FanGraphs is running a poll, asking readers what they thought of the changes MLB made for the 2020 season. The first question is about the NL adopting the DH and asking if it should be that way going forward. My vote was for “no” and I was disappointed to find out that slightly over 75% of the fans voting in the poll voted the opposite way. It’s too bad we don’t have a poll from the same source on the same question from November of 2019 to compare. My guess is that it would have been much closer back then. Probably not 50-50 but perhaps 60-40.

There are several reasons to prefer the game with a DH and there’s no need for me to list them here – or anyone to tick them off in the comments section – because this is a discussion we’ve all had more times than we can count on the fingers of two hands. For me, it’s always come down to the fact that if you prefer to watch baseball with a DH, you have the opportunity to do so by watching AL games. It doesn’t mean you have to root for the Yankees. There are plenty of interesting teams in that league that deserve additional fans.

But if you prefer to watch a game where all parties have to bat and field and run, the only place to do that is in the NL. That was taken away from us last season and it seems likely it will be taken away permanently, whether that decision comes in 2021 or with a new CBA in 2022. For people like me, who want to see the game played this way, we’re in the unfortunate position of having to root for the owners using this as a way to get concessions from the MLBPA that the union doesn’t want to give, just to get one more year of real baseball in.

And things are further complicated for Mets fans, who had the opportunity to get another bat in the lineup with the DH in 2020. It makes things easier to have that extra offensive position. But is easier really best? Cue the scene from “A League of Their Own.”

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

Maybe for you that scene is nothing more than a Hollywood cliché. And that’s okay if you feel that way. Just know that it’s not that way for me.

Perhaps the pragmatists among you fret what the Mets will do if there is no DH in 2021. It will force them to do what they should have done the past two years – play Jeff McNeil at 2B. In the past two years, most of which was spent playing out of position, McNeil has a 5.8 fWAR over 775 PA. In that same span, Robinson Cano has a 2.1 fWAR over 605 PA.

While the decision at 2B is easy – really, really easy – it’s not so cut and dried at either 3B or LF/CF. And this is where you have to make decisions. How much defense are you willing to sacrifice to get a bat into the lineup? Or, stated another way, how much offense are you willing to punt to get a good fielder in the game? Despite what you might think, there’s no one right way to approach this question and you can make a case to play it one way in the infield and the exact opposite way in the outfield.

It’s perfectly reasonable to conclude that J.D. Davis is too much of a liability to play every day at 3B and that the team should look to bring in a full-time player there. It’s perfectly reasonable to think that Dominic Smith in LF and Brandon Nimmo in CF is a defensive disaster and a CF should be brought in and one of those two guys should be moved to the bench or traded.

But the beauty of the game is that the players have to play on both sides. It’s not football where you have one squad playing offense and a different group playing defense. You want Davis’ bat in the lineup? Then live with his glove. You want Juan Lagares’ glove in the outfield? Then live with his bat. You want Jacob deGrom on the mound? Then don’t pinch hit for him in a tie game in the sixth inning with runners in scoring position.

My preference is for the game to feature lots of choices. While Mets fans spent the better part of the last decade handcuffed by the team’s blind fealty to the LOOGY strategy, my vote in the FanGraphs’ poll was to do away with the three-batter minimum, because it takes away choices. If a team wants to use Scott Rice because he limits LHB to a .536 OPS, they should be allowed to use him for one-batter appearances in each and every game. They just have to deal with the consequences of a player that limited in what he can do.

Perhaps what we really need is a league without choices or consequences. Roster sizes are unlimited, you can make as many substitutions as you want, with players allowed to come back in after they’ve been taken out of the game. Players can take steroids and apply any substance they want to, either to the ball or the bat.

It would be interesting and it might even be fun. But it wouldn’t be baseball.

