Wake Up National League Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Embraced The Designated Hitter

I’ll get to my argument soon, but first a historical analogy:

It was September 1, 1939 and Poland was pissed.

The Germans began an unprovoked show of aggression, invading the Polish border with the ridiculous notion that world domination was their destiny.  The Nazi decision makers decided that Poland would be the first rest stop in this ambitious journey.  So the Poles did what any nation with an ounce of pride would do:  they pooled their resources and mounted a counterattack.

There was, however, one smaaaaall problem.

Those ‘resources’ that the Poles gathered was little more than a bunch of dudes on horseback with pistols and pitchforks; the kind of offense one uses to scare Frankenstein back to his castle.  In contrast, the Germans represented their cause with a healthy arsenal of tanks, planes and other heavy artillery.

Edge:  The Nazi War Machine.

Wait a minute.  You thought you clicked on a post about baseball, right?  If you are still reading to this point, bear with me.  Flash forward to the present day:

The winter meetings for Major League Baseball are upon us.  You know, those critical hot stove meetings that determine the direction of the sport for seasons to come?  Those conferences held by team owners and general managers that the casual fan casually ignores as they are still basking in the afterglow of the World Series?  Anyone?  Anyone?

There is more to these exclusive pow wows than just a bunch of MLB executives sitting around eating lobster tail in between rounds of golf at a swanky country club.  Decisions are made, coalitions are formed and the future of the game is determined.

This year, it is the humble opinion of the proprietors of Bacon Makes It Better that the status of the Designated Hitter be thoroughly evaluated (listen up National League).

To connect the historical analogy at the top of this post, the National League is to Poland as the American League is to Germany.  The difference between the two factions are their choice of weaponry:  The National League, by way of preserving tradition, insists that the pitcher bat for himself.  In contrast, the American League line-up is armed with a skilled hitter batting in the pitcher’s stead.

By giving into this romance with the preservation of baseball history, the National League give themselves a competitive disadvantage in head to head competition against their American League counterparts.  But don’t take my word for it; the statistics tell the most compelling story:

1.  Since the inception of interleague play in 1997, the American League has won 1,673 games to the National League’s 1,534 wins in straight-up competition.  That’s a difference of 139 games– almost an entire single season’s worth of games.

2.  The last time the American League lost an All Star Game was in 1997.  They enjoy a 12-0-1 record in the last 13 mid-season classics.  That is pure domination.

3.  Since 1997, the American League has won 8 of 13 World Series match ups— five of which were four game sweeps– against the National League.  The National League has not won consecutive World Series since they ran off four in a row from 1979-1982.

The disparity in competition between the two leagues hinges on their biggest difference:  the designated hitter position.

The appeasement of its fan base in their appetite for offensive baseball prompted the American League to introduce the designated hitter position into the game in 1973.  The American League first used their new gimmick as a spot to keep aging stars in the line-up (i.e. Minnie Minoso, Al Kaline) in a blatant attempt to boost fan attendance.

Soon, managers began to utilize the rule change for its original intent.  Offensive numbers became bloated like a distended beer gut.  Jim Rice, Frank Thomas and Harold Baines brutalized pitchers and redefined the position.  In 1995, Edgar Martinez became the first DH to capture a batting crown.

Adaptation being what it is, the American League pitcher was forced to evolve or risk extinction.  The result is a different brand of hurler who is accustomed to formidable batting line-ups and resistant to an offensive outburst by the opposing team.  AL pitchers attack hitters with aggressive pitching as they need not bat for themselves in the next half inning, thus avoiding any retaliation.

So focused are National League pitchers on their craft that they neglect batting practice.  The byproduct is the predictable bunt or strikeout in the 9th position of the NL scorecard– NL teams give away FOUR FREE OUTS per game.

It really should come to the surprise of no one that when the two leagues meet in direct competition, it is reminiscent of a chainsaw to a 2 x 4, advantage battle-hardened AL team.

Hold on baseball purists.  I understand the arguments against the DH.  I consider myself to be one of you.

I long for the original aspects of the game when strategy mattered and specialization was a communist idea.  I love timely pinch-hitting, hitting behind the runner, getting the bunt down, taking on a 3-0 count, getting the runner over, six-out saves, taking on a 3-1 count, three-man pitching rotations that pitch on three days and throw BP side-session in between.

