets will lose Marlon Byrd, who was the DH for the game. Collins would then have to either simply lose Byrd for the game, or move Byrd to the field. Either way, the DH is lost for the game.
Scenario 5 - Designated Hitter For Relief Pitcher
Obviously, this is the complete opposite of scenario 4. This option would bring about an alternative effect on the strategy of the game. Starting pitchers will hit for themselves until they are removed from the game, at which point a designated hitter can be sent to the plate to hit for all pitchers for the rest of the game.
The strategy will weigh on teams who have pitchers who are doing well, while contemplating the need for offense moving toward the later innings. Like scenario 4, it keeps the NL style in play, and also gives late inning drama of the AL with the DH in the lineup.
Honestly, if you're like me in thinking that pitchers can't hit, relief pitchers are even worse. This saves the game from some embarrassment.
The rule also gives the MLB that late inning strategy often seen in Soccer and Hockey of pulling the goalie for the extra man. Usually exciting stuff.
[side blog: I can't believe I just use Hockey as an example to improve baseball.]
Example: Felix Hernandez is locked in a pitchers duel with Clayton Kershaw. He is pitching well, but made one mistake by giving up a home run. It's a 1-0 ball game going into the 7th inning. Seattle Manager, Eric Wedge, can pull Hernandez for a reliever, and use Kendry Morales as the DH the rest of the night, trusting his bullpen can hold the Dodgers, at the same time hoping the extra bat can add some offense.
Scenario 4a and 5a - Opposing Team Selects Designated Hitter
Are you tired of these crazy ideas yet?
The final scenario is an extension of scenario 4 and 5. This rule would give the opposing teams the right to choose who becomes the DH.
For scenario 4, once the starting pitcher is pulled, the opposing team would then select a player from the bench to be the DH going forward. In scenario 5, it would be the same deal, with the opposing team selecting the DH for the rest of the night.
For scenario 5, this would create such high end drama, especially from a strategic stand point. Obviously, as the opposing manager, you would pick the worst hitter for the scenario. Bring in a lefty and select a DH who hits .150 off of lefties, right? However, what if that chosen player comes through?
How about the anticipation of who the opposing team will select? Great TV and ballpark drama with high stakes situations.
Also, this will force teams to keep strong benches, and not try to hide "defensive replacements" on their bench. If we can't have designated hitters, we shouldn't have unofficial "designated fielders" right?
The idea of the designated hitter is one that will always - always! - be of controversy when discussing the game. It's at the root of a never ending debate between those who feel the game should evolve, and the traditionalists that feel the game's consistency and history is what makes it so great.
I personally don't think there will ever be a decision. However, maybe a compromise between the two rules would work?
To DH? Or not to DH?
...or maybe both?
What do you think?