Wednesday, May 12, 2004
I wanted to propose an argument (and take sides) in baseball's version of the Protestant-Catholic split: I am in favor of dropping the NL's 130+ year tradition of just playing 9-on-9 baseball and adopt the DH, as the AL did back in 1973. Here's why:
-Pitchers are awful hitters. Aside from Mike Hampton and Dennis Cook (and Kevin Brown back in the '98 NLCS), I've never seen a pitcher swing the bat well. These poor guys go up to the plate with one task in mind: don't look stupid. AL pitchers? They look comedically unprepared to bat in interleague games. Is that interesting to watch? On the blooper-reel, maybe, but as a serious part of the game it is dull. Scoring opportunities are crushed.
I know it would offend purists, but the pitchers deflates NL batting averages and runs scored vis-a-vis the AL. How much, I cannot say*, but having a Pitcher batting .105 hitting in the nine-hole (or having a pinch-hitter come off the bench cold) has to be killing the NL when the average DH in the American League hits about one hundred and seventy points higher. In contrast to AL teams who must pitch to the whole lineup, NL teams get to artificially cut-off threats by having an almost certain out when the pitcher come to bat. Doesn't that give the AL the right to suggest they are the tougher, better league?
*Help me out here: I tried looking up NL Pitchers and AL DH's league-wide BA's & OBPs and I couldn't find any data. Anyone know where I can look?
-Cutting down on pitching changes: remember Millwood's no-hitter last year?
The Phils, remember, only won that 1-0. Thankfully it was early in the year (April 27). Imagine if that game had been in the middle of a pennant race? The Phillies might have seriously had to contemplate removing Millwood from the game for a pinch-hitter to try to add to the 1-0 lead. What if that were to happen this year? Or next? It is only a matter of time before a pitcher throws a perfect game (or is in the process of doing so) during a pennant run and his team must consider the idea of pulling him. Throwing a perfect game (or a no-hitter), is such a once-in-a-lifetime event it would be a shame to see it happen. Mark my words: it will happen one day.
-Sometimes tradition must bow to reality: the Catholic Church updated its dogma with Vatican II to communicate its values better with modern Catholics. I think even an entity as Catholic as the NL can take a page from those AL Protestants and do something that will strengthen the league, even at the cost of tradition.
-Besides, the AL has had the DH for 31 years. It is de facto tradition now.