“For many generations pitchers were guardians of all aspects of the game. Before the dark times. Before the DH.”
Yes, the designated hitter is coming to the National League. It seems like it is a fait accompli, though the actual voting and such hasn’t been done. It makes some sense for this crazy year of 2020, when the Cardinals might not play the Dodgers or Mets but will see the Twins and the White Sox regularly according to reported plans. With the mixing of AL and NL teams, you would have to probably have a more universal set of rules, and given that the AL has all these expensive players that don’t play the field, there wasn’t any real chance of making the NL rules the dominant ones.
Which probably means that the dam has broken and now baseball will never be played again the way it was designed to be. Once the seal is broken, it seems very unlike baseball to go back. That was always one of the fears of some sort of Frankenstein reworking of the 2020 season, that some major changes would wind up getting a foothold and be impossible to root out. It truly feels like the DH is one of those sort of weeds.
I know, I know, there are some fans of National League teams that embrace the DH. It’s a dichotomy that I’ve never quite been able to wrap my head around. Obviously there are many reasons that you start following a team, but you’d expect that if you were a big DH person you’d have tended to find an AL team or, conversely, if you’ve been a fan of the NL you’d not care as much for the DH. People are strange, though, and there’s no accounting for taste.
For the last holdouts for the idea of equality, of each player being responsible not only for offense but for contributions to the other half of the inning, it’s a sad day. There’s something beautiful about a pitcher “helping his own cause”. About a manager trying to decide if they should squeeze one more out of a starter because they are due to bat in the next inning. The double switch (unless Mike Matheny is trying to do it). Yes, a majority of the time a pitcher doesn’t do much, but that makes the moments that they do–and, let’s be fair, if they worked on it throughout the minors they’d probably be better at it–even more special.
Bob Gibson would still be legendary, but the fact that he could contribute with the bat just took his legend to the next level. If the DH had been available in the early 1900s, we might never have known Babe Ruth could actually hit. Think about Madison Bumgarner in today’s game, how he’s a legitimate pinch-hitting option at times. Plus, if you are looking for just the humor in things, Bartolo Colon. However, his home run might be remembered by more people than any DH’s over the past five years.
So raise a glass to Adam Wainwright. Mourn for the loss of those hitting competitions between pitchers throughout the season. This lessens the number of bunts we see, true, but pitchers bunting was never the issue. Position players, that’s where the rub is. A pitcher getting a big hit is one of the small joys of baseball. The game is a little less joyful with the DH.
Obviously we that would be seen as purists are still going to watch the game. Speaking for myself, if I gave up on baseball whenever I thought it was doing something wrong, I’d have missed 2011 because I’d have stopped watching after the strike when the wild card went into play. I still don’t care for that or instant replay, but I deal with it so I can see the game I love. The DH is just another one of those irritants that lessen, but don’t eliminate, my enjoyment.
Pitchers hitting. It’s a good thing. Too bad it’s not seen that way anymore.