Ditch DH, before AL kills itself Two sets of rules is one too many

October 24, 1993|By George Vecsey | George Vecsey,New York Times News Service

TORONTO -- Baseball crossed the border for the sixth game of the World Series last night. Everybody presented a passport or driver's license, some proof of citizenship.

"What is the purpose of your visit?" the customs agent asked. "Business? What kind of business? Baseball? Are you carrying any illegal substances with you? Any pinch hitters? Any pinch runners? Any double switches?

"You must declare them, and they will be confiscated. These items are banned from any American League ballpark in the World Series."

The Series did more than move indoors to the SkyDome for the sixth game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies.

It jumped from one set of rules to another, from old baseball to new baseball, just by a simple crossing of the border.

A sure sign of baseball's confusion is the way the owners use the designated hitter in the American League parks and they let the pitcher bat in the National League parks.

We've been harping on this for years, but now it's getting serious. These buffoons better make up their minds before some American League pitcher gets killed trying to perform some alien task such as bunting or sliding.

Toronto's Todd Stottlemyre looked like a human plow Wednesday night when he put a furrow in front of third base. He hadn't played in a sandbox since he was a toddler, and fortunately, he just cut his chin.

Watching Stottlemyre make a three-point landing -- his chin and his knees -- made me appreciate the athleticism of Doc Gooden and Roger McDowell and Ron Darling and many other recent Mets pitchers who relished swinging a bat or running for somebody.

Remember Peter O'Toole in "My Favorite Year," in a panic because he had to perform on live television? "I'm not an actor," he bleated. "I'm a movie star." In the same spirit, American Leaguers are pitchers, not ballplayers.

The irony is that the Mets' pitchers used to be tutored by Mel Stottlemyre, the father of the aforementioned Todd.

Mel was an athletic pitcher when the American League put a premium on that. I once saw Mel hit an inside-the-park home run in Yankee Stadium's Death Valley, a thrill Todd will never experience, no fault of his.

The artistic and mental gap between the two leagues was grossly apparent Thursday as Curt Schilling shut down the Blue Jays, 2-0.

After the wretched failures by both staffs in Wednesday's epic 15-14 Toronto win, it was delightful to see a pitcher whose heart and head and arm were all operative.

But still, Toronto was flopping around like a bluefish on the dock. I am not comparing managers here, I am comparing rules. After nine years at Cincinnati and 15 in Detroit, Sparky Anderson will still tell you he does not like the DH, but managers learn to play by the rules.

All season long, Cito Gaston used nine players and told his reserves to await further instructions.

"Our clubs are constructed differently," noted Jim Fregosi of the Phillies, who has managed in both leagues. "We have to use our entire 25-man roster while I don't think Cito pinch-hit more than 25 or 30 times. We have double switches in our league and they don't."

Fregosi peeked. The Jays had 27 official pinch-hit appearances this year -- for a .184 average. The Phillies had 198 official pinch hitters -- for a .253 average.

Gaston had said his team would be at a disadvantage because the Phillies pitchers "are used to swinging the bat and bunting." On Thursday, his prediction came true. Schilling laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt and drilled a single.

Meanwhile, the Jays could not hurt Schilling with the ninth spot in their order. Juan Guzman tried to bunt two runners over, but John Kruk rushed in like a latter-day Keith Hernandez and turned the bunt into a rare 3-6-4 double play.

Kruk rushed Guzman because he knew the pitcher did not have the bat skills to butcher-boy the ball into Kruk's whiskers.

Two Toronto subs received a rare cameo call in the eighth. Willie Canate was a pinch runner as Rob Butler pinch-hit a single. But when Rickey Henderson hit back to the mound, the youthful Canate got caught in a rundown and the youthful Butler did not find a way to -- to third and the Jays never scored.

Good pitching beats good hitting under any rules. But it's time for baseball to do away with its artificial borders. Ban the DH. Play ball. Everybody.

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