One of the biggest debates in all of professional sports is, undoubtedly, the designated hitter in Major League Baseball. The American League uses it, the National League doesn’t, and nobody can seem to agree on whether or not it should be used at all.
I’m going to settle this debate once and for all. The designated hitter should go the way of Crystal Pepsi and spray-on hair — banished straight to hell.
Why I hate the designated hitter is simple: it’s a form of cheating.
Now, I’m sure you’re asking, How in the hell is using the DH cheating?
I don’t mean it’s cheating in the way of, say, using a corked bat or employing a guy with binoculars and an intricate colored lighting system to relay catchers’ signals to a hitter (a system I fully believe the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals have used for years), but it’s cheating in the sense that one player gets a pass for not having to play the complete game. Having a designated hitter in baseball is like having an employee at Walmart that doesn’t have to deal with the insolent customers; only the friendly ones.
No other sport allows a single player to play half of what every other player is expected to. It’s not like Brian Scalabrine can just camp out on the offensive end of the basketball court and wait for a scoring chance. No, he has to play both ends of the court, even if it means being exposed for the slow, pale klutz he is.
That’s life, and that should be baseball too.
Many of nostalgic idiots out there will argue that the designated hitter prolongs great hitters’ careers, offering guys like Frank Thomas, Dave Kingman and Jim Thome the opportunity to play longer.
To that I say, If these guys were really great baseball players, they’d still be able to play a complete game. There’s nothing too physically demanding about playing first base. A tough day at the office for a first baseman is having to bend over for a couple of throws in the dirt. Other than that, the duties of the position don’t stretch too far beyond “catch the ball.” If a well-paid Major League Baseball player can’t do that, he shouldn’t be allowed to hang around the game and just swing the bat every 45 minutes.
Then there’s the argument that many of the players used in the role of designated hitter have been somewhat crippled by their long careers and can no longer run. This is another ridiculous argument. It’s not like Edgar Martinez had a speedy Dominican kid standing next to home plate during his at-bats, waiting to take off for first base at the crack of the bat. These guys still have to run the bases, and I say if you can run the bases, surely you can stand around in the general vicinity of first base for a half-inning. If you’re too old or broken-down to play in the field, maybe professional baseball isn’t for you.
The fact that the American League uses the DH and the National League doesn’t is a whole other bit of ridiculousness. It’s the equivalent of the NHL’s Eastern Conference using a goalie while the West teams just have six skaters. Admit it or not, the game plays differently in each league and caters more to the American League than the National during interleague play and the World Series. There’s a reason the American League holds a victory margin of nearly 200 games in the history of interleague play, and it’s not because their teams are just better. It’s because the AL teams have a full-time specialized player the National League teams don’t. Why Major League Baseball insists on keeping its two leagues so different makes no sense.
In a nutshell, the designated hitter in Major League Baseball has the easiest job in sports (Hey, punters and kickers still get shoved to the ground on a regular basis). The fact that they can have careers doing less than any other employee in their line of work is just asinine. Parents can’t avoid dirty diapers and teachers can’t evade the dumb kids, but a guy like David Ortiz can earn a six-figure paycheck for performing one-third of the duties his job normally requires. And he still gets five months off a year.
We should all be so lucky.