All throughout baseball, the rules are the same, except for one thing – the designated hitter (DH). Adopted in 1973 by the American League, the DH allows teams to use an extra batter instead of having the pitcher bat.
Prior to the DH rule being implemented, pitchers would bat. But now, in almost every organized baseball league from high school and college through the minor leagues and international leagues, the DH is in use. The only hold outs are the National League and Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball Central League.
For years there has been talk about adding the DH to the National League or removing it from the American League, but things have always remained status quo. But, it is my opinion that with the start of daily interleague play next year, a decision needs to be made once and for all regarding the DH.
As interleague play is forced upon the fans and the players on an everyday basis, the DH question is going resonate like a bad aftertaste.
How silly is it that the Cardinals will play a three game series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers and have their pitchers hit while following that up with two games in Kansas City where the Redbirds will use a DH? Making it even more absurd is that the Cardinals will leave Kansas City and go back to St. Louis where they will once again have their pitchers bat.
But it's not like that just for the Cardinals, the A's have a similar stretch. Oakland will play a three game series in Houston (now in the American League) and use a DH. The A's will then travel to San Francisco for two games and their pitchers will be required to hit. After those two games, the A's will head back to Oakland where they will once again use the DH.
It is ridiculous!
In today's free agency market, players come and go like the wind. There is no loyalty anymore. The days of players staying with one team (Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gywnn, Robin Yount, George Brett, Derek Jeter, and Chipper Jones) are gone. We witnessed that first hand with the defection of Albert Pujols last offseason.
I know I said I am against change, but at the same time, I am for the safety of players. When a starting pitcher like AJ Burnett spends six years in the American League, he very rarely bats. Then he switches leagues because he is traded to the Pirates and suddenly he has to bat. Having not batted regularly in the American League, Burnett needed to get acclimated to it again during spring training. That is when he was injured. Burnett attempted to bunt the ball and it hit him in the face during batting practice. Burnett suffered an orbital fracture and did not start the season with the Pirates.
Page 2 of 2 - If Burnett had more time at the plate, that accident might not have happened and the Pirates might have had their starting pitcher with them to open the season.
But Burnett isn't the only pitcher to be injured trying to swing a bat.
In 2010, the Boston Red Sox lost starting pitcher Josh Beckett when he was taking practice swings before a game against the Blue Jays. As the Jays are an American League team, Beckett wasn't even going to bat against Toronto.
Two years earlier in 2008, Bartolo Colon did the same thing Beckett did. He hurt himself swinging a bat. At least Colon can say his injury came during a game and against a good pitcher in Philadelphia's Cole Hamels.
It isn't only swinging the bat that hurts pitchers though. Apparently pitchers aren't very good at running the bases either.
Before Colon hurt himself swinging a bat, Yankees pitcher Chien-Ming Wang injured his foot while running the bases. Since Wang's injury, he has never been the same pitcher that he was prior to being hurt.
Then there is Scott Downs, the Blue Jays closer who injured his foot while trying to run out a ground out.
Yes pitchers are athletes, but they play in a league where they don't have to bat. If you don't do something long enough, the skills start to erode.
As much as everyone wants to do away with the DH and just have pitchers hit again, it will never happen. The Major League Baseball Players Association is too strong. There is no way the union would allow baseball to eliminate 15 jobs. I am sure they would however, be willing to make some kind of concession to add an additional 15 jobs.
Think of it this way, while there are some pitchers who can truly hit well like Carlos Zambrano (24 career HRs, 71 RBIs, .238 average), the majority of pitchers just don't handle the bat very well. Besides, wouldn't you rather see a slugger like Jim Thome (612 career HRs and 1,699 RBI), Adam Dunn (406 Hrs and 1,018 RBI), or David Ortiz (401 HRs and 1,326 RBI) swinging the lumber instead of a pitcher?