Traditionalists and modernists. There is a fine line between these types of baseball fans.
Both sides have their merits and pitfalls. Although I am fully a modernist, I can certainly respect the traditionalist point of view; when a professional sport veers too far from its roots, there can be long-lasting consequences.
The absence of a designated hitter in the National League allows for a different playstyle, more strategical options, and in the eyes of traditionalists, simply better games to watch.
Letting pitchers hit achieves the first of baseball’s core values. All players on the field should field and bat. It’s how the sport was played from 1869 to 1973.
Not to mention it’s fun to watch pitchers get big hits and help themselves out.
But the National League is, in a way, missing out on a unique and exciting aspect of the game. NL teams have to plan for the designated hitter only in interleague games and the World Series. While the reasons listed above are genuine, the pitcher’s at-bat is most often just a momentum killer. More times than not a couple unorthodox singles by the bottom of a lineup don’t turn into runs because the pitcher swings and misses three times in a row.
The actual run production difference isn’t huge (the AL scored 10,525 runs in 2013 to the NL’s 9,730 according to baseball-almanac.com), but the presence of a DH does bring excitement and a faster pace to games.
This would accomplish one of commissioner Rob Manfred’s first goals. Much of baseball’s appeal is in the strategy and meticulousness with which the game must be played. Sometimes all that can get lost in translation to newer, younger fans, who see a three + hour game with minute-long breaks between pitches and terribly drawn-out replay timeouts.
I won’t blame that on the previous commissioner, Bud Selig, who had a little PED issue to deal with during his tenure. While bringing the DH to both leagues won’t decrease the time between pitches — watch just one David Ortiz at-bat — it does bring more excitement, and that is what baseball should be striving for in our low attention span society.
The price? Lots of great players becoming one dimensional. One great example is Kyle Schwarber (above), a young stud of a slugger for the Chicago Cubs. His defense leaves much to be desired, though, and he would be perfect for a DH role in the AL.
I dislike seeing pitcher’s at-bats unnecessarily kill rallies less than I would dislike 15 salaried players becoming one dimensional. It’s really too bad that both options have such huge drawbacks, and that’s why it should be either all or nothing.
A common mantra between fans is that the fragmentation between the two leagues is just a nuisance. It’s roster-stretching for managers to have to play a DH in interleague games, and especially the World Series. It’s not right that ~half the teams have rosters structured in different ways than the other ~half.
Whether it’s in both leagues or none, it would bring said fluidity to all 162 games not seen right now.
Both traditionalists and modernists would have their gripes, but, at the very least, a simple parity between the two leagues would be achieved.
18 year old Washington sports fan and Penn State freshman. I'll cover the MLB, NFL, and NBA.