“My only message is simple. The National League needs to join the 21st century,” Steinbrenner said in Tampa, Fla. “They need to grow up and join the 21st century.
“Am I (mad) about it? Yes,” Steinbrenner added. “I’ve got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He’s going to be out. I don’t like that, and it’s about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s.”
Making a rare appearance on the bases at an NL park, Wang pulled up rounding third and hobbled home on Derek Jeter’s single. Wang doubled over after scoring, pointed toward his right foot and was helped off the field.
Here’s another idea: get rid of the DH in the American League, so that everybody who plays Major League Baseball has to maintain the skills they all learned in every other league they ever played in, since they were 7 years old. You know, actual baseball skills, including baserunning. And by doing so, stay in better shape.
Pitchers don’t have to be complete liabilities on offense: the Cubs have 3 or 4 pitchers who can be dangerous at the plate, and even use one of their pitchers as a pinch-runner on occasion. Carlos Zambrano is hitting .362 this year, with a home run, two doubles, and last week, a triple, and has a .511 slugging percentage. Their top four pitchers with at least 21 AB (Zambrano, Dempster, Marquis, Lilly) have scored 9 runs, have 31 hits (including nine doubles), and have driven in 13 runs. Not DH type stats, no, but not bad for the number 9 spot in the order, which is the correct comparison.
As a baseball fan, I want every player to be a complete player, or as close to complete as they can possibly be. The AL game, with the DH, has evolved into a game with two players (out of the starting nine) who have limited skills: the DH, who is nearly always old, fat, and slow, and the pitcher, who can’t be bothered with running bases to stay in shape, or taking BP twice a week so that they can drop a bunt once in a while or hit a mistake into the gap now and again.
Every one-dimensional player is a team weakness, generally speaking. An exception would be somebody like Boston Red Sox DH David Ortiz, a guy who is so good and so smart that a lack of speed doesn’t hurt the team. And most DHs are not David Ortiz.
And, just to be fair, another problem with the DH from the perspective of the GM and the manager is that the DH always makes a lot of money, even though he can’t play the field, so you both open your checkbook and weaken your bench. But they never have to double switch to move the pitcher down in the lineup, so they don’t care that much. And so, the manager can just sit in the dugout and change pitchers only when they’d like, instead of having to juggle all three areas of baseball: the lineup, the defense, and the pitching.
Is that a better game for the fan? Not this one. I would even say you have to be a better manager to manage winning baseball in the National League, all else being equal.
The DH is just another example in a long line of attempts to fine tune sports by changing the rules. They generally do not work all that well, and always have unintended consequences (that are rarely positive), and often actually make the sport worse. Such as, say, by normalizing the idea that a pitcher shouldn’t have to run the bases a few times a year.