For almost a quarter of a century, it has deserved to die.
Instead, it has sat there, ankle-deep in sunflower seed hulls, and gotten one stay after another. For a quarter of a century it has defied all logic with its existence. Now it is to the point that it claims to be somewhat of a tradition itself.
Enough. The time has come to call the priest. The time has come to walk the last mile.
It is time for the designated hitter to die.
This is a new sunrise for baseball, the dawn of interleague play. Finally it is time for teams to play on the same field. And with the same rules. Which means it is time to feed the designated hitter a last meal and march it toward the gallows.
Oh, it never meant to do any harm. I know that. It let a few big names draw a few big checks, and there is little to criticize about that. It turned American League games into 14-11 affairs, and a few more kids caught a few more home-run balls.
But we don't need the DH. Frankly, we never did.
As a game, baseball is a far, far superior event without the DH. Make the pitcher bat for himself and it becomes a game of thought and planning. And that is the true joy of the game, trying to outmanage the man in charge. You might not be able to hit a ball as far as Fred McGriff, or throw one as fast as John Smoltz. But if you follow the Braves, you probably think you can think as well as Bobby Cox.
The difference between strategies in the two leagues is this: In the NL, you need some. It's like the AL is checkers and the NL is chess. Like the AL is Wheel of Fortune
and the NL is Jeopardy.
Oh, I know all of the arguments in favor of the DH. No one wants to see a pitcher hit. Stars hang around longer. Scores go up.
But let me ask you something.
If the DH is such a good idea, why don't we allow two of them?
Think about that. Give teams the right to pinch hit for the weak-hitting shortstop. Or the catcher who specializes in defense. Or the slumping second baseman. Wouldn't runs go up then? Wouldn't even more stars be able to hang around?
Hey, why stop at two? Why not just field offensive and defensive teams?
Because it would take away from the game? Because it would ruin the essential elements of the game?
Guess what? So does one DH.
This is an argument that festers every season because the two major leagues of this country are playing by different rules. Every fall, pitchers who haven't had to hit all season go to bat in the World Series. And National League teams whose rosters are constructed without suitable designated hitters _ it would be foolish to pay a hitter such as Cecil Fielder his salary if he isn't going to get four cuts a game _ seem to find out their benches aren't as strong as they thought.
So we argue whether this game is more entertaining than that game. And we seem to forget _ they're supposed to be playing the same game. The more they play each other, the more evident that will become.
Give me the American League parks. Give me the American League stars. Give me the American League history.
But give me the National League game. Let me wonder if a pitcher who is due up the next inning can get one more out to save a reliever. Let me figure out what the double switch ought to be. Let me laugh at the manager who runs out of bench players because he pinch ran for a centerfielder.
It isn't that the arguments are new. It's that the time is right.
Kill the DH. Now.