The debate has raged since the beginning of time (or at least since 1973). Purists despise it. The modern fan embraces it… Why? Why do we, some 35 years later, still find ourselves embroiled in battle over a rule which has affected only half a game? Can’t we just agree to disagree? After all, that’s what the American League and the National League have decided to do. They’ve each gone their own way, and in my humble opinion… that’s good for Baseball. It allows one city to have two types of fan. It allows a son to disagree with his father without fear of a tanned hide. It paves the way for countless blogs in November as to who really deserves the MVP.
In other words… it’s healthy.
Imagine if you will, MLB without the DH rule. Where would the National League end, and the American League begin? How would we differentiate between the two? Why would I be a Yankee fan and not a Met fan? For the uniforms?
I’m an American League guy. Have been since I was 6 (coincidentally 1973). Why?
Because of the DH rule. (sorry dad).
Of course not for the rule itself, silly. But for the style of play the rule has brought with it.
Home runs. You know you love’m. Not just the long ball by the DH, but the protection offered to the rest of the line up. As a pitcher, you know you’ll face 9 good hitters.
Aging sluggers. I’ve lost count of the amount of big hitters able to extend their careers by becoming a DH.
Complete games. A rarity these days… agreed. But less rare in the AL because you don’t have to pinch hit for the pitcher in a tight game. Don’t even get me started on the ever-elusive perfect game.
Pitchers. In today’s game, is it even remotely fair to ask a specialist player to be effective at the plate for three at bats every 5 or so days?
Oh contraire, I hear the purists yell.
Strategy. Yes, good old fashioned strategy. Pinch hitting, the double switch etc. The manager should get some credit for the intellectual victory or the psychological meltdown. Not some juiced up has-been (coming soon to a column near you).
The intentional walk.Sure they have it in the NL. But it wasn’t a real issue until the advent of this stupid rule.
Symmetry. The game was meant for 9 players. The AL plays with 10. What’s up with that?! They don’t do it in Little League. Why do these prima donnas insist on making it easier on their pitchers and managers?
You may have detected a slight edge in the voice of the purists. I assure you, this is not unintentional. This is based on experience. Not just in the realm of the DH rule, but in regard to most things that have been subject to a fundamental change. Think religion, politics, Social behaviour etc. Eventually it will come to pass that it’s just part of the game. In 50 years, no one will remember it’s inauguration. Sadly, the purists will fade and our children’s children may well choose their league by proximity or (god forbid) their favourite uniform.
The DH rule will not hurt you. It will not improve your life. It will just give the pundits filling for their daily musings. More importantly it will give true baseball fans reason to argue in bars and in front of the tv for years to come.
Cherish these times. One day… we all might get along.