Thursday, January 11, 2007

I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter.

Today in 1973 began one of the worst experiments of all time. Today in 1973 the American League adopted the Designated Hitter rule.

This means that a pitcher in the American League does not have to bat; somebody else will bat for him.

Proponents of this tomfoolery maintain that it makes the game more exciting because pitchers don't typically hit very well and offense is preferred.

I have several problems with this policy:

First, it's absurd to have two different policies for the American and National Leagues. If you're going to declare the pitcher a girly man in one league, why not in the other? Praise be to God that my Cardinals are in the National League.

It's bad enough that you have 16 teams in the NL and 14 in the AL, with 6 teams in the NL Central and 4 in the AL West, but to have this glaring weirdness only further jeopardizes the label "organized sport."

Second, in general, a pitcher's batting average is about 100 points or so less than a "position" players. That means that a pitcher will get a hit about one less time than the other players every ten at bats. Assuming a pitcher gets three at-bats in a game, he would have to pitch at least three games to see any difference.

So, after doing a little research on this I discovered that, in 2002, the average AL team scored one more run every three games than the average NL team — and got one more hit every four games. So we're talking about two extra runs a week.

Third, you lose some of the managerial strategy, especially late in the game. Do you have the pitcher hit and go out for another inning or go with the double-switch? Should the pitcher bunt the runner over and give the leadoff hitter a chance to get the runner in?

Fourth, in what other sport do you see this kind of tomfoolery? Can you imagine the NBA having a designated freethrow shooter for centers ... in the Eastern Conference? Hey, Shaq and Ben Wallace are lousy freethrow shooters and that's generally the case with centers. Should they be able to have an aged Larry Bird who can't really run any more or play defense come in whenever the center goes to the line?

Well, isn't that what happens in the American League? You get some spare who can't play defense anymore, but can still have a pretty good slugging percentage serve as the DH. It encourages one-dimensional play.

Now that I think about it, not only do I hate that the pitcher doesn't have to bat, I hate that some spare can bat, but not have to play the field.

Instead of a designated hitter, how about you instead don't have the pitcher hit? What if you just had a line-up of 8 batters? Then you couldn't hide the one-dimensional player. Then you wouldn't tie up a spot on the team with a declining player, but a younger, rising star from the minors could get a shot.

Getting rid of the DH would probably be like getting rid of some defunct and outdated government program. The DHs and the potential DHs would lobby within the players union to keep the foolishness alive.

Perhaps I'm just a baseball purist. Perhaps I'm just biased. When I played little league ball as a pitcher, I still got/had to bat. I appreciated getting to help my own cause. I appreciated getting to be a man.

24 years ago baseball scientists tried an experiment, tweaking the game of baseball, America's game. They wanted to do something to make the game more exciting, to give it more offense. But these scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.

Like Crash, I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astrotruf and the designated hitter.

It seems to me that Bob Costas also agreesl:
Some changes in baseball — such as interleague play on a limited basis, or a thoughtful realignment — make perfect sense. Others — artificial turf, wild-card teams in the playoffs — make sense only to the baseball-impaired. Then, there is the designated hitter. It's an idea not without merit and one which used to make sense — for the American League, at least. In the early 1970s, baseball faced a crisis of popularity. The American League was especially hurting because of the disappearance of the Yankee dynasty and its slowness in signing black and Latin stars. That left the National League with a disproportionate number of the game's best and most exciting players. In addition, offense was at its lowest point in generations. In 1968, the entire American League hit .230. Carl Yastrzemski won the batting title with a .301 average. Some 20% of all games in the major leagues that year were shutouts. Clearly, something had to be done to juice the offense and to distinguish the American League from the National in an interesting way. The designated hitter was a logical response and it had some real benefits. It helped increase run production — the league batting average jumped from .239 in 1972 (pre-DH) to .259 in 1973 (first year of DH) — and it extended the careers of some popular players. Now, except for enabling veterans such as Minnesota's Paul Molitor to continue playing, none of the other conditions apply any more. Everyone knows the offense has gone through the roof in every measurable way. If anything, the balance needs to be tipped back in the other direction. With its new ballparks and exciting young stars, the American League no longer needs gimmickry to distinguish itself from the senior circuit. The disadvantages that were always present with the DH now tip the balance the other way. One of those disadvantages was highlighted recently by the ugly beanball incidents at Yankee Stadium and in Kansas City. Almost to a man, baseball people believe these situations would occur less frequently if the pitcher had to bat and face the prospect of retaliation. More importantly, the loss of strategy and the over-emphasis on power at the expense of some of the game's subtleties is simply too great a price to pay for the advantages of the DH. Beside, anyone who has so short an attention span and so little appreciation for baseball that he can't bear to watch a pitcher bat is probably beyond hope, anyway. The fact is the National League plays a more interesting game. The American League should try it, too."
- Bob Costas in USA Today Baseball Weekly (emphasis mine)



At 14 January, 2007 15:09, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Astroturf is evil. That's why no one is using it any longer.

The DH is just slightly less absurd than the number of teams in the NL/AL not matching equally.

At 14 January, 2007 15:23, Blogger GUNNY said...

He's back!

Even as a Cardinals fan I was ashamed that the old Busch Stadium had "the turf" for a while.

Although it was fun watching Ozzie bounce the ball off the turn from SS to Hernandez at 1B, I was always embarassed deep down.

Man, they even moved the Brewers from the AL to the NL to create the unequal number slooge. How absurd is that?

It reminds me of moving the Seahawks to the NFC. They were always my AFC team, now they've beaten the Cowboys in the playoffs (though one could make a case that the Boys lost more so than the Seahawks won, but the end result is no Cowboys this weekend).

Hope you're well, brother.

At 15 January, 2007 15:34, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was so great when they finally went back to real grass at Busch. It "felt" right again, knowwhutImean?

The Brewers in the NL. Yep, that's just wrong. Just like the Seahawks in the NFC. Just not right.

As to the NFL Playoffs -
1) Cowboys did not have a well designed game plan. Should've been airing it out against the spares.

2) My boys from San Diego outplayed NE, but they gave the game away on some dumb plays, namely the unnecessary fumbles and the unnecessary roughness.

3) Would like to see Manning and the boys from Indy beat Brady and the Pats.


At 15 January, 2007 15:34, Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. (Definitely on the mend. Thanks!)

At 15 January, 2007 16:00, Blogger GUNNY said...

I was SOOOOO mad yesterday at the Chargers. NE is my least favorite AFC team, primarly because of the over-hype and challenge to the luster of Cowboys 90s greatness.

The Chargers sooooo could/should have won that game. They have a much better team, but waffled so many times.

I was screaming when the guy caught the interception to "FALL DOWN!" He did not. I was mad in that instant that he even caught it. Just knock it down and you'll have better field position. It was fourth down, for crying out loud!

They just made so many 'dumb' plays, like the roughness. Even some spare sitting on his couch like me knows that you don't intercept it; you just knock it down and your offense takes over.

Or ... intercept it, try to run with it, fumble it, so the bad guys can go down and score 8 points.

I was so miff so many times in that game by sloppy play that gave the game away.

I'm rooting a Bears vs. Colts Superbowl.

At least the Eagles ate it ... RENO-style.


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