10 comments on “Choices and consequences of being a Mets fan against the DH

  • JC

    I too am against the DH. It’s the reason that this year for the first time since 1986 (or 85 if you ask my parent but I was too young to remember that) I did not watch a single mets game. It’s also why I wasn’t commenting here in season. I don’t like DH baseball I find it boring what I love about our game is first guessing the manager thinking along with the strategy and for me the DH diminishes that. Even when I was watching for interleague games with a DH I’d listen to the radio and do something else online or around the apartment. I have to admit I find the steve cohen of it all intriguing so I may try to watch but the prospect of a DH dose dampen my excitement and make me wonder i this game is for me anymore.

  • Remember1969

    For 45+ years, I have argued against the designated hitter. I think I have slowly been tugged to the other side, but mostly because of other changes that have infiltrated the game in negative ways as well.

    I get the argument that pitchers should concentrate all their practice time on their craft and not have to spend time learning to hit and bunt, but I really liked the idea of a good hitting pitcher being able to help himself. The idea of a team that has a whole staff that likes to hit and challenge each other with their hitting is very cool. Good hitting pitchers can make a big difference in the team won-loss record.
    The 1969 double header that the Mets swept 1-0 and 1-0 was memorable in that the pitcher drove in the runs in each game. For the naysayers, the base hit that Koosman had in the first game up’ed his stats to 4 for 70 on the year, with that being his only RBI.

    Now, with that said, one of the negative changes in the game is that of the death of the complete game. My preference is to have starting pitchers finish games. I don’t agree that a pitcher should get credit for a ‘quality’ start if he throws 6 innings and gives up 3 runs or less. A quality start is a complete game. I do not care for games that have 5 or 6 pitchers throwing. If the starting pitcher is only going to be at bat once or twice in the game before being pinch hit for, why bother? It also doesn’t really make sense to have relief pitchers hit, as they don’t do it enough to become proficient. Maybe getting one at bat every 10 or 15 days is not enough.

    The great decrease in bunting, hit and run, and stolen bases – just general speed – in the game is also distressing. In a tie game in the 8th or 9th inning and a runner on 3rd with 1 out, that guy should be scoring at least 90% of the time. There is not much more exciting than a squeeze play. In general, moving runners over by either bunting or hitting behind them is what baseball is all about. A lineup of batters striking out 10 to 15 times a game is not exciting. I remember times where a pitcher would actually come up to pinch hit because he was the best bunter on the team.

    In summary, the game has changed immensely over the last 20 to 40 years, and with the pitchers concentrating on throwing 100 mph and high spin rates, the pitchers hitting may be a thing that should change with it.

    It is unfortunatate, but you cannot stop change.

    • Mike W

      I agree with you. I remember when Ron Blomberg was the first DH in 1973. I said, what is this. Even in 86, Doc Gooden pitched 16 complete games. I loved watching pitchers go out there for nine and it was their game to win or lose. Now, MLB may want to consider six innings a complete game. It is a good part of the reason why Jake doesnt get a lot of decisions. What would our record look like if Jake pitched nine in his starts.

      I hated when the Mets played the Cardinals in the mid 80’s. They played real baseball. Ozzie Smith, Vince Coleman, Willie McGee and more. They ran and stole bases with abandon. This type of baseball added a great element to the game.

      Now it, is starter goes six (maybe). No stolen bass, no sacrifices, no bunts, nothing. Just shifts and home runs.

      So, for those reasons, after 47 years, I am ready for the change to have the DH as permanent in the NL.

      • Rob

        Those 80s cardinal teams were incredible defensively. I have been for the dh most likely the first time i saw frank viola take a swing. Lol. But i get the argument against. Just believer that it needs to be one or the other for both leagues.

  • Bob P

    I agree with Brian 100%. If there’s going to be a DH why not just have an offensive team and a defensive team like football. Many people that were against the DH originally have come around to it and that’s fine. For a lot of Mets fans though, the reason is because of the current roster make up which has more strong offensive players than we can get into the lineup, but that’s not the reason to adopt a fundamental change to the way the NL game is played.

