The idea of the designated hitter was first suggested as far back as 1906 by Connie Mack. The real impetus came about from the pitching dominance in the late 1960s. In fact, Carl Yastrzemski led the American League in batting with a .301 batting average in 1968 and Denny McLain won 31 games in 1968.
In 1973, through the urging of Charlie O. Finley, the American League voted to adopt the DH rule on a three year trial basis. Three years later the DH rule became permanent.Since the National League does not use the DH, a controversy immediately arises. The rest of my post will now look at the advantages and disadvantages of the DH to Major League Baseball.
What are the DH advantages? Some baseball people have said the DH introduces a welfare state for the American League. Older star players can continue to play even though their fielding and running skills have diminished. Players like George Brett, Wade Boggs, and Eddie Murray have been able to extend their careers. Even National League players who no longer can play the field can sign with an American League team. The DH saves pitchers from being hurt by either batting or running the bases. It stops pitchers from pitching around hitters to reach the pitcher’s spot in the batting order. For those fans liking more home runs and runs scored, the DH is for them. Finally, the DH allows the American League to be consistent with most other amateur and professional baseball leagues.
What are the DH disadvantages? The clearest involves both interleague play and the World Series. The selection of a team’s 25 man roster is definitely influenced by which league the team is in. Since an American League team can carry fewer pitchers and also a player signed specifically to be a DH, this gives the American League team a big advantage in games played in their home park where the DH is used. The National League team will have a slight advantage in games played in their home park where the DH is not used. However, I believe the ultimate advantage is with the American League team. An older player, who can no longer play in the field, can continue playing as a DH compiling the necessary statistics to be voted into the Hall of Fame. Already baseball people are arguing that 3000 hits and 500 home runs do not automatically translate into admittance into the Hall of Fame. Because of the DH a good pitcher is more reluctant to sign with an American League team. The DH affects baseball strategy. The sacrifice bunt, intentional walk, and the double switch are more common in the National League. Of course, baseball traditionalists are against any change to the original rules.
This leads to the final two questions. Should both leagues be the same with respect to the DH? If the answer to the first question is yes, should the DH be continued? Please express your opinion by casting your vote in the poll on my homepage of SandlotStats.com and also by commenting below.
As a conservative, I like the variation between leagues. That said, it looks like a (possibly small) advantage to the AL in player development. Easier to get young players more AB, with the ability to move guys around the diamond. Also more flexibility in roster construction, for the same reasons. Yes it’s easier for old guys to hang on, but also thus easier for young guys to get a chance to play the field. No such optionality in the NL…
September 5, 2012 03:54:29
|Grant McGrath said…
This is an interesting topic to discuss because for many of us we have only known baseball as having a DH in the American League. I believe it adds an extra element and makes the game overall more exciting (from more home runs and hits). Yes it may prolong some careers but usually it prolongs the ones of those who are worthy (Ortiz, Boggs, Frank Thomas, Thome and eventually players like A-Rod). That is an overlooked aspect of the DH but there are also player decisions that make this rule interesting. As noted in the blog post, some pitchers shy away from the American League simply in fear of getting rocked day in and day out by better hitting teams. However, some pitchers want to stay in the National League for other reasons. Take CC Sabathia, he almost didn’t sign with the Yankees in 2009 because he wanted to continue hitting himself. I think it would create an awesome twist if pitchers in the American League were allowed to hit upon their own request. Something like this would show off the players ability and could help managers with deciding their 25 man roster. Just a thought.
September 4, 2012 09:06:21
|Martin E. Cobern said…
One of the things that make baseball special is that the players must be such versatile athletes. While a football player can play with broken bones or other defects, a baseball player must have the agility, power, reflexes and stamina to compete. The DH dilutes this requirement. Because of it, and other changes, baseball has become a game of niche specialists: DH, closer, set-up man, etc. I find that this reduces my interest. One suggestion. If the leagues do not standardize by eliminating the DH, inter-league play should follow the rules of the visiting team. This would give the home town fans the chance to see the other side of the coin. Of course, this would not be the case in the World Series, where it would weaken the home field advantage.
September 3, 2012 09:37:43
|Matt Bell said…
Let me start off by saying “Big Papi” David Ortiz is my favorite current Baseball Player. Obviously since my favorite player is a DH I like the fact that there is such a thing as a DH. Like you said in the blog post “For those fans liking more home runs and runs scored, the DH is for them”. I am one of those fans that likes home runs and runs scored. I think that the current DH system of only being in the American League makes the All Star Game that much more important. In the playoffs Home field Advantage is critical. For the past three years the League that won the All Star Game also won the world Series. This Year the National League won the all star game allowing them to have home field advantage in the world series. I am going to go out on a limb and predict that a national league team wins the World Series this year. I also believe that the Cincinnati Reds who lead the national league central by 9.5 games may be the team to do it.
September 3, 2012 08:53:45