The drumbeat is increasing in volume. Each year it becomes more and more apparent that a sport can not go on forever using different rules.
In football the AFC doesn’t have the option for going for two points while NFC teams playing against others in their conference can only kick for the one.
In basketball the three point line is the same distance from the hoop for every team.
And we don’t have the goalie restricting trapezoids in some hockey arenas in the NHL and not in others.
But in major league baseball going all the way back to 1973 the American League has used the Designated Hitter rule while the NL has eschewed (as in “shoo – go away”).
As a National League fan and traditionalist I have always opposed the use of the DH. If baseball were to name me the dictator for a day I would happily throw out the DH rule, tell the Wilpons to sell the Mets, and then retire happily.
None of that is happening and all indications are that the pro-DH forces have just about won this war. There is little doubt that if baseball fans had to vote the DH up or down that up would win and probably win handily. It’s likely that baseball execs would give it the same result if they were the ones voting.
If we agree that both leagues should play by the same rules – and it is awfully hard to make the case against that – then some time in the next few years both leagues will be using the DH rule.
Not to go down without a fight I wonder if some kind of compromise could be reached which would give each side a partial victory.
We know that the pro-DH people think it silly to have pitchers come up to bat and be virtually helpless at the plate. To some, like myself, it’s part of the charm. We are so used to seeing people who are great at hitting baseballs (people like Ruben Tejada excepted) facing people who are great at throwing baseballs that it is easy to forget how daunting a task it is. When a pitcher comes to bat we see what happens to a regular human facing a 90+ mile per hour fastball or a darting breaking pitch.
Baseball is trying to speed games up while American League games routinely take longer than National League games. This is because the DH makes almost all pitching changes occur during innings adding more of those close to two minute breaks. In the NL many pitching changes occur after a pinch-hitter has done his thing for the pitcher. No extra timeout added there.
A compromise would have to preserve the jobs of DH types like David Ortiz, Billy Butler, and Chris Carter while simultaneously maintaining some of the strategies that we NL fans like.
Here’s a rough draft of my plan.
Both leagues adopt a rule in which their team’s pitcher can be pinchhit for a maximum of two times per game. Those two times the pitcher need not be removed from the game and the first pinchhitter remains eligible to be used later as a pinch-hitter or as a replacement in the field. The second time the pitcher is hit for the pinch batter is out of the game unless he is moved into a defensive position.
So what does this do?
The career DH’s still have jobs although the numbers of at bats they will get in the season will be down.
Managers have new strategies to create. No one on, two outs, and the pitcher is due. Maybe it’s best not to waste a pinchhitter here. Or runner on 1B with no outs – let the pitcher come up and bunt rather than using one of the precious free pinch hit opportunities. Could even avoid some DPs that way.
The pitchers who have a clue with the stick, e.g. Jacob deGrom, will give their managers an extra edge. Those guys who barely know which end of the bat to hold, e.g. Bartolo Colon, will likely need the pinchhitter the first two times the 9-hole rolls around.
The chance of a compromise like this being passed by major league baseball is admittedly very small. More likely we will all be telling our grandchildren how we remember way back when when even the pitchers had to come to bat when it was their turn.