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On the Designated Hitter

As you may or may not know, I’m a baseball fan; specifically, a Toronto Blue Jays fan. In baseball fandom, one of the debates that won’t go away is the argument about should there or should there not be a DH in baseball.*

Here’s what I think about it. The DH doesn’t bother me a bit. I like baseball with the DH and baseball without the DH. It’s fine either way. I don’t mind watching pitchers go up to hit in the National League, and I don’t believe that American League baseball has “less strategy” than National League baseball.

If I ever attain the position of Grand Emperor of Baseball, I will have lots of things that I think need changing much more urgently than the DH rule does. I’d probably leave it the way it is.

…but.

If I, as GEoB, ever did get through my to-do list to the point where I could spend a moment on the DH rule, I would eliminate the DH. Not because it’s bad. Just because it’s asymmetrical. Infielders, outfielders, and catchers play defense and also go up to bat. Pitchers are also ballplayers and therefore should also play defense and go up to bat. It’s as simple as that.

I know there are objections to this, but they don’t bother me.

– “But pitchers can’t hit!” I know they can’t hit. So what? Same for both teams.
– “What about how the DH lets older hitters extend their careers?” The older hitters can fend for themselves.
– “What about the increased risk of pitchers getting hurt?” Injury is always a risk in baseball, and the risk in going up to bat is a lot less than the risk of being a pitcher in the first place.
– “But pitchers have importance on defense far beyond that of any position player; they shouldn’t have to hit in addition to that!” Why not? It’s not like they have to do both at the same time.
– “What about how attendance would go down with the decrease in offense?” I’d be surprised if there was any such effect, and even if there was, I could live with it.
– “The players’ union would never go for it, because it’s basically eliminating a regular position in the starting lineup from every team in the American League.” What part of “Grand Emperor” don’t you understand?

I repeat: I don’t hate the DH rule at all and I am not campaigning for its removal. This isn’t a big deal to me and I’m perfectly content with the rules the way they stand. I just think that getting rid of the rule would make baseball more orderly, a little, and if it was easy and all other things were equal, I’d do it. If not, not.

* If you don’t know what the DH is, it’s a guy who goes up to bat on behalf of the pitcher of his team, because pitchers are notorious for being bad hitters. The American League allows teams to use a DH because they figured in the 1970s that more fans would come out if there was more offense in the game. The National League does not allow the DH.

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