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There's nothing better than pitchers batting

Jun 12, 2009, 10:57 AM EDT

I tend not to enjoy arguments about religion, but once in a while you have to go there:

It’s a real shame that so many American League pitchers have been
denied a chance to hit. As much as A’s fans enjoyed the pure athletic
ability of Vida Blue, Mike Norris, Rick Langford and Dave Stewart over
the years, they could have seen so much more. Given a reason to work on
their hitting, they all would have responded professionally. Or maybe
not, in a case or two. You learn something there, too.

“But it’s an age of specialization,” people say. On what basis?
There are no designated runners or fielders. Specialization is an NFL
team employing different defensive units on four consecutive plays.
Specialization was forced upon the American League when the DH arrived
in 1973, but it never was warranted. Without question, we’ve witnessed
golden DH moments from the likes of Tony Oliva, Orlando Cepeda, Harold
Baines, Edgar Martinez, David Ortiz, but I invariably ask myself, why?
In what brand of league does a player not bat for himself? Have we
become a generation of elitist pipe-smokers, outraged at the sight of
an athlete’s vulnerability? “Fetch me my Thoreau, Jeeves. Barry Zito is
batting.”

The “different set of rules” argument gets tiresome, as well. Thank
goodness the National League has a traditional set of rules, and the
disparity doesn’t harm the game in the slightest. It’s still the same
game. Different rules would be three balls for a walk, or you start out
by running to third.

I’ll come out and admit that I’m a National League guy and I hate the
DH. Like Bruce Jenkins in this article, however, my dislike of the DH
is not necessarily about being a traditionalist, the beauty of the
double switch or the strategy or any of that. As history has shown,
most managers overthink that crap anyway and all of that switching
tends to bring the game to a grinding halt.

No, I’ll just come out and admit it: I like to see pitchers hit. I
know that’s usually the first attack against the NL setup — Pitchers
are feeble! It’s horrid to watch them flail! — but to me it truly is
an aesthetic plus. Seeing an overmatched pitcher trying to hit is the
closest thing we can get to seeing what it’s like for schmos like us to
hit. True, most of the time they fail, but when they succeed, I am
thrilled for them and feel strangely vindicated. And even if they do
fail, it just makes you appreciate how good even the eighth best batter
in a given lineup truly is.

If I had to guess, I’d say that the AL is more popular than the NL,
and that because of it there are more DH fans than not. And I’ll even
grant that my rationale for getting rid of the DH — pitchers batting
is beautiful, baby — is pretty far out there. But like I said in the
beginning, this is really a religious argument.

And like all other religious arguments, understand: once you realize
how irrational and wrong you are, and how right I am, the quicker we’ll
have peace.

(link via BTF)

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