Should the MLB Go to a League-Wide DH? Let the Debate Begin

Andrew MeaseContributor IApril 9, 2009

Occasionally myself and Nick DeWitt, a good friend of mine and bleacher report writer, debate sports topics on AIM.  We've decided to bring a few to bleacher report.  Neither of us know what the other is writing before it's being published and to make it a fair fight we are posting links to the others writing in the article.  Here is his take:


With most baseball leagues around the world using designated hitters, is it time for the National League to follow suit?  Absolutely.  Many baseball purists will surely oppose me, but I will take time to explain my point of view to attempt to persuade my readers.

Reason 1. World-Wide Use of the DH

Most of the world is using a designated hitter, including half of major league baseball.  It seems silly to have rules apply to half the league, but not the other half.

Reason 2.  The American League Domination of Recent Times

Take a look at head-to-head American League vs. National League stats from 1973, the year in which the American League adopted the Designated Hitter.  In more recent times the American League averages close to 100 more hits per team. 

1989 was the first year the DH was allowed to be used in All-Star games and from then until the present the American League has gone 16-3-1.  Two of the National League’s wins came in the state of Pennsylvania 1994 and 1996 in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. 

The 1995 mid-summer classic in Texas was the only other win over that time period.  The 2002 controversial tie also happened in a National League park.  In looking at the World Series, since 1973 the AL has won 20 of 35 Series.  The last time the National League won the All-Star Game was in 1996 at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.  That stadium has since been replaced by state of the art Citizens Bank Park.

Reason 3. Interleague records

In the 2,956 games between the two leagues, the AL has won 1,536 of them, or 126 more games than the National League.  Only in four of the 12 years has the National League had a better record.  More interleague games have been added over the years, but the American League continues to dominate.  Half the games are also played in National League parks, yet the American League still is dominant.

Reason 4. Ability to give players partial-days off

This is the biggest reason to me.  In the American League players are often given days off. The way they do that though is by slotting them in the Designated Hitters spot.  Rarely are there full-time DH’s and very few players compile over 400 at-bats a year as a DH. 

Every other sport in America includes specialists.  Why can’t baseball?  At times I am in pain watching some pitchers attempt to hit, but there are some that can hit.  For instance Cincinnati’s Micah Owings.  However, Cincinnati has stated they were planning to use him as a pinch hitter those days he’s not pitching.  Why not slot him in at DH? 

There also are rules that allow you to forfeit the Designated Hitters slot.  You could forfeit it for the games in which a pitcher with a solid bat is on the mound, then use pinch hitters later in the game as you normally would.

If the National League puts the Designated Hitters Rule in place the league will become more competitive with the American League.  An extra bonus to the DH is that it extends many players careers.  Players that have done that include Edgar Martinez, George Brett, Carl Yastrzemski, and Paul Molitor.  It also keeps pitchers from suffering injuries while hitting or running the bases.

I will close with some quotes from people who are for the Designated hitters Rule:

"Everyone in the world disagrees with me, including some managers, but I think managing in the American League is much more difficult for that very reason (having the designated hitter).

In the National League, my situation is dictated for me. If I'm behind in the game, I've got to pinch hit. I've got to take my pitcher out. In the American League, you have to zero in. You have to know exactly when to take them out of there. In the National League, that's done for you." - Jim Leyland

"I've got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He's going to be out. I don't like that, and it's about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s." - Hank Steinbrenner

"The best case for the DH is this: It represents that rarest of things, the triumph of evidence over ideology. The anti-DH ideology is that there should be no specialization in baseball, no division of labor: Everyone should play "the whole game." That theory is obliterated by this fact: Specialization is a fact with or without the DH. Most pitchers only go through the motions at-bat." - George F. Will in his book, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball

"Our job is to pitch, to get hitters out, no to hit. I love to hit and swing the bat; I think all players do. But it tires you out to run the bases. In the late innings, if I'm pitching a good game, I don't want to hit and have to run." - Pitcher Jackie Brown, who pitched four years in the American League before going to Montreal, claiming that the DH rule made him a better pitcher

Should the Designated Hitter Rule be applied to the National League?  You decide.


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