The MLB plans on having a Universal DH for the 2020 season, which they plan on starting in late June/early July. I had to put my personal bias aside to write this article because, as a Met fan, having Cespedes in that DH spot could be a huge boost. The MLB plans to have 3 divisions of 10 teams based on geography. This means traditional National League and American League teams will be mixed this season. This has led the plan to include a Universal DH for the 2020 season.
Strategy of the Game
This is the wrong decision for many reasons. The main reason is that the Universal DH takes a lot of the strategy from the game. For instance, the manager can just pick 9 players for the lineup and be done with it for the game. With the pitcher in the lineup, he will have to make a decision most of the time. Should I leave my pitcher in to hit with runners on base? Or should I bring in a better hitter off the bench? This is a critical decision in the game which could ultimately turn the game around. This is just one of many decisions that will have to be made especially if the manager did decide to take the pitcher out. If he took the pitcher out, then he would have to manage who is coming in from the bullpen and for how long. I think any true baseball fan cares more about the strategy and tactics than the possibility of more runs being scored.
Some Pitchers Can Rake
Yes, most of the time the pitcher can be an easy out. This leads to a fair argument that some fans want to see the best 9 hitters in the lineup. However, some pitchers like Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke, Michael Lorenzen, Adam Wainwright to name a few are very good hitters. Lorenzen is so good in fact the Reds have used him as a pinch hitter on multiple occasions, even when they had other position players available. However, it is true the majority of pitchers hit under the Mendoza Line.
This fact, however, leads to even more strategy from the manager. For example, if a pitcher comes up with runners on and less than 2 outs. Should they allow them to swing away or have them bunt? Some pitchers are terrible bunters or very slow. This can lead to the threat of a double play. It gets to the point where tactically sometimes it almost makes sense to just let them strike out. In turn, letting the lead-off hitter have a crack at driving in the runs. We also get to see how the other manager decides to position his defense against the potential of a sacrifice bunt. Some managers are very aggressive and have their corner infielders rushing in. Others may be more conservative just in case the pitcher decides to pull the bunt back and swing. While a casual fan might just want to see more runs, anyone who loves the game will see these moments as critical decision points in close games.
The Impossible Happens
Some pitchers struggle with hitting so much that it becomes comical. The best example of this has got to be none other than Bartolo Colon a.k.a. Big Sexy. Yes, we might get to see more runs and more dingers with the Universal DH. But we would be losing some of the most exciting moments in the game. Like the time a 42- year-old Bartolo Colon hit his first home run. Or the time Brandon Woodruff went deep in Game 1 of the NLCS off Clayton Kershaw. It’s these types of fun and exciting baseball moments that we will be missing out on if we switch permanently to a Universal DH.
Some people argue for a Universal DH over concerns about the pitcher getting injured while hitting. First off, the chances of a pitcher getting injured in their 1 or 2 at-bats are very low. Pitchers usually hit 9th in the order, so they usually only get 1 or 2 ABs during the game. Secondly, baseball is a sport where everyone needs to be at least slightly athletic. If a pitcher gets injured running the bases, they could just as easily get the same injury running to cover first base.
Some rules put into place to protect players make sense because there are some avoidable actions in baseball. However, if you think it is too dangerous for pitchers to hit, then it is not safe enough for anyone to hit. Whether accidentally or on purpose, batters will always run the risk of getting hit by a pitch and injured. This risk and the risk of running the bases is inherent in the way baseball is played. By taking this danger away from the pitchers, you just give the danger to someone else. The whole game of baseball would have to change to get rid of this danger.
I am not arguing that they should abolish the DH completely. I know the MLB Players Union would never allow that because a lot of the older players can have their careers’ extended by becoming a DH. The current system in place is optimal for baseball it allows players to extend their careers in the A.L. and keeps the strategy of the game alive in the N.L. The MLB is definitely planning to use this season as a guinea pig for the Universal DH to see if they want to make this rule permanent. I think this would be a horrible decision that would take away strategy, analysis of managerial decisions, and some of the most surprising/ exciting moments in the game of baseball.
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