Major League Baseball is pretty unique in that one of its two leagues plays with a designated hitter (DH) and the other does not. There are people on either side of the debate over whether the National League should use a DH to mirror their American League counterpart.
This will be the first installment of Pirate Maven's weekend debate where tackle controversial issues in the baseball world. The debate will pin two of us against each other as we attempt to, with all of your help, make the case for our side of the argument. The debate will progress throughout the weekend. So, make sure to tune back in as the guys respond to each other, and all of you.
Make sure you comment your opinion below. The guys will be checking the comments and using those that are helpful to their stance in their follow-ups.
The tale of the tape has Gary Morgan in the corner of a rule change in favor of the NL adpoting the DH, and Craig Toth, a self-proclaimed baseball purist, arguing for keeping everything the way it currently is. I will be playing the part of the unbiased mediator. I will make sure that guys keep it civil, limiting the use of all caps, and making sure they don't type over top of each other.
So, without further ado, let's get into the opening statements.
Should the NL adopt the DH?
Gary's opening statement: Absolutely! Look no further than the Cardinals needing to move and the Rays wanting to acquire a player like Jose Martinez. He is a ready-made DH and the Bucs themselves have a perfect candidate in Josh Bell. It’s just plain silly to have a league with two different conferences that don’t follow the same rules. The time has come.
The only arguments I’ve seen against the DH in the NL are dripping with baseball purists’ standpoints. Never do I hear arguments that the game itself would suffer. I love Steven Brault at the plate, but I’m not willing to block progress so I can watch one guy hit. The way things are, you can’t even compare stats between the AL and NL for pitchers as half never face the free out that most pitchers are at the plate.
Interleague play suffers as the AL teams can’t play one of their best hitters or are forced to have them play the field where they rarely have a good showing. The NL teams are rarely blessed with the overflow talent to put a sure-fire DH in the lineup and typically use it as a way to sit a guy who probably profiles as a DH in the first place.
Bottom line, its silly to have two rules for one league. Change my mind.
Craig's opening statement: NOPE! The Designated Hitter was revived from earlier deaths in 1906 (Connie Mack) and 1928 (National League President, John Heydler) by eccentric A’s owner Charlie Finely, in the early 70’s, with the sole purpose of bringing in more fans by making the game more entertaining. At that time the American League was far behind the National League in both scoring and attendance. It was originally a three year “experiment”, beginning in 1976, that was eventually adopted and became part of the rules in 1976. It wasn’t until 1986 that it was regularly instituted in World Series games.
So how is this 3 year experiment doing 46 years later? Well this past year National League attendance was at approximately 31.7 Million, while American League was at 28.8. Now I know there are interleague games now, but I believe the totals would most likely offset due to the number of games played in each ball park being split and this is even with the lowly total of 811,302 by the Miami Marlins. As far as runs scored the AL has surpassed the NL 41 of the past 46 years and since they have a DH it should be by an astronomical number right? Not exactly the largest margins in runs per game was in 1996 (.71 runs per game) and the smallest was just 3 years ago in 2016 (.08). If you were wondering what it was last year; it crept back up to .11 runs per game.
Why hasn’t the AL been scoring a ton more runs and attracting a ton more fans? Well competitiveness could be one explanation as 8 of the top 12 were National Teams that either made it to the playoffs or were in the hunt until late in the season. It could also be the fact that designated hitters don’t always hit as well as we think or assume that they do. The number 8 ranked DH last year had a wRC+ of 100 and the 9th ranked Designated Hitter had a wRC+ of 74, while the aforementioned Steven Brault had a wRC+ of 105. That means that the aforementioned Steven Brault hit better than 8 of the American Leagues’ designated hitters, which can either be seen as awesome or really, really sad. So tell me again how the DH has benefited the AL?
That was a great debate! If you're just joining us, read through the comments. There were plenty of great points made on both sides. Here's what the guys had to say.
Gary: Well, I learned one thing above all today, passion on both sides of the DH argument is alive and well.
I’m sure I speak for Jared Martin and Craig Toth when I say Thank You all for your thoughtful responses.
As you all read, I’m for the DH being added to the NL and several comments did give me pause. Like this one from our friend BlackMax:
I can’t say he’s wrong, although I’m fairly certain the players union would have some issues with only having 6 batters. Still it shows how deep this subject hits many of us and the depth of the conversation. Its so much more than yes or no.
On the other side we saw great takes like this one from Nachoaveragebucsfan:
Strategy is an argument against the DH I can truly identify with. It’s why I was against it for so very long in the first place. But as was pointed out by this comment it wouldn’t do away with strategy, just change it.
Some like Colelrad made it personal to the Bucs which I love:
And yes that is a viable angle. Think of how many players we have had to move on from because they were a tailor made DH!
At the end of the day, I still want to see the DH, but I’ve been shaken a bit by the outpouring of support for never ever bringing it to NL play. But that’s not my fight. Craig, on to you!
