It's time for MLB to deep-six the DH

It’s been more than 40 years since the American League decided to give Major League Baseball a shot (non-steroidal, presumably) in the arm by implementing the designated hitter (not to be confused with the Wil Cordero/Ray Rice spousal abuse version, which is still quite popular today). I say it’s time to get rid of it.

If we hop into the way-back machine and check out the status of baseball in the early 1970s, life wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops in the land of fastballs and check-swings. Attendance was down, pitching was dominating the game more with each passing year and, speaking of passing, the NFL – thanks to the advent of Monday Night Football, which debuted in 1970 – was taking a larger chunk of baseball’s audience. So the deep thinkers of baseball decided something had to be done.

The problem was, nobody could agree on what that something was. Charley Finley, the colorful (translation: outspoken) owner of the Oakland A’s advocated numerous changes, including the designated hitter, designated runner, and even colored baseballs. After considerable debate – and each league steadfastly sticking to its proverbial guns – the “radical” American League decided to go ahead and implement the Designated Hitter on its own.

Although I wasn’t particularly thrilled with one league playing by different rules than the other, I understood the AL’s reasoning. They had been suffering serious attendance woes – in Cleveland it was an annual crisis – to a greater degree than the National League, and they felt their backs were against the wall. So I got it – at the time.

Unfortunately, I thought the AL sacrificed quite a bit in the strategy aspect of baseball. I missed the idea of a manager being forced to decide whether to leave a hot pitcher in and hit in a potential run-scoring situation, or to pinch-hit for him and risk bringing in a new pitcher who might not be as sharp as the guy he replaced.

Supporters of the DH argue that it’s painful watching pitchers hit. I would argue that it’s equally painful watching Nick Swisher or Carlos Santana hit. Besides, it’s not always a given that the pitcher is an “automatic” out. I remember pitcher Tony Cloninger of the Atlanta Braves hitting two grand slams and knocking in nine in the mid-'60s. If that’s too far back in the past for some of you, recall just the other night when the Indians played the NL’s Dodgers (there is no DH when playing in NL parks), and Justin Masterson (don’t even get me started) gave up a pair of doubles to Dodgers starter Josh Beckett. So, it does happen.

With the TV money baseball now gets, attendance issues are not as severe as they once were (except in Cleveland, where it is once again an annual crisis), so I’d like to see the “great experiment” come to a merciful conclusion.

Frankly, I’d rather see Josh Tomlin swing the bat than Nick Swisher or Carlos Santana.

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!

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Volume 6, Issue 14, Posted 10:07 AM, 07.08.2014