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Yes, it's time to finally add the DH to the National League

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

Victor Martinez is having a huge season as a DH. How is that bad?
Victor Martinez is having a huge season as a DH. How is that bad? (USATSI)

More: MLB's offensive decline continues

As explained in the above linked article, Major League Baseball is in a down spell when it comes to offense right now. Obviously we could paint the picture in a positive light by saying that pitching is dominant right now, but with the lowest batting average and on-base percentage since 1972, I tend to focus more on a lack of offense.

Hmmm. 1972. What happened after that season?

Oh, yes, the American League adopted the designated hitter.

Considering the lack of offense right now and how the trends favor that continuing before reversing, might it be time to just go with a universal designated hitter?

My vote is for yes. So let's once again travel down this beaten path.

It's just not because of the offensive issues, either. There are several reasons that both leagues should have the same rules.

First of all, just read that previous sentence and consider how silly it sounds. Why in the world do two leagues playing the same sport under the same MLB umbrella have different rules? I've asked similar hypotheticals before, but what if the NBA had a three-point line in the West and no three-point line in the East? How insane does that sound?

In Major League Baseball, it's been accepted reality for over four decades. It's accepted just because that's how it has been, not because it makes sense.

And now, with each league being balanced with an odd number of teams, we have interleague play throughout the entire season. With NL teams being built with a bigger bench, more flexibility and not necessarily a DH-type player while AL teams have guys like David Ortiz, Victor Martinez and Billy Butler rostered instead of extra utility players, it used to be a bit of a novelty to play a few interleague series.

Now it's just two teams playing each other while one has to adjust its gameplan and get out of its comfort zone. Of course, this has happened every year since 1973 in only the most important series of the year: The World Series.

Again, this is a perfect time of year to use this example, so let's use the NBA example. What if going into the NBA Finals, the East team had to adjust how it played defense to deal with the three-pointer in the West venue while the West club lost one of its best offensive weapons heading into the East venue? Let's just phrase it as simply as possible before quickly moving: That would be very stupid.

I seriously don't find it much different than the AL vs. NL games we see all year, which, again, includes the series in which MLB crowns its champion for the season.

So either the NL needs the DH or the AL needs to lose it, right? Good luck getting the MLB Players Association to accept losing the DH and, with it, upwards of 15 jobs to aging veterans.

Even if we leave that important fact aside, adding the DH makes more sense than taking it away.

Again, take note of the offensive decline. Factor in the demographics that show baseball is most popular with older people and that younger people aren't quite as interested as they are in a few other sports. An uptick in scoring could help matters there and, as we know, pitchers generally suck at hitting. For every Adam Wainwright, Zack Greinke or Travis Wood who can handle the bat, there are at least three guys who are completely lost at the plate.

Now, in rebuttal, I often hear something along the lines of "well that's baseball! Every player has to field his position!"

Sorry, I don't think watching Bartolo Colon stand awkwardly in the batter's box giving the opposing team a free out is beautiful. It doesn't have to be baseball, either. As sports evolve, certain positions become more specialized. Pitchers used to finish their games and there weren't even relievers. Now there are specialized relievers. This isn't "wussification" or some other made-up word by people who are unable put together a reasonable thought process. This is teams realizing that bringing in a fresh fireballer late in the game is much more effective than rolling out a tired starter after 120 pitches.

By the same token, having an extra offensive player in the lineup would only increase the level of play. These are supposed to be the best players in the world. Why, in the middle of supposedly seeing the best players in the world battle, does it make the game of baseball so beautiful to throw an inept hitter in the batter's box at a big spot, essentially giving the opposing pitcher a free ticket out of the inning?

It doesn't. I refuse to accept, meanwhile, that stud hitters like Martinez or Ortiz are somehow bad for the game. They're great for the the game, especially seeing guys at their age still raking.

Further, it bears mention that having the DH rule in place still would mean there's an option. If a manager still wants someone like Wainwright to hit for himself, he's allowed to do that. Flexibility. What a novel concept.

All great games evolve with the times. Not having the DH once made sense. The AL owners once thought it made sense to have a designated hitter. Ever since then, we've had two leagues with different rules. That doesn't make sense at all.

Time to evolve, National League.

 
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