About a year ago, there was a blitz of stories and talk about the National League finally giving in and adopting the Designated Hitter rule. Commissioner Manfred hinted that the change was in the wind when he told the New York Post , “Twenty years ago, when you talked to National League owners about the DH, you’d think you were talking some heretical comment.” A year later, a new four year agreement between the players and MLB owners has just been adopted and the DH rule is still only in place for the American League. How long will it be before it is clear to all the diehards that the DH is on the inbound train and it is heading directly at you……
The National League can trace its roots all the way back to the days following the end of the Civil War in America. Like baseball itself, it is a League that is grounded in tradition and customs that form its unique identity. And it holds onto these traditions with pride and skepticism whenever they are challenged. Such is the nature of the National League’s resistance to adopt the DH style of play.
The DH In The NL Will Evolve With The Times
Article continues below ...
Significant cultural change rarely occurs suddenly. More often, it comes about in a series of small changes that eventually adds up to sweeping change. It took, for instance, a full century of upheaval and discontent after the Civil War for the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts to be passed into law in 1964. And even today, there are still some who disagree with those changes.
The trouble with the DH though is that it’s a either or proposition. It’s either in or it’s out. Some have tried to find a middle ground that the National League could swallow while still holding on to their style of play. One plan, for example, called for the DH to be in effect only when the starting pitcher was in the game, allowing the managers to strategize away when he leaves. But that would have been like telling Rosa Parks that she didn’t have to sit in the back of the bus anymore. She could move to the middle of the bus, but the front was still off limits.
And unfortunately, the truth about why fans come to the ballpark to see a game doesn’t comply with the National League style of play. Ask any fan if they come to a game to watch a pitcher wave at three pitches and take a seat in the dugout, or to lay down a sacrifice bunt (for the few that can still execute a good bunt), or watch with any knowledge of what a manager is doing when he calls for a “double switch” that is bound to mess up 90% of the scorecards being kept in the stands. They don’t do bat flips when they lay down a bunt.
Ask any fan if they enjoyed watching Giants manager Bruce Bochy walk to the mound five times to replace a pitcher in the deciding game of the NLCS this year, while not one of those pitchers threw more than 6 pitches. This is the National League at its “best” and baseball at its “purest”.
And ask any fan if they’d like to watch a well pitched 2-0 game with both runs scoring on a sacrifice fly and a fielder’s choice, or instead a 8-5 game with four towering home runs that cause the fountains to erupt in Kansas City, and the train in Houston to chug into motion, and the Big Apple in New York to rise up to the thunderous cheers of the fans as the hitter gazes at his own feat in wonderment.
Ask any manager if he would want to risk an injury having his pitcher bat in a game. Or better yet, ask Max Scherzer and Adam Wainwright, both of whom suffered setbacks after getting injured at the plate in early 2015, about how they feel.
Someday, We Will Wonder Only What The Fuss Was All About
Ask too about the jobs the DH creates. And you might ask future Hall Of Fame member Carlos Beltran , who just signed a one year at the age of 39 with the Astros. And, at the same time, ask him if he “left his heart in New York” and would have wanted to finish out his career with the Mets with the chance to make up for that called 3rd strike he took to end the Mets chances in the 2008 NLCS. But he couldn’t accept an offer to play there because the Mets play in the National League and……..
Soon, the generation of baseball purists (and I’m one of them) will die out just as the bigots in the South did paving the way for the civil rights movement, and the DH will be adopted in both leagues. And just as with civil rights, when that happens we’ll only be left wondering what the fuss was all about…….