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Why The Designated Hitter Needs To Remain
20th December, 2009 - 8:56 pm

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Baseball needs to get rid of the designated hitter like Derek Jeter needs to get rid of Minka Kelly.

When Commissioner Bud Selig created baseball?s version of the NFL?s competition committee earlier this month, he put in motion the wheels of change in a game that has so often been reactionary instead of progressive.

It?s highly unlikely that baseball will take the designated hitter out of the game, but let?s take a cue from Mr. Selig and nip this one in the bud. No matter what Tony La Russa says, the DH has been and will continue to be very good for the game.

The ?position? has been around for 37 years, longer than saves, the wild card, instant replay and even the aforementioned Derek Jeter. With the DH, baseball has reached heights that once didn?t seem attainable, in terms of economics, popularity and global reach.

OK, maybe the game hasn?t succeeded as a direct result of the DH, but the game wouldn?t be the same without it.

Different Strokes

The DH, which has been resisted by the National League for decades, provides two different styles of play within in the same professional league. It gives fans a little something different to watch on a nightly basis. Imagine if the Lakers followed a slightly different rule book than the Celtics?

You can win games in the National League with a lineup that?s strong one through six, but you?d better have one capable of driving in runs at the bottom of the order if you?re going to contend in the American League.

It provides variety in a game that many consider boring. Why take away one of the few wrinkles it features?

Extending Careers

It?s hard to say exactly how many careers have been extended by the position, but there are quite a few current players that would likely be retired or playing overseas without the ability to hit and not field the baseball.

If you were the MVP of the 2009 World Series or go by the nickname ?Papi,? I?m talking about you.

Come on, how else would Ron Bloomberg be famous?

Designated Roles

The designated hitter has made it harder to pitch in the American League, but it?s also taken the bat out of the hands of men that often look about as comfortable as Donny Osmond at a Phish concert with one in their hands.

It?s fun to see guys like CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and Josh Beckett swing the pine a few times a season, but ultimately it?s a good thing that they focus on throwing rather than whiffing.

On the other hand, the absence of the DH in the NL extends the careers of pitchers. Remember the hell John Smoltz went through in Boston before he landed on his feet back in the NL with St. Louis?

Extending Seasons

We talked about how the designated hitter extends careers, but it has a similar effect on seasons as well. An American League manager can use the spot to give his position players a pseudo day-off, assuming he isn?t nailed down by a permanent DH.

Hideki Matsui almost single-handedly won the World Series for the Yankees, but New York allowed him to walk in free agency so they could rest guys like Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada in 2010 without losing their much-needed offense.

Philadelphia?s Charlie Manuel doesn?t have the same luxury. Chase Utley admitted to being fatigued near the end of last season, but the Phillies needed him in the lineup almost every night. So he soldiered on.

As much as we all like the variety that the DH gives baseball, I don?t think Utley would object to simply walking to the plate four times a night on occasion.


Andrew Perna is Deputy Editor of RealGM.com. Please feel free to contact him with comments or questions via e-mail: Andrew.Perna@RealGM.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: APerna7.