But Hideki Matsui was just named World Series MVP (those damn Yankees), more proof that the designated hitter is not going anywhere.

I used to believe that the Wild Card would destroy the game.  It has since proven to be the best thing since the Iced Coffee with Vanilla Powder at the Coffee Bean Tea & Leaf (easy ice).

National League, it is with great reluctance that I type these words:  it’s time to evolve.  Give the DH some consideration.

Stop bringing a knife to a gunfight.

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2 Comments

Filed under Baseball, Sports

2 responses to “Wake Up National League Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Embraced The Designated Hitter

  1. Olympus Monz

    I have too many comments to leave at a fundamental level, so I chose to address your arguments one by one.

    1. The analogy of warfare seems pretty cheap given the great NL world champions since the inception of the DH. Do you pee upon the great Red Machine? The DH didn’t golf that ball that went threw Buckner’s legs. Heirscheiser had three hits and three wins in 88′, Gibson wasn’t a DH. The Cards, Giants, Marlins, D-Backs….. These teams won with grit and poise, stellar pitching, a will to win that a DH bat didn’t make up for.

    The Poles fought for their country; with any and all means that they could muster. Can’t say the same for the French. But did the French save their country and culture by laying down like a $20 whore? Probably.

    Money can buy the best players on the market. Money doesn’t buy the will and means to win. The Yankees last won in 2000. 9 years have past, yet each year there is a clamor for a stop to the onslaught.

    These are the peliminary arguments.

    2. Yes the AL enjoys a scant lead in heads up events. But we’re talking about 139 games here, since 1997? 12 years. 139 games. Do the math. The ebb and flow of professional competition will eventually even out this obvious coin flip.

    3. Dominating an All-Star game is probably on the top of the list for an Angel fan. These games, by nature, are stage shows. I want one true baseball fan to explain to me why this type of game has such a strong influence on post season play. The manager usually has no say in the matter. They have heavy handed influences to play each player, pull the ace starter, ensure none of these high priced players get hurt. Banking home field advantage on this type of stage show is, i’m sorry, obsene.

    3. Simple argument: The Cardinals won in 2007, the Phillies won in 2008. I’m sorry to discredit your stats but, they remain true.

    Hinging arbitrary accomplishments with fattened stats and whispy arguments will never convince me that the National League should adopt the DH rule. The fact of the matter is…champions win championships. Thats what great teams do. No matter what the circumstances may be, the team that wants it more will always rise to the top.

    This type of team doesn’t always include the bloated payroll of the Yankees. But it did this year.

    • virtualmanspace

      Dear Monz,

      So glad that my post can stir up such passionate debate! My rebuttal:

      1. I haven’t neglected the Big Red Machine or the Herscheiser-led Dodger team in ’88. This era of baseball were the infant stages of the DH rule change. AL teams were still learning the nuances of the position. The DH- in combination with free agency- gradually shifted the core of talent in baseball to the AL. Your argument, Monz, helps to prove my point: Didn’t Kirk Gibson come from the Detroit Tigers, an American League team, before coming to LA?

      2. “SCANT” lead in head to head competition? Sure, the NL can climb out of this deficit. It took them 13 seasons to dig that hole. It’ll take them 13 more seasons to change those numbers into their favor, assuming they start playing .500 baseball against the AL. The All-Star game may be a meaningless show, but it is still a collection of the best that both leagues have to offer. These guys are professional competitors. They would try to kill each other playing go fish, let alone the meaningless mid-summer classic. Click the link on the post. Study the stats. If you have lost that many games in a row, you are being thoroughly dominated! That is more than just a “SCANT” lead.

      3. I’m not smart enough to memorize all the stats that appear in my posts. Everything has been thoroughly researched. Again, click on the links in the post. My source is MLB.com. This is what is referred to as a reliable source. St. Louis won the title in 2006. Boston won in 2007. Philly won in 2008. The NL has not won consecutive World Series since 1979-1982.

      Monz, in summary:

      I always look forward to your comments and interest in my posts. Click this link and start your own blog. I’d love to read what tasty morsels that you can come up with!

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