Over the years, there has been much debate about whether the National League should keep up with its counterpart American League in adopting a Designated Hitter. The American League first adopted the DH in 1973. The National League never has. Another thing that has caused all this debate has been recent injuries to pitchers Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals and Max Scherzer of the Nationals, both suffered while at the plate. Scherzer jammed his wrist while batting while Wainwright severely injured his Achilles while leaving the batters’ box after hitting a ball into the field. After the Wainwright injury, Scherzer came out in favor of the DH, telling CBS Sports, “I wouldn’t be opposed.” These injuries to two of the game’s best pitchers have rightfully brought up an important question: why are we making our pitchers hit when so few of them create offense anyway?
In the very early portions of this season and going into tonight’s action, pitchers in both leagues are hitting a combined .089. This underscores an important fact: most pitchers, except if they are bunting, are not even interested in hitting. After all, we’ve learned a cautionary tale over the past week: if pitchers try too hard, they can potentially get injured. I believe that these injuries will lead to pitchers giving an even more apathetic effort at the dish, leading to that number getting even lower. Another disadvantage to National League (or American League, in a National League Park) pitchers having what amounts to an almost automatic out is that it tips the scales even more towards the pitchers in a game that already favors them. No, I don’t want a repeat of the steroid era: I just want an evenly balanced game between offense and pitching. It pitchers going to try even less at the plate, fans will be less likely to be interested and hitting numbers in the NL will continue to stay the same or decline. But they’ll continue to be interested in this guy, at least:
Another point needs to be made here: why do two different leagues have a set of rules? Hypothetically, what if the NBA’s Western Conference allowed a sixth player on offense? Teams could plan for that luxury. How many three-pointers could the Warriors hit then? Or what if cornerbacks in the NFL’s NFC could get away with more hand contact/pass interference than in the AFC? Would the Seahawks ever allow a point again? Look, the point is, teams that are better at pitching in the National League are set. Take the Mets, for example. Their team ERA is collectively, under 3. Actually, take the entire National League. Three of the top 4 teams in ERA hail from the NL, but the top five teams in runs come from the American League. Also, in 19 games, the American League has scored seven more runs, has hit three more home runs, and has an OPS twenty points higher then the National League does. This can clearly be attributed to the added production of having a Designated Hitter in one league, and making a position of players that have hit a combined .089 this season hit in the other league.
The bottom line here is that two pitchers got injured this week doing something that they are not comfortable doing. One will be back soon. The other is not coming back this season. While he could have torn his Achilles going out to his car or walking a flight of stairs, he did it at the plate. There’s a tragedy in that. What if a team’s franchise middle-of-the-order hitter was made to pitch and got severely injured and missed the rest of his team’s season? His team might not reach its expectations for this season. That may happen to the Cardinals without Wainwright, just in the opposite scenario. Why should a team have to deal with this when it could be easily avoided by a simple rule change? This rule should be changed as soon as possible. Another famous injury we cannot forget about the Yankees’ Chien- Ming Wang, who suffered a foot injury while running the bases in the then-National League Houston Astros’ stadium in June of 2008. After that injury, Wang was never the same. He went from a Cy Young Award-winning caliber pitcher to one who averaged a 5.31 ERA in the four years that he pitched after the injury. He hadn’t been used to running the bases, and it can be speculated that we were robbed of one of the best pitchers in the game in his prime due to his having to run the bases and suffering the injury. There’s a tragedy in that, too.
While I understand the argument that “baseball purists” may make for National League baseball being superior to that of the American League, I think the rules should be the same in both leagues: there should be a DH, all the way around. We cannot allow any more pitchers to be injured over the course of a baseball game doing anything other than pitching. I’m sure this article will probably be met with disagreement by purists and those who generally like to watch pitchers hit (I don’t know anyone who does, unless it’s Bartolo Colon), but there should be a DH in all of Major League Baseball, and this rule should be enacted as soon as possible.
I wouldn’t be opposed.