Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why the Designated Hitter should be Universally Instituted in the MLB

America is often defined as baseball and apple pie, for their contributions to society have ingrained the two into our nation’s culture.  The former however, is quickly falling from favor.  Baseball, throughout the years has been losing popularity, and many cite the fact that though the American and National Leagues claim to be equally talented, they are obviously separate and unequal, as the American League has won twenty one of the last twenty seven World Series.  Often at National League games, the pitcher is sent to the plate only to bunt at the first pitch seen, and is almost always is retired, making the game itself much more predictable and far less exciting to watch.  It is the opposite in the AL, where fans watch eagerly as the slugging designated hitter, or DH, approaches the batter’s box, wondering if the next pitch could be crushed into the seats.  To mandate of the use of the designated hitter in both the AL and the NL would be the spark the MLB needs by bringing parity into the World Series, more fans to the stands, and therefore bringing both more interest and money back into the great sport of baseball.
     Fans want to see runs scored, pitchers want only to pitch, and managers want to win.  These simple facts are why the DH should be instituted.  However, arguably the most important is the fact that fans would rather see a slugfest than two pitchers dueling in a shutout.  During the Steroid Era (2001), this being the landmark because at this time both leagues had prolific offenses, the top attendance was rewarded to San Francisco, not because of their performance as a team, as they did not win the World Series, but because of the infamous slugger Barry Bonds’ record setting homerun hitting (MLB Attendance Report – 2001, 5/15/2011, 1).  Also, during the 2001 season in which both Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs and the aforementioned Bonds of San Francisco each hit over sixty homeruns, their teams finished one-two in overall attendance percentage, while the eventual World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks finished twelfth (MLB Attendance Report – 2001, 5/15/2011, 1-2) (MLB Player Batting Stats – 2001, 5/16/2011,1).   The attendance chart also shows that although the Diamondbacks had future Hall of Famers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, who would combine to have forty-three wins and an average ERA of 2.73, on their roster, fans would rather see an offensive bonanza than an excellent pitching performance.    
     Managers want to win games.  They also want to avoid injuries to their star players, particularly their well-paid starting pitchers.  In this case, the DH, if universally instituted, could have saved Chien-Ming Wang’s career.  Once regarded as the ace of the Yankees’ starting rotation, he was the fastest to fifty wins since Dwight Gooden in 1986 (Rushdi, Chien-Ming Wang Now Healthy, Able to Join Washington Nationals Rotation in 2011, 5/15/2011, 2).  However, in 2008 Wang was injured running the bases in an interleague game in Houston, where, because the Astros were a National League team, he was forced to bat (Rushdi, Chien-Ming Wang Now Healthy, Able to Join Washington Nationals Rotation in 2011, 5/15/2011,  2).  That day he partially tore a tendon and sprained his right foot, and was never the same afterward (Rushdi, Chien-Ming Wang Now Healthy, Able to Join Washington Nationals Rotation in 2011, 5/15/2011, 2).  After having back-to-back nineteen win seasons, his mechanics were altered and his release point was found to be five inches higher as a result of the injury (Rushdi, Chien-Ming Wang Now Healthy, Able to Join Washington Nationals Rotation in 2011, 5/15/2011, 2).  After his ERA soared to 34.50 the next season, he was an unaffordable luxury and was cut from the Yankees in 2009 (Rushdi, Chien-Ming Wang Now Healthy, Able to Join Washington Nationals Rotation in 2011, 5/15/2011, 2).
      Managers also want to optimize their overall run production, for if an average DH was inserted into any NL team’s lineup in place of a pitcher, they could add at least fifty-eight runs to their final RBI total*.  This could also force managers to create better pitching staffs and pit general managers against one another to get the best available players, even if they are not especially gifted in the field, because they could make an impact in the batter’s box.  This would make the league in general more competitive because ever since the DH was first used in 1973, the American League has won the World Series 77.77% of the time (List of World Series Champions, 5/15/2011, 5-7).  For this reason, and the fact that last year’s three teams in runs scored are members of the American League, the AL is widely considered the better league in the MLB, though it has a higher ERA, which could be inflated through the runs added by a DH (MLB Team Stats (1), 5/15/2011, 1) (MLB Team Stats (2), 5/9/2011, 2).  However, if the DH was universal in the MLB, the NL would be considered the AL’s equal, for both leagues would have teams with powerful offenses and formidable pitching staffs who are accustomed to the rigors of facing talented lineups, bringing parity back to baseball, which in turn would draw interest into the sport and therefore more revenue to make even better lineups. 
     People claim the DH is detrimental to the history to the game, because it goes against the tradition of the game itself.  However, wasn’t this the case with the three point line in basketball, the addition of the forward pass in football, or icing in hockey?  Though controversial at the time they were instituted, they have become a key part of their respective sports.  In all sports there will be ‘specialists,’ like Ray Allen and his three point shooting, Drew Brees and his pass-only quarterbacking, and Mike Cook and his checking, so why can’t there be more people like them in baseball?  It gives both players and fans a chance to do what they actually want to do, giving hitters a chance to hit, pitchers a chance to focus solely on pitching, older players who have lost a step in the field a chance to extend their careers,  and fans could enjoy the result.  There comes a time when tradition must give way to progress, and for baseball the time is now.  The NL has been lagging behind for years and it’s about time that Commissioner Bud Selig gives the fans of Major League Baseball what they want- a high scoring, exciting baseball game.
     Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that the MLB universally institute’s the usage of the designated hitter, and bring back the golden age of hitting.  Nobody wants to see a sacrifice bunt, but everyone wants to see a towering homerun, because of this, the DH would bring both fans and profits back to baseball.  DHs save careers, for too many pitchers have had their livelihoods ruined in the batter’s box or on the base paths, and by letting pitchers do their jobs, they will excel and make the game even more competitive.  In short the DH would make baseball great again.  Now, my fellow Americans, let us go back and get what we deserve- a national pastime as great as our nation itself.       

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