The designated hitter, or the D.H. as it is often referred to has been a major aspect of the Major League Baseball (MLB) landscape for quite some time. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what the designated hitter does, his job is really simple. He is an extra bat in the lineup that replaces the pitcher. More times than not, he is a player who is a liability or not as skilled on the defensive end as a fielder, but is an exceptional hitter. When you think of designated hitters, the most recognizable is David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox. Like I previously mentioned, he is a liability in the field, but offensively, he is one of the best power hitters in the game, giving his team an extra offensive threat. As the MLB landscape is currently laid out, the American League has the designated hitter on an everyday basis. The only time they don’t have the D.H. is when they are in a National League ballpark. The National League only gets to utilize this asset when they are in an American League ballpark. I think that the D.H. is an unfair advantage for the American League. There are a few possible solutions to help even the playing field.
The simplest solution to help even the playing field would be to simply allow the National League to have the D.H. as well. Both leagues will benefit from having an extra offensive threat and they won’t need to worry about their pitcher risking injury by making plate appearances or having to run on the base paths. This will also allow the National League teams to extend their starter for at least one more inning as opposed to using a pinch hitter when the pitcher’s spot is up in the lineup. The American League often can extend their starter deeper into games since the D.H. is making all of the at bats for the pitcher. The other nice thing about the D.H. is that the team can plug him into the lineup anywhere they feel he fits best. More times than not, they are right in the heart of the lineup as most designated hitters are power threats. The D.H. allows a team to place a better fielder out there and simply keep the better offensive threat as the designated hitter. David Ortiz has rarely played first base in his career as the Red Sox have always utilized him as the D.H. and they always seemed to have another player who could field his position and be more of an asset on defense as opposed to a liability in the field. With that said, there is one more solution that could help even the playing field.
My other solution is to remove the designated hitter from the game all together. Why should one league have an unfair advantage that another team cannot utilize on a regular basis? The American League teams are able to give their pitchers a little extra rest when the designated hitter is in the lineup. The pitcher doesn’t have to waste any energy at the plate or running the bases. The National League on the other hand has to worry about their pitcher facing injury every time he steps up to the plate and every time he runs the bases. National League pitchers don’t get that little bit of extra rest that the American League pitchers do. If a game is tied in the 7th inning and the pitcher is up to bat for a National League team, the pitcher is more than likely going to get pulled from the game for a pinch hitter. The pinch hitter provides the team with an extra bat and an offensive threat, but once that move is made, that pitcher is done for the rest of the game. You then have to go into your bullpen and utilize relief pitchers. Take this same scenario, but switch it to the American League, you have a much different situation. The pitcher isn’t coming to bat. The designated hitter is in the batting order. The team has another offensive threat to utilize and unlike the National League, the pinch hitter is usually a non-factor in the American League. This also allows the team to keep the pitcher out for an additional inning, two innings, or possibly the rest of the game. The pitcher in the National League could be pitching just as well, if not a little better than the American League pitcher, but the National League team would still more than likely utilize the pinch hitter to try to gain the upper hand with the better offensive threat and with the lead in the ballgame.
Many people have various viewpoints on this matter. Personally, I am not a fan of the designated hitter. I never have been and probably never will be. I think it creates too much of an unfair advantage to the American League and puts the National League at a disadvantage. The only time when the D.H. is beneficial for the National League is when they are visiting an American League ballpark and can utilize this important asset. The only time when the D.H. is not beneficial for the American League is when they are visiting a National League ballpark where pitchers must make plate appearances. Pitchers are often comical at the plate, but when you see a pitcher from the American League who may have never had an at bat in his Major League career, it can often be hysterical! Bartolo Colon has played in the American League where he didn’t have to bat, but now that he plays in the National League and does, the results aren’t usually pretty! (Watch the video posted above to see Bartolo Colon at the plate.) With all of that taken into consideration, if Major League Baseball does keep the designated hitter, I would like to see them allow it for the National League as well. If you are going to have a rule, even the playing field and allow both leagues to utilize this rule and this advantage.
Author: Nick Eberhardt
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