Let’s Get Creative with the DH

Because it’s a Thursday in January and there is very little to write about except the possibility of the Washington Nationals possibly spending $100 million or more to sign a fifth outfielder less than two weeks after trading for a fourth outfielder, let’s turn our attention to the DH debate that never seems to die. Back when you’re in kindergarten or preschool, one of the life lessons they teach you (if your parents have failed for the first five years of your life) is how to make a compromise. Let’s say you’ve been arguing with your neighbor over which color crayon is the best. The whole problem can be solved if you can both find a way to agree that red and blue are both awesome colors, but green is actually the best.

Bear with me, this will not be a post about kindergarten or colors for much longer.

Allegedly, there is traction building in the direction of bringing the DH to both leagues. That makes some people who don’t like watching Adam Wainwright rupture his Achilles very happy. It makes people who enjoy watching Madison Bumgarner hit home runs very sad. It gives the creators of falling-over Bartolo Colon GIFs an even bigger frowny face. Don’t even let the double-switch crowd get started. Personally, I will miss interesting tidbits of information like this if pitchers stop hitting altogether:

  • Wandy Rodriguez is a 37-year-old starting pitcher who has appeared in 275 big-league games.
  • Wandy Rodriguez is a switch-hitting pitcher.
  • Wandy Rodriguez has taken 74 at-bats as a right-handed batter against right-handed pitchers. He has batted .108 in those at-bats.
  • Wandy Rodriguez has taken 263 at-bats as a left-handed batter against right-handed pitchers. He has batted .125 in those at-bats.
  • Finally, Wandy Rodriguez has taken 110 at-bats as a right-handed batter against left-handed pitchers and has batted .173 in those at-bats.
  • Why the heck does Wandy Rodriguez need to switch hit?

Pitchers hitting in this day and age is somewhat silly. It’s like asking the right tackle to drop back and throw one pass per quarter. He’s probably not going to do a very good job. Every once in a while, he might call the right hot route and catch the defense napping. Most likely, your offensive lineman will fumble a few snaps in the process — just like most pitchers will not even be able to lay down a sacrifice bunt. It’s even more silly for two leagues to have two different sets of rules. The Houston Astros should not lose Evan Gattis from their lineup during a crucial series on the season’s final weekend that will decide their playoff fate. Baseball needs to unite under one comprehensive set of rules.

Understanding that there are some very good things about the National League’s brand of baseball, how can a compromise be arrived at that will keep all parties somewhat happy? Many managers actually like navigating the double switch and all the intricacies of managing a bullpen and bench without being able to fall back on their DH. It keeps them more engaged in the action. Deciding to pull Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning of a one-run game because there is a runner on second is a really tough decision. While I do not enjoy watching most pitchers hit, that is a part of baseball I do not want to lose — the “thinking man’s game” part.

There is no way the DH is going away in the American League, and with interleague play on the schedule from April to October, baseball needs to get both its leagues on the same page. Let’s revisit the crayon situation I laid out at the top of the article and compromise.

What if both leagues had the DH, but only so long as the starting pitcher remained in the game? Revolutionary thinking, I know.

This could work, but only if both sides are willing to budge a little teensy, tiny bit. The MLBPA might not be super into the idea of having David Ortiz and his cronies lose an at-bat per game. On the other hand, a job is opened up for 15 more players in the National League. A manager could always be given the option of putting a glove on his DH’s hand and putting him in the field when removing his starting pitcher. How’s that for drama and decision making? I can see it now.

We’re going to the bullpen — two outs in the top of the eighth, clinging to a two-run lead with runners on second and third — bring in Ortiz to play first base!

The strategic element of the game taken away by the DH can still be kept in both leagues without totally abandoning the DH as a whole. Pitchers don’t have to risk injury running the bases. Fans don’t have to watch five or six (mostly) useless plate appearances every game. This is not the easiest way to solve the problem, and in the end, both leagues will likely employ the DH on a full-time basis.

Baseball is going to change its rules one day in the future, whether we as fans like it or not. A little creativity would go a long way into making a rule change without upsetting the whole apple cart. Some of us like the DH, while others like watching pitchers hit. We can’t all be happy, but maybe we can find a way to make it work.

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