Ah, the few days before pitchers and catchers report to their respective locations and men and women, boys and girls can still relish the impending baseball season with all the hopes and dreams a fan should be allowed. It’s a time when everyone is even, destinies hang in limbo, and anything can happen…
Except that’s not quite true.
On April 6th, 1973, New York Yankee Ron Blomberg stepped to the plate as the first designated hitter in regular season Major League history. What started as an experiment during Spring Training of 1969 culminated in not so glorious fashion: Blomberg walked. But, it started what has become one of the most arduously argued points in all of American sports. So much so that people who couldn’t name a single Yankee player have an opinion on the subject.
Besides creating controversy and bar room arguments for over 30 years, it has also created a great divide that is increasing every year as the hitter generation moves into baseball. Initially created as a way for teams to heighten their batting averages and for aging players to extend their careers, the Designated Hitter role has become more of a power role. It has evolved into a role for Cecil Fielder-esque goliaths to swat balls over the wall like elephants tossing midgets, all the while completely disregarding the other 80% of the game.
This is all well and good for your average baseball fan who just came to watch homeruns. But, let’s face it, these people are retards. Plain and simple. Sorry, but it had to be said. Baseball consists of four elements at it’s most simplistic break down: batting, baserunning, fielding, and pitching. Your average DH only does one of the four, and if you want to break it down even further even the best DH only does that one thing 30% of the time.
Well, la dee da! Another opponent of the Designated Hitter! Get in line, Jerk Ass… Right? Okay, well, I’m coming at you with another point and I’m also bringing some history:
Major League Baseball introduced the DH to the regular season in 1973, as I said above. They didn’t adopt the DH into the World Series until 1976, and even then they only used the DH in even-numbered World Series years until 1986 when it became an every year event. Following up with that in 1989, they decided to fully integrate the DH into Major League Baseball by including it in the All-Star Game.
Well, let’s take a step back and look at what the Designated Hitter truly means to baseball. The DH was created as a way to bring dipping team batting averages up and allow aging players to prolong their careers. Both of these original concepts are nothing but PR marketing. Pitchers are dominating the game, how can we shake things up? As our crowd favorites retire, attendance dips, how can we keep people in the stands? Two questions, one answer.
Suddenly, like a shot in the ass, we are seeing the after effects of the MLB’s marketing “supplement”. Since the DH was integrated into the All-Star Game, the American League has won 14 out of 17 matchups. The National League has only won 11 of the World Series’ that utilized the Designated Hitter since 1979, and is only 4 of 10 in the past ten seasons.
The bottom line here is that this over-engorged marketing ploy has created a gap in statistical equivalences that is only growing wider during the “steroids/hitters” era. So, the question I pose to you, the reading public, is how much longer can this continue? It seems obvious that Major League Baseball will never remove the Designated Hitter. With David Ortiz as the current Crown Prince of baseball, the Designated Hitter’s presence has never been stronger. With the current trend of players getting more powerful and less agile by the season, the Designated Hitter’s place in the future of baseball couldn’t be less questionable.
How much longer do we, the National League fans: the self-proclaimed baseball purists, get to watch the game we remember and love? How much longer do we have until baseball is forced to institute the Designated Hitter into the National League to create parity between the leagues once again? The clock is running. We may hate it, we may make promises we have no intention of keeping after it’s done, but it seems inevitable.
Just thought you should know…