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Boxing Pandora, II A few
2003-04-08 13:43
by Mike Carminati

Boxing Pandora, II

A few follow-up issues relared to the DH issue:

My friend Murray writes:

Here's a question: are NL games still significantly shorter (in terms of time to play) than AL games? Letting pitchers bat means two things that usually speed games up: (1) pitchers are quick outs; and (2) middle inning pitching changes are rarer when the manager is trying to avoid torching an extra reliever when the pitcher's spot in the batting order is due to bat in the next half-inning. Shortening games might be the most compelling contemporary argument in favor of eliminating the DH rule, but it's not my favorite argument to make. That being said, however, there's nothing less exciting than watching Manager Joe use three pitchers to get out of the seventh inning.
A point for all the self-appointed anti-DH purists: the National League is one of only two baseball leagues on the entire planet (the Japanese Central League being the other, I think) that fails to employ the DH. Every other baseball league, everywhere--high schools, the NCAAs, the minors, international competition, the AL and the Japanese Pacific League--uses the DH rule. If the NL is playing baseball the way it's supposed to be played, it has had a difficult time convincing the rest of the baseball...

Like you, I favor leaving the rule the way it is: you get to watch both varieties of play. If you held a gun to my head, I'd say I am opposed, but that's because I generally oppose the trend toward specialization in sports. This isn't football.
Another point...Sure, there are guys like Edgar who might be affected here, but the real change you'd see if there were no DH rule would be the return of Greg Luzinski-type outfielders to a ballpark near you. No star-quality hitter has ever been released because he didn't have a defensive position.

I don't know the numbers for the league difference in average ballgame length. I have seen the numbers published but I'm not sure if they break it down by league. I just did a search and I can't find it on the net. And I'm too lazy to go through the box scores. Maybe, I'll see if one of the yearly guides covers this. If anyone knows, please let me know.

I do agree that shortening games is the most compelling argument against the DH. But I think shortening the between-inning commercial breaks would be more effective (and Murray agrees) though it won't be considered.

Greg Luzinski! Long live Jerry Martin and Lonnie "Skates" Smith. They would find a spot for the Edgars and Ellises, probably first or possibly left field. Burks used to be a rather fleet center fielder (27 steals in his rookie year), but his last year in center was 1998 and his numbers weren't very good then. He moved to right for two years and then played a handful in left but other than that has been a fulltime DH.

By the way, the Phils always discussed moving the Bull back to first (he came up as a first baseman), but they never did. I guess after Dick "Don't Call Me Richie" Allen went AWOL before the 1976 playoffs was when it was most often discussed, but then they got Richie"The Hack" Hebner followed by Pete Rose to play first. The softball-shorts-begarbed, cartoon-logoed White Sox tried it briefly. I guess Garry Maddox covered enough space that it never became an issue. Jerry Martin, for those of you who don't remember, was the caddy for Luzinski in the mid-Seventies. He was also on the cover of the first copy of the McMillan Baseball Encyclopedia that I ever owned. I think it was the third edition that came out around 1975 and pictured #25 Martin running down the line to beat a throw to first being received by Steve Garvey with first-base coach Tony Taylor in view.

Andreas Michlmayr asks:

[D]o any pro-DH folks ever argue for a change to a football-style scheme, where you may employ as many designated hitters and fielders as you like, so long as they fit on your 25-man roster?

Towit I responded:

Designated fielders have been suggested. I had believed that Bill Veeck and/or Charlie O. Finley were the culprits, but couldn't find proof. Jayson Stark wrote an article on improving the game this offseason and included the idea, and Doug Melvin suggested it as a 26th roster spot. (I duly panned the Stark piece here by the way.)

I disagree about designated fielders. First because teams now carry 12 pitchers. How can they carry a guy who can't hit (well, Bobby Cox usually has a whole bench filled with them I guess). And second fielding is inherently worth less than batting. The reason for this is that baseball consists of offense (batting and baserunning) and defense (pitching and fielding). Even if one were to admit that defense is worth more than offense, fielding has to share that arena with pitching. Lastly, some would argue that we already have a designated fielder: the AL pitcher.

But you are entitled to your opinion. That was my basic point, that it all does boil down to personal preference. If baseball feels that more people prefer the game without the DH, then they should go ahead and eliminate it. But they should not do it on the grounds that the DH is the ruination of the game, because it's not so.

David Pinto, Aaron Gleeman, and the Oakland White Elephants also post their opinions on the issue. As far as the Elephants suggestion to simply skip the pitchers spot in the order, I believe that was suggested at the time, but given the increased at-bats and the recency of the Maris be-asterisked HR record, the AL feared that someone might hit as many as 73 homers one day. It seems ridiculous now: someone would have to be superman to hit that many.

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