Posts Tagged ‘DH’

Time for Universal DH in the Majors

Monday, March 8th, 2021


By Bob Gaydos

Ron Bloomberg of the New York Yankees was the first designated hitter in Major League Baseball.

Ron Bloomberg of the New York Yankees was the first designated hitter in Major League Baseball.

   OK, baseball purists, welcome to 2021.  Finally free of the obligation to try to make sense of the daily tweet storm, I have lately been pondering one of those niggling, lifetime questions. And it’s not political at all.

       I’m wondering when National League team owners will come to their senses and sdopt the designated hitter rule permanently, not for just one pandemic-shortened season. I mean, really, after nearly a half century of acting superior to their fellow millionaires in the American League, who eagerly embraced the DH, aren’t the “purists” tired of watching pitchers flail awkwardly at routine fastballs and sometimes hurt themselves in the process?

       Why not give them a break from the embarrassment as well as the added risk of injury running the bases should they accidentally hit the ball? Let them focus on pitching, which is literally all they’ve done since graduating from high school.

       The National League is one of the few leagues in the world that still requires pitchers to bat. All but a handful of minor league teams switched to the designated hitter around the same time as the American League, 47 years ago. That’s how today’s pitchers grew up in baseball — pitching and rarely hitting. Hitting a baseball is not easy when you do it regularly; it’s almost impossible when practicing it is an afterthought.

      Yet, once again, it appears that the National League and the players union could not come to agreement on using the designated hitter for the 2021 season. Although the arguments around use of the DH generally focus on the so-called “purity“ of the game, when the owners and players are involved in any discussion, money is usually the central issue.

       Frankly, I have no sympathy for either side. This is a bunch of rich men — the players — versus a bunch of richer men, the owners. Everyone’s got plenty of money. The goal here should be to make the game more interesting and exciting so that more people come to the ball park, when allowed again, and more watch on TV, which will add to advertising revenue. More money. Plus, you can give some popular veteran players another year or two in the majors.

        Some say the DH takes away the element of strategy, but a double up the alley or a home run is a lot more exciting and productive than a sacrifice bunt or a strike out. I am what you might call an old school baseball guy, but school has been out for a long time. More hits and runs tend to make the game more exciting to watch over a season. By the same token, watching a pitcher easily frustrate a lineup of supposed sluggers is also impressive. I’d rather watch Jacob deGrom pitch than hit. So would most Mets fans, who remember his elbow injury suffered while swinging futilely at bat a couple years back.

       Baseball may have been the national pastime at one time, but football has assumed that position. It has changed to meet the times. So has basketball. There’s a lot of competition for the sports fans’ attention these days and most younger baseball fans have not grown up savoring the delicious question of whether the manager should remove a pitcher for a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, even though he’s pitching a great game, because his team is down by one run and there’s no one on base. Today, the pitcher is likely to have been removed in the seventh-inning because he exceeded his pitch count, even though he’s pitching a great game.

        It’s a different game. Pitchers are coddled to protect their arms. Why expose them to injury and embarrassment by making them bat when they haven’t been allowed to practice that skill for years? And why, for heavens sake, have a different set of rules when both leagues are under the auspices of Major League Baseball?

          There are a handful of pitchers who are actually fairly decent hitters in major league baseball. If they’re that good, the manager can feed their egos and use them as a pinch-hitter once in a while. Embarrass a position player by having a pitcher hit for him. That might shake him up.

        Football pretty much eliminated the two-way player and goes out of its way to protect the most valuable player, the quarterback. If pitching really wins games, as all the baseball experts insist, then let the pitchers focus on pitching. And, for the purists, having a designated hitter for the pitcher might just keep that baseball staple, the hit-and-run, alive.

         Moneyball pretty much did away with the sacrifice bunt. Not only pitchers, but most major leaguers, are lousy at it today. Asking pitchers, some of whom can throw the ball 100 miles an hour, to also try to hit a pitched ball coming at 100 miles an hour, when they’ve had virtually no opportunity in their careers to do so — in fact, were never asked to do so — is unrealistic and unfair.

         Besides, after the Babe, the phrase “good-hitting pitcher” became an oxymoron.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at



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.