Posts Tagged ‘DH’

Designated Hitter Redux

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

By Michael Kaufman

I’m glad I struck a nerve with fellow Zester Bob Gaydos last week. His response to my tweaking him for his advocacy of the designated hitter (DH) rule in major league baseball inspired some of the best writing yet to appear in this corner of cyberspace. Too bad it was written on behalf of a foul cause.

Bob did not appreciate that I quoted Ron Blomberg, former player for Bob’s beloved New York Yankees and the first designated hitter to come to bat on Opening Day after the abominable rule was put into effect in the American League in 1973. “I screwed up the game of baseball,” Blomberg admitted in 2003. “I never thought it would last this long.”

I had hoped that quoting Blomberg, who was a fan favorite during the seven years he wore the Yankees pinstripes, might help Bob come to his senses. Instead, he responded with a scurrilous attack reminiscent of the Bush Administration response to people like Scott Ritter, the ex-Marine who was a weapons inspector for the UN and returned from Iraq with the news that there were no “weapons of mass destruction” to be found there. Well, sort of like that.

“First of all,” wrote Bob, “Ron Blomberg is one of those Old Timers Day ‘Oh yeah, he was a Yankee, too’ guys. He had a couple of decent years and faded fast. He was never big enough to screw up the Yankees, let alone the whole game of baseball.” Not content with simply dispensing with Blomberg, the wily Gaydos added, “But Blomberg and Kaufman miss the point.”

Blomberg and Kaufman! Do you see? By linking my name with Blomberg’s immediately after using words like “faded fast” and “never big enough” to describe Blomberg, Gaydos hoped to belittle me as well. Well not so fast, Mr. Bigshot Yankee fan and wonderful writer! First of all, let the record show that Blomberg’s career batting average with the Yankees was a robust .302 (with an on-base percentage of .378 and slugging percentage of .476). He joined the team, albeit just for a cup of coffee (appearing in four games) in 1969 when the Yankees were in a rare period of decline. (Mets fans remember that year quite well but I can understand why Yankee fans would rather erase the memory just as they don’t like to remember the 1955 World Series.)  Blomberg returned to the still-struggling Yankees in 1971 and played for the team for six years, including the “return to glory” period under the ownership of the late Geroge Stalin….I mean Steinbrenner.

Blomberg certainly contributed to that ascent with his bat. His glove is another story (the guy had hands like cement) but the point is that when it comes to the DH rule, neither he nor I are the ones who miss the point. Gaydos tells us that “next year teams are going to play teams in the other league every day. That’s not fair to American League teams whose pitchers will have to bat.” Awwwww, poor babies. How fair was it when the DH rule cost the San Francisco Giants the 2002 World Series? The Giants were a team “constructed around its bullpen, not its spare bench parts,” noted ESPN commentator Jayson Stark. Giants’ manager Dusty Baker “essentially had no DH. In fact, his Game 7 DH — Pedro Feliz — was a guy who had made it through the first six games without an at-bat. No other sport would tolerate a situation this farcical.”

For Gaydos the answer is simple: “National League teams will gladly find a guy on the bench to add some punch to their anemic lineups.” Stark doesn’t think so. “The only reason to have a DH rule is that fans allegedly like more offense,” he wrote in 2003. “Obviously, DHs are better hitters than pitchers. But how much more offense does this rule really generate? The average AL team scored one more run every three games than the average NL team last year — and got one more hit every four games. So we’re talking about two extra runs a week. That’ll pack ’em in, all right.

“The game is simply way more interesting without the DH than with it. Period. Ask any manager which is more strategically challenging — managing a game under NL rules or AL rules. It’s no contest. It’s baseball’s cerebral side that separates it from all the other games ever invented. And the game is way more cerebral with no DH than with it.”

I don’t understand why Bob Gaydos, whose middle name should be “Cerebral, doesn’t get it. Or why he doesn’t realize that rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for Bain Capital. But I’m glad we agree that dog owners shouldn’t let their dogs pee on other people’s mailbox posts.