Baseball and the DH.

The Baseball All-Star game is just around the corner, so I have decided to take a detour from my usual topic of movies and talk about my favorite sport, Baseball. Several weeks ago, I wrote a persuasive paper for my college English class, which I received a 93/10, and I wanted to post it to see what you think of it.
     This year marks the 40th anniversary of when the designated hitter was introduced in the American League, one of two leagues, the other being the National League, that make up the Major League Baseball Association (Rushin 59). The player who is assigned the position of designated hitter, also known as the DH, takes the place of the pitcher in the batting order, and thus the pitcher does not have a plate appearance during the game. With the increase of interleague play between the National and American Leagues, NL owners have been discussing the possibility of bringing the DH to the National League. Baseball purists and National League fans, like me, are outraged that the NL owners are even considering bringing the DH to the National League! The designated hitter should not be implemented in the National League because when the American League introduced the designated hitter, it had several negative effects, such as, breaking tradition, giving an unfair advantage to the offense, and producing a less strategic game.

     The introduction of the designated hitter in the American League broke a long standing tradition in which all nine players on the field actually had a plate appearance. The tradition of playing without a DH dates back to the first official Major League game played on April 22, 1876, between the Boston Red Caps and the Philadelphia Athletics in Philadelphia (“April”). Since the beginning of the modern era, there have been minor changes to the rules of the game; however, the addition of the DH has greatly disrupted the traditions upon which the game of baseball is founded. In response to MLB’s attempt to eliminate the Minnesota Twins from the League, Minneapolis District Judge Harry Crump stated, “Baseball is as American as turkey and apple pie. Baseball is a tradition that passes from generation to generation. Baseball crosses social barriers, creates community spirit, and is much more than a private enterprise. Baseball is a national pastime” (Bakst).Since the National League has kept with baseball’s traditions, it is easier for people across generations to relate about the game. My grandfather and I are generations apart when it comes to most things; however, baseball provides common ground for us to relate. For my grandfather’s 75th birthday, I took him to a National League game between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets; because the NL has remained true to its traditions, we enjoyed the game in much the same way that my grandfather enjoyed it more than sixty years ago. Some may argue however, that change is good and that adding the DH was a natural progression of the game’s evolution. Tradition is the mortar that holds the game of baseball together, and whenever that tradition is tampered with it cracks the foundation upon which baseball is built.

     During games where the designated hitter is utilized, a sizable advantage goes to the offense, which was not there before 1973. In the year directly preceding the implementation of the DH, the American League’s ERA (earn-run-average) was a respectable 3.06 (“Baseball”).In the following year, however, the AL’s ERA rose to a staggering 3.82; never before has there been such a drastic increase in offensive production in the modern era (“Baseball”). As Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry famously stated, "Primarily, every rule change over the past ten years has been against the pitchers - lowering the mound and the designated hitter" (“Designated”).To illustrate Perry’s point, take for example, two players, Tom Glavine and Edgar Martinez, each of who is considered one of the best hitters at his position, during roughly the same time frame. National League pitcher Tom Glavine won several awards for his hitting prowess compared to his peers at the position. His lifetime batting average was .186 and his slugging percentage was .210, both of which are higher than the norm for a starting pitcher (Gillette and Palmer 1221). Conversely, American League designated hitter Edgar Martinez, whom also won several awards for his hitting ability, had an outstanding lifetime batting average of .312 and a slugging percentage of .515 (Gillette and Palmer 703). As a pitcher, which batter would you rather face in the lineup, Glavine right? Glavine is significantly inferior in terms of offensive production compared to Martinez, and this holds true throughout the Major Leagues (“Baseball”).When the statistics are closely examined, it is undeniable that the designated hitter has given the offense an unfair advantage.

     The addition of the designated hitter has removed much of the strategy involved in managing a game. Therefore, the intellectual side of the game, which sets baseball apart from most other sports, is diminished. Prior to the DH, when the pitcher came up to bat in a crucial situation, the manager had to decide whether to pinch hit, double switch, call for a sacrifice bunt, or allow the pitcher to swing away with a slim chance of producing a hit. Since the introduction of the designated hitter, American League managers have rarely been forced to make such potentially game changing decisions. When comparing the number of pinch hitters used in the National League, 3938, and in the American League, 840, in 2011, it becomes clear that the AL managers do not have to make as many strategic decisions as NL managers (Thurm).Senior writer for, Jayson Stark stated, “The game is simply way more interesting without the DH than with it. Period. Ask any manager which is more strategically challenging — managing a game under NL rules or AL rules. It's no contest. It's baseball's cerebral side that separates it from all the other games ever invented. And the game is way more cerebral with no DH than with it” (“Designated”). It is clear that even the managers agree that the DH has limited the strategic aspect of the game.

     When the designated hitter was introduced in the American League, it broke tradition, gave an unfair advantage to the offense, and removed much of the game’s strategy. It is imperative that the National League owners block any effort to employ the DH in the National League, in order to preserve the game the way it has been played for decades. Even the first designated hitter, Ron Blomberg, said, "I screwed up the game of baseball” (“Designated”). Fans of the National League must stand up against the impending expansion of the designated hitter in the NL and prevent it from tarnishing our beloved game.

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