Like most baseball fans over the age of 40, I consider myself a traditionalist. I love baseball, I collected baseball cards as a child, and I hate the PED era. I also believe that pitchers should hit because every other position player must hit as well. However, pitchers haven’t had to hit in American League home games since 1973, and it doesn’t look like MLB will be doing away with the designated hitter any time soon. Should the National League follow suit and adopt the designated hitter rule as well?
The advent of interleague play in MLB has heightened the debate for a uniform system for both the American and National Leagues. The reason why the American League will never abandon the designated hitter is that the players’ union wouldn’t stand for it. The designated hitter allows 15 aging sluggers with deteriorating defensive skills to stay in MLB and continue earning hefty salaries. The genie is out the bottle and she is never going back in.
The situation is even worse in 2014 than it was when the respective leagues met in the World Series with the designated hitter. Even the original version of interleague play that began in 1997 didn’t necessitate the National League adopting the designated hitter because there were so few times the respective leagues met head-to-head during the regular season. But with 15 teams in each league in 2014, interleague games are always taking place.
The fact is the American League and National League simply need to play under the same rules. In no other pro sports leagues do the respective conferences have different rules. Despite my traditionalist ways, I believe the time has come for the National League to adopt the designated hitter. The need for MLB to have a uniform set of rules for both leagues supersedes my desire to see the designated hitter get abolished, which, admittedly, will never happen.
The media is trying to claim that National League pitchers aren’t hitting as well in 2014 as they did decades ago. However, statistics do not bear out that claim. In 1973, when the designated hitter rule began, 28 percent of National League pitchers with at least one at-bat hit at least .200. Through May 19, 2014, 34 percent of National League pitchers with an at-bat were hitting at least .200. Still, the National League must institute the designated hitter rule.
Wrigley Field now has lights and I no longer collect baseball cards. The National League should just adopt the designated hitter rule and be done with it. Nothing is sacred in baseball today anyway.
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