With 15 teams in each league, it's time to make the DH universal

April 17, 2013|Kevin Cowherd

You either love it or you hate it.

You think it's one of the best things to happen to baseball. Or you think it's the biggest travesty ever perpetrated on the game.

This is what happens when fans discuss the designated hitter: they tend to deal in absolutes.

But with the Houston Astros moving to the American League and interleague play happening almost every day — the Los Angeles Dodgers visit Camden Yards this weekend for three games against the Orioles — it's time for another look at the DH.

I say that because now there's renewed talk that the DH could be adopted by the National League as early as 2015, so both leagues would play by the same rules.

To which I say: it's about time.

Look, if you like seeing pitchers trudging to the plate and waving futilely at a few fastballs before striking out and skulking back to the dugout, knock yourself out.

I can't stand it.

The so-called "baseball purists" are always yakking about how much "strategy" is involved in the National League, with its emphasis on small ball and managers making double switches and all the rest.

Please. I'll take some big, hulking DH with forearms like Popeye smacking a three-run homer over "strategy" every time.

I could go on and on about the merits of the DH, which has been around since 1973.

It adds more offense to the game and makes it more exciting. It extends the careers of sluggers who can't play the field anymore but can still wow us with tape-measure shots.

But, most of all, it keeps pitchers from picking up a bat and wasting everybody's time.

Have you ever seen, say, Tommy Hunter hit? It's not a pretty sight.

Just ask Chris Davis.

"I like having the DH, because in interleague play, it gives us a chance to really get on our pitchers who think that hitting is completely easy," the Orioles' first baseman said with a chuckle. "Tommy Hunter faced [New York Mets lefty] Johan Santana last year. ... And [Santana] gets him 0-2 and we're screaming 'Throw him a changeup!'

"Because everyone knows Santana's got a great changeup. And he looks over [at the Orioles dugout] and kind of smiles. And he threw it and Tommy missed it by like 20 feet. He was laughing and it was fun."

Yeah, but maybe not for the fans who have to watch a pitcher flail away like a blindfolded kid hacking at a pinata.

The Orioles I spoke to the other day were divided in their feelings about the possibility of the NL adopting the DH.

"I like the fact it's in one league and not the other," Davis said. " I think it makes the World Series a little more interesting, that both managers have to deal with putting a lineup out, one with the pitcher hitting and one with the DH hitting. ... I think it kind of levels the playing ground in the World Series."

Adam Jones was even more succinct about the two leagues having different DH rules.

"Keep it what it's been since 1973," the center fielder growled.

At this point in the conversation, I felt compelled to point out that many fans — especially, uh, me — think the sight of a pitcher with a bat in his hand should come with a laugh track, like in sitcoms.

"What about the pitcher that [Monday] night hit a home run?" Jones shot back. "Eric Stults. Didn't he go deep?"

Yes, I had to admit, the San Diego lefty did belt a three-run homer in the San Diego Padres' 6-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But he's not exactly Babe Ruth. In his eight-year career, he's hit one homer and has exactly 19 hits.

"Sometimes, some pitchers need to hit, man," Jones said. "It's the difference in the leagues. ... Stick with what's been working."

Outfielder Nate McLouth, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves before joining the Orioles, was as neutral as Switzerland on the NL keeping the DH. "I don't really feel strongly either way," he said.

But J.J. Hardy, who played for the Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins before coming to Baltimore, said he likes the AL better expressly because of the DH.

"I think there are better lineups," the shortstop said. "I don't think there's that weak spot in the lineup. You got nine hitters up there instead of a pitcher going up there ..."

Exactly.

I rest my case.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com
twitter.com/kevincowherdsun

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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