    I definitely don’t want to see a permanent DH in the NL but for the record I hate the man on second in extra innings even more than the DH.

  • Hobie

    (Great-) Uncle George took me to my first game in Sept. 1947 (specifically to see Jackie Robinson) and taught me baseball. Born in 1877 he had seen all of modern ball and lived just long enough to witness the Astrodome. “Baseball should be played outdoors, during the day, and not west of St. Louis.” were possibly his last words in 1965, He railed against the DH of course, fracturing his “symmetry of 3’s:” 3 strikes, 3 outs, 3 times thru the order minimum, 3 up the middle (C, P, CF) flanked by defensive triangles L & R and 3 baseball skills required to play this game: throw the ball, catch the ball, hit the ball — or else sit & watch.

    Then again I would prefer a rule that requires a field goal kicker to have participated in the previous offensive play to be eligible for the try (e.g. Lou Groza or Doak Walker), but that’s not going to happen either.

  • NYM6986

    As an NL purist I have always been against the use of a designated hitter. This year, given the make up of the Mets roster and the shortened season, I welcomed the addition. I also can accept it going forward. Oddly, The World Series winners since the DH started, are almost evenly split between the national and american league teams. It always strikes me funny that when they don’t use the designated hitter in the national league parks, that everyone expects a pitcher who has not all year had to swing a bat to step in against a 95 mph fastball That to me makes absolutely no sense and greatly increases the chance of injury. I have always thought that a manager in the American League, since the DH started, has to employ much less strategy than their counterpart in the National League. Somehow, there should be one set of rules for all of baseball. But don’t hold your breath. More importantly, hopefully our new owner will make all these little differences disappear with additional talent filling out the roster.

  • TJ

    Brian,
    I agree with your position as most others that have responded. Perhaps it is an age thing. I don’t think of myself as old and inflexible…I do not lament about the loss of the complete game, the many pitching changes, the high salaries, bat flipping, etc. The DH bothers me because as you said one of my favorite things about baseball is that everyone plays offense and everyone plays defense.

    While not flipping over to the pro-DH side, I will live with it, as it just isn’t enough to alienate me from a lifelong love/addiction. It is inevitable, be in 2021 or afterwards, based on fan opinion and labor. I do think they also need to find ways to shorten the time of a game (not the innings, the time length) and they do need to expand rosters. 25 man rosters worked with the way the game was played long ago in my childhood, not now. Not to reduce strategy, but to enhance the game and protect pitchers’ arms.

    For the Mets, the DH in 2021 fits well right now due to the trifecta of Alonso-Smith-Cano. Cano is winding down, and can determine which city he plays in. I love a lineup featuring Alonso’s, Smith’s and Nimmo’s bats in it at the same time.

  • JimO

    The deal for Cano left us in an unenviable position. That situation is somewhat mitigated by the DH. I am most definitely pro-DH because it helps the team.

  • MattyMets

    A lot will depend on what new players we bring in, but let’s say, optimistically, we upgrade at catcher and CF. We can split DH between Cano and Alonso. Cano plays half games at second, splitting with McNeil (who also plays third), while Alonso plays half games at first, splitting with Smith (who also plays some left). Yes, Nimmo would be the primary left fielder, but a fourth OF gets a lot of playing time as all three OF starters will need days off, not to mention inevitable injuries. The biggest issue with this scenario is, who plays the other half of the games at third? Unless we bring back Frasier, it seems like JD Davis by default. Maybe Rosario is another option? Of course, one of those two could easily be trade bait.

    DH Cano/Alonso
    1B Alonso/Smith
    2B McNeil/Cano
    SS Gimenez/Rosario
    3B McNeil/Davis or Rosario?
    C FA/Nido
    LF Nimmo/Smith
    CF FA/Nimmo
    RF Conforto/Nimmo

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