Craig: Not sure if my mind has been changed yet or that I have seen the light, but I can say the wheels are turning a little bit as to whether I would be OK with the DH should be introduced into the National League. @JBdouble_nickel on Twitter gave me the most push back and came close to changing my mind.
You almost had me there, but luckily I snapped out of it long enough to have a nice back and forth, with me coming out on top by a wide margin (total sarcasm). I still stand by my point that the pinch hitter role can be used to keep aging players around (especially when they are on giant contracts teams don’t have options to get out of), that it doesn’t slow down the pace of play and it’s not like every team employs an All-Star caliber DH in their lineup, so how much extra “oomph” does it really provide?
As far as helpers I had a lot! One was RichardG on SI PirateMaven.
Well said sir! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Some may say nostalgia; say it’s at the heart of the game we all love.
Mrkillie was another that laid it on thick!
This is maybe the most forgotten person affected by the DH; the role player, the defensive substitution or the pinch runner. Yeah that guy can still be used to run for your DH that can’t run.
Clay Coey from Facebook was probably the most passionate, even more than me.
“REMOVE THE DH from the American League and make those overpaid players EARN it again.”Wear and use a glove...swing a bat"...or you DON'T make the team.”
I would not go as far as removing from the AL, but I also wouldn’t force it on the NL. Just because one guy can’t make at his current minor league position, it doesn't mean he is better suited as a DH. Maybe he is just in the wrong position and can be utilized somewhere else on the field.
A lot of you insinuated that the DH is a power hitting/excitement factor. So is the pinch hit home run, a suicide squeeze or a bunt single to get the defense back on their heels. Call be old school. Call me a purist. Call me whatever you will. Just don’t force the DH on me (and my army of supporters). We love the game just the way it is.
I can honestly say I had no strong opinion one way or another going into this, no real leanings either. It wasn't that I never thought critically about it, I obviously have. It was just that I could see the pros and cons for each side and they just seemed to balance out for me. With that said, I was convinced, although slightly, by one side, and I will lay out that journey here.
It's important to note the bias that became very clear throughout the day yesterday. This is a site that is dedicated to coverage of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a National League team. So, there is an inherent bias among our readers towards the way that baseball is played in the league they watch most regularly.
I'd like to commend Gary Morgan and the pro-DH crowd for holding down their point of view while getting lambasted with new arguments regularly. They did as well as they could, but the anti-DH crowd was overwhelming. Maybe it was the volume, but it was their arguments that were most compelling to me. There were two key points that I feel won the day, but before I get into those, I'd like to highlight what I thought were the best arguments from Gary and his pro-DH peers.
The idea that baseball is the only league with separate rules between their leagues/conferences is an issue. I agree with some in that it's an interesting twist that baseball has that no other sport does, but to me it's a net negative. It reminds me of the Demetri Martin joke where he talks about how he got around his college campus on a unicycle. In his mind he was thinking (and I'm paraphrasing), "Hey! I'm the only guy riding a unicycle." When really he should have been thinking, "Hey...I'm the only guy riding a unicycle..." Some in the baseball world may think it's cool to have different rules between their two leagues, but there's a reason they are the only ones. That doesn't mean the NL should adopt the AL's rules, but I do think they should be the same.
Gary's team also highlighted the benefit that the DH position has provided to baseball's aging stars in the AL. I always thought it was a positive for baseball that players could play longer than many other sports, and the DH could be the answer to prolonging the careers of our most beloved players.
Now on to the two points I thought were the most compelling. I'll bullet them here, but will explain my thoughts below.
- If the DH is the answer to more runs and better play, where does that end?
- Baseball is a highly-strategic sport, and the DH kills much of that strategy.
For the first point, I'd like to reference a comment that Gary did as well. Blackmax asking why we wouldn't just shrink the batting lineups so that the best hitters are due up more, if playing your best hitters is the goal. It was a great point and it got me thinking about other scenarios in the game. Why not designated runners? Let's get our fastest guys on the field as much as possible. No one wants to see Colin Moran run anymore than they wanted to see AJ Burnett hit. It kind of sounds silly as I write this, but if the DH was a new concept and we were debating it as an original thought, I think the DH would be the more drastic change to the game.
For the strategy part of this, I won't say much but rather turn your attention to one of the comments. It's too long for me to screenshot and post here (I couldn't get the whole thing to fit on my screen). So, Mike Kirlin, I apologize for not giving you your due, but I would encourage all of you to read Mike's comment below. Like I said, it's lengthy but he does a great job of pointing out the strategic moments in the game that wouldn't exist with a DH.
For those two points, as well as the others, you can count me among the anti-DH contingency.
I'm going to leave it at that. Let me just say how appreciative we all were of the response. That was perhaps the best online discussion of two opposing points that I have ever seen. It was thoughtful, it was respectful, and most of all fun. So thank you all for participating. We will be doing more
Follow Gary on Twitter: @garymo2007
Follow Craig on Twitter: @BucsBasement
Follow Jared on Twitter: @a_piratelife