The National League should start acting like a grownup and adopt the designated hitter. Then maybe it could compete on an equal basis with the American League, instead of being a glorified minor league.
The American League adopted the DH in 1973 as an experiment, but quickly made it permanent. Because it makes sense, it has since been adopted by the minor leagues, colleges and high schools. The NL is the only holdout.
Meanwhile, the AL has become dominant. In the most recent interleague schedule, the AL won 154 games, the NL only 98, a winning percentage of .611, better than the winning percentages of the teams leading the three NL divisions. If you picked the top five teams in baseball, the New York Mets would be the only NL representative.
This is not a one-time fluke. The American League has won six of the last eight and 10 of the last 15 World Series. The AL has also won 13 of the last 15 All-Star Games.
Ah, but National Leaguers and their fans say, they’ve got the only “pure” baseball. I hope that consoles them as they continually come out on the losing side.
In other sports, change is welcomed. Basketball games once featured a center-court jump ball after every basket. Football was a single-platoon game. Changes in the games, which include shot clocks in basketball and unlimited substitution in football, have made both games faster and better.
Baseball has also changed, though not as much. It started with a ball that was seldom hit over the fence and fielders’ gloves the size of drivers’ gloves. Would the NL purists like to go back to that?
NL fans argue that there’s more strategy in their game, but usually the “strategy” is predictable. When the pitcher comes up with less than two outs and a runner on base, he’s going to bunt, not always with good results. In the Giants’ game against Texas a week ago Thursday, Rangers pitcher John Koronka bunted down the third-base line, Pedro Feliz grabbed it and fired to Omar Vizquel at third to get the lead runner and then Vizquel threw across the diamond to get Koronka for a most unusual double play.
The toughest decision for a manager is whether to pinch-hit for a pitcher who is pitching well. Usually he will, which means a good pitcher is coming out of the game. Hard to see how that improves the game. Occasionally, a manager will go against the grain, as the Giants’ Felipe Alou did in allowing Matt Morris to bat with one out in the seventh against San Diego on Sunday. Morris singled and the Giants went on to score five runs that inning and won 6-2.
That got headlines — precisely because it was so unusual. One play is no reason to hang on to an outmoded style.
This is an age of specialization in baseball. There are pitchers who pitch in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings. Sometimes a manager will use a reliever to pitch to one batter, then bring in another for the next batter.
With all this specialization, it’s stupid to let a pitcher hit when a team could use a real hitter instead.
The AL understands this, the NL doesn’t, which is why the American League is so much stronger.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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