The DH is Awesome and You’re Not

This past January, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred rejected the notion of National League designated hitters. There was much rejoicing. The discussion thread at reddit’s /r/baseball flowered with gems like: “Checkmate DHtheists,” “A Win against the DH is a win for America,” and my personal favorite, “F*CK THE DH!” From the sound of the response, you’d think baseball’s Doomsday clock walked back ten minutes.

It’s high time fans stopped worrying and learned to love the DH.

If purists want to equate designated hitters to the clap, then I say, “itch, please.” Pitchers hitting are the worst. Pitchers hitting are Bruce Willis’ solo album, “The Return of Bruno.” Just because I watch Die Hard every Christmas doesn’t mean I want to hear crappy Motown covers. I’d rather sport bleach-blonde hair plugs than listen to Bruce sing “Under the Boardwalk” or “Respect Yourself.”

And yes, I can hear you shouting “Bartolo Colon!” You realize you’re holding up a career .090 hitter as your prime example, right? Bartolo Colon would have to go on a 30-game hitting streak to even flirt with the Mendoza Line. Excepting perhaps Madison Bumgarner, a HR-hitting pitcher is the exception, not the rule.

Speaking of Big Sexy, following his first career HR, he told Washington catcher Wilson Ramos, “throw it down the middle…[I’m] not swinging.[1]” With recent furor over the instant intentional walk, it seems the NL-elite should also consider the intentional strikeout. Why waste a whole inning of outs watching pitchers’ noodle-armed flailing? Just cue the salsacore walkup song, have the ump ring them up, and send them back to their one-armed starter jacket.

Outside of Bartolo Colon, DHaters will shout “…but the double switch!” faster than a vegan cries “soy protein![2]” Let’s be honest; does anyone really like the double switch? How many times have you been on the throne and heard your buddy shout, “Yo, Greg! Pinch it off and come in here! Dusty Baker is calling the double switch! It’s gonna be epic!”

Zero times. I can say with absolute impunity you’ve heard that phrase zero times. The double switch is the equivalent of icing the kicker in the NFL. The double switch has all the air of doing something without actually doing anything. No one likes the double switch. Stop citing it.

Another argument against the DH is that it legitimizes the creeping specter of “specialization.” Those pushing the NL agenda scream a ballplayer who doesn’t play the field isn’t a real ballplayer. The truth is all big sports are permanently “specialized.” American sports have grown from regional exhibitions to massive, multinational, moneymaking machines. Player specialization maximizes production. More production means bigger profit. We have left handed, sinkerball, high-leverage bullpen arms. DH or no, the booming business of baseball says specialization is here to stay.

Besides, a DH is no dumber than a closer, and I don’t hear many NL fans griping about Kenley Jansen or Trevor Rosenthal.

But what about baseball history? Will we sell Abner Doubleday’s very soul for a few measly home runs[3]? Anyone arguing the “baseball history” angle against the DH is a hardball Donald Trump, begging to “Make America Great Again.” Anyone wishing to protect baseball’s history ultimately names themselves arbiters said history. Really, if you like history so much, do us all a favor and listen to Hamilton instead. Actually, even if you don’t dig history, you should still listen to Hamilton.[4]

As long as we’re clinging to antiquated rules, let’s allow the base runner to attack the fielder again. Let’s bring back spitballs. Can we go back to discriminating against blacks and jews? Let’s defer to the old Knickerbocker Rules and scale games back to 21 outs. At least a 21-out game wouldn’t play longer than the Lord of the Rings Director’s Cut. Let’s prohibit player substitutions past the third inning for any reason whatsoever: your left fielder has a ‘roid attack and dies? Guess what, your team’s dWAR just went way down. Just like old times!

And in all the moaning over specialization, there’s nary a word about pinch hitting. Aren’t pinch hitters a form of specialization? In fact, baseball fans near the turn of the 20th Century made the same argument against pinch hitters as fans today make against the DH[5]. And look at how pinch hitting absolutely ruined baseball.

This says nothing of rank elitism. The #NeverDH’s loudest argument has always been that increased offense robs baseball of its erudite, cerebral nature. One fan went so far to call it “justifiable homicide[6].” In 40-plus years, the narrative hasn’t changed. Such discussions tend to carry a nose-in-the-air, us-vs-them tenor. Sparky Anderson once called the DH rule, “moronic,” saying, “This is equalization, making the dumbest as good as the smartest.[7]

It doesn’t get more American than that, Sparky: Baseball, apple pie and equating anything you don’t like with communism.

Those against the DH essentially argue they are a purer, smarter breed of baseball fan[8]. You AL brutes can kick and scream all you’d like. Your older NL brother knows what’s best. Now quiet down and take your medicine.

It’s time NL elites got off their high horses to smell the shit we’re all standing in. Baseball doesn’t belong to any one group of fans. Baseball is changing and growing, constantly adapting to ever-increasing health and athleticism. When Chapman went down, we changed how we choose and use baseballs. When Posey went down, we changed the home plate slide. It’s happened before and will happen again.

The bottom line is this: the argument against the DH is 1. Tradition (TRADITION!); and 1a. The slippery slope to 9 DH’s vs. 9 specialized pitchers. Neither argument holds water. The argument for the DH, on the other hand, is 1. Make baseball a more entertaining game; 2. Level the playing field between AL and NL; and 3. Make baseball a more entertaining game.

Stop chugging that DHaterade and learn to love the bat. The DH is awesome, even if you’re not.


[1] Recent Tabloid fodder would suggest Big Sexy is indeed swinging, but that’s a different matter altogether.
[2] Inside of Bartolo Colon, it’s hard to read.
[3] You Betcha!
[4] Hercules Mulligan or GTFO.
[5] “BALL REFORMS FAIL TO CREATE STIR WITH IDEAS: Schemes for Revising National Game Generally Appear Ridiculous to Fans” Sanborn, I E. Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922) [Chicago, Ill] 27 Feb 1916: B2
[6] “More comments about designated pinch hitter rule.” Slater, Carl. Chicago Tribune [Chicago, Ill] 31 Jan 1973: c3.
[7] “Dh, Still 4-Letter Word to Anderson, Seen as the Not-So-Great Equalizer.” By LEONARD KOPPETT. New York Times[New York, N.Y] 19 Oct 1976: 64
[8] “Designated Pinch Hitter Causes Stir in Minors.” Associated Press. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 12 May 1969: b5

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