There’s only one bad thing about the MLB lockout being over: The game is changing forever.
The universal designated hitter is here.
Sadly, it wasn’t a good idea back in 1973 when Ron Blomberg stepped up to the plate for the New York Yankees as the first ever DH. And it isn’t now, as the National League officially joins the American League with a hitter added to the lineup to bat for the pitcher.
It was something the players union wanted. And it wasn’t about enhancing the game, delivering fans more excitement at the park or saving pitchers from themselves at the plate.
This was a selfish move that’s all about them, not the game. The idea is to create another big-salary job. For sure, teams will pay loot for a home run-hitting DH.
Recently, we saw David Ortiz get into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a DH. He was the second “full-time” DH to get in after Edgar Martinez made it to Cooperstown in 2019.
In the past, being just a DH was frowned upon. Often, it meant you didn’t have a good glove and they didn’t want you to be a butcher in the field. It hardly made fans and HOF voting-writers regard DHs as the greatest players of all time.
For sure, the DH has been around forever in the AL. That league always felt like a beer/softball league with game scores like 12-10 on the regular.
In the Senior Circuit, the NL was true to when the game was invented.
All nine players that played the field, hit. It was so simple. It was pure.
The best part was that there was always added strategy to the NL game. There’s a lot more moving parts. The manager actually managed, not just rearranged his junk every few innings.
NL games were about bunting, hit-and-run, and deciding to pinch hit for the pitcher or not.
The AL? Everybody swings for the fences. Managers like the late, great Earl Weaver simply waited for the three-run homer. To me, it made the game boring.
That’s what we have now. Players are either hitting home runs or striking out. That’s just not baseball. And don’t believe the analytics from guys wearing pen protectors and have never picked up a bat.
We got a taste of an all-DH MLB in 2020, the pandemic-shortened 60-game season. I don’t remember thinking how more exciting this is.
Many have applauded the move to have a DH in both leagues. Those are the same people who can’t see the brilliance of a 1-0 gem pitched by a great pitcher, aided with a few key plays made behind him.
Yeah, we get it. The NFL has turned into the Arena Football League where you throw on every down. That’s why all the stats are inflated and fans think QB Matthew Stafford is a Hall of Famer despite NEVER being an All-Pro and making the Pro Bowl just once in 13 seasons. Football is more than just compiling stats.
In the NBA, everyone is 3 crazy. Everybody just jacks up three-pointers simply because three is greater than two. Again, the game has changed so much, all we see is either a dunk at the rim or a 3-pointer. The midrange game is nearly extinct.
No one wants baseball to return to the stone ages. We want the game to progress and stay relevant.
It’s just that the designated hitter is the least of the game’s worries. And the loss of the game at its most natural state is hard to swallow. Will kids who pitch in Little League not hit anymore? And will we have a generation of kids who never take the field, but instead just expect to get four at-bats a game and go home?
Let’s hope not.
According to the Baseball Research Journal, from 1973 to the completion of the 2017 season, only nine players appeared in 1,000 or more games at DH. Two of those players made the Hall of Fame: Frank Thomas and Paul Molitor. But in both cases, it wasn’t their full-time gig. Thomas DHed in only 56.42 percent of the games he played. Molitor played in the DH spot just 43.76 percent of his career.
Of course, we will have to accept the DH. It ain’t going away. Still, we don’t have to like it.