Sometimes in a person's life they stumble upon something that shatters their long held belief system. That happened to me this baseball season. It never fails that when I am frittering away the hours reading about the Astros online, I see someone comment that they want the Astros to move back to the National League. Honestly, right after the move to the American League I felt the same way. I was actually pretty angry (as some still are). But with the assistance of time I have come to change my tune. I don't ever want to move back to the NL. Want to know why?
I LOVE THE DESIGNATED HITTER!
(There, I said it. No going back.)
Maybe it isn't a big deal, but that statement is a watershed moment in my life. Allow me to give you some background. I, like a lot of you, am from an NL city, and I lived in an NL home. I only had NL friends. My dad grew up in New Mexico as a Cardinals fan (because in the 60's there was only one radio station and it was in St. Louis). Growing up, the only baseball on TV in my house was NL baseball. I missed out on seeing many AL stars of my childhood because dad said "I'm not watching those games. They don't make the pitcher hit. That's not baseball." Dad said it, it must be true. The DH was on the same level in my young mind as the USSR and foreign cars...just un-American.
The USSR went away, and my family wholeheartedly accepted non-GM cars, but the DH kept it's place in the "WRONG" side of the ledger. After a couple of years in the AL, something started to turn earlier this season. The Astros were playing the Padres, and at some point in the game the pitcher came to the plate in a tight game. I said these words out loud: "It is so dumb that the pitcher has to hit!" I immediately felt the oppression of forty years fall from my shoulders. Even if it made me a bit uncomfortable at first, I was right.
"It takes away the strategy from the game!" So you like watching a guy bunt? You like seeing your pitcher who is dealing get pulled in the sixth inning for no other reason than there is a runner on third with two outs in a tie game?
"The manager doesn't have to make as many decisions!" If you are going to a game to watch the manager you are doing baseball wrong. Plus, if you saw some of the managerial decisions last year you got plenty of that. (see: Tony Sipp in the outfield)
"The pitchers don't have to face retaliation for hitting batters!" Who cares? No one really retaliates these days. There's too much money on the line. If there was actual retaliation in baseball every member of the Royals would have spent time on the DL this season.
As I try to sort out this life change in my brain, I have come up with two reasons why I never want a pitcher to hit. One (the most important reason) it kills the flow of the game. There are two types of players in baseball, pitchers and hitters. Both are usually good at what they do, and not as good at what they don't do. There is a reason hitters only pitch in a blowout. Will they record some outs, maybe even a strikeout? Yes, but you obviously don't want them in the bullpen full time. Yet the pitcher should be up at the plate at least every third inning? Some will get a hit, maybe even a home run, but why would you want them batting on a regular basis? So a good plan would be to make a rule where the pitchers only do what they are paid to be good at.
The second reason is pure aesthetics. Most pitchers do not get good results at the dish, yet despite that still manage to look silly while doing so. We don't want to watch them. They don't want to be there. In fact a lot of them (especially the ones from the AL) just look embarrassed by the whole situation. Want to end the discussion with two words? Bartolo. Colon. Yes it is funny to watch a portly fellow fall down and his helmet fall off, but it doesn't make for good baseball.
I'm still trying to figure all this out. It takes a lot to change old habits that have been forged over many seasons. I guess in the end I wouldn't mind a move back to the NL, but only after they adopt the designated hitter rule.