Now for those of you who don't know, the National League is the older of the 2 leagues, and up until about 50 years ago, pitchers from both leagues actually hit for themselves (Gasp! The travesty!). As pitching has become a more specialized field, many Pitchers, apparently, had forgot how to swing a bat, so the American League decided it was in the best interest of everyone to have a player serve as a 'Designated Hitter' where the DH would hit in place of the pitcher. This was, and still is, a brilliant marketing move for a couple of reasons. First off, you take out the Pitcher who was quickly becoming a offensive liability and inserted another hitter, this meant more runs, and an unfortunate trend in american sports is that the consumer wants runs and if you can provide more action in terms of scoring, you can get more butts in the seats and subsequently make more money (which is the backbone of why many owners get into the game anymore, as evident by Major League Baseball allowing games to sit in rain delays until 3 and 4 in the morning and the steroid era of baseball). On top of injecting more offense into the game, it simplified the game for fans. For those of you who have not watched a National League game, particularly one managed by Tony Larussa, you see a larger variety of substitutions. When a pitcher is removed from the game, it is not uncommon to see a double switch (a position player comes in for the pitcher, and a pitcher comes in for a positions player) to maximize match ups, and possibly get an extra inning ouint of the pitcher. Another move that is very common in the National League is pinch hitting for a pinch hitter, this is done after the first pinch hitter forced a pitching change. By removing the first fall together, and limiting the number of times of the latter, you not only speed up the game, but you also make keeping track of substitutions all the easier.
No you may wonder from my title, after that long list of reasons as to why the DH has been good for the American League how on earth it could be bad for the game of baseball. The reason is the same as the reason looking the other way with steroids. While more runs seem better to the casual fan, the consequence of those runs is not worth it. As players stats go up, so does his salary, this much we all know well by now. But Major League Baseball has by far the least stringent salary cap/luxury tax limitations. In any given year the Yankees starting 9 earns more money than multiple teams (all 25 playesr) playing on the same day. By adding another potential everyday starter, you are thus increasing the amount of money teams are on the hook for. With the DH currently in place, in the last 2 off seasons we have seen incredibly lengthy and lucrative deals handed out to aging players (re: Hamilton and Pujos) because, the worst case scenario is that the team can run this player out as a DH later in his career rather than an everyday position player. With the salary gap already so great, we could easily see a situation in Major League Baseball similar to that in the Barclay's Premier League over in England. That is the same 3-5 teams competing for the title every year. this sounds great if you are a fan of one of those teams, but as we have seen in the case of many small market teams, they have little room for error in terms of giving out salaries, and if player salaries continue to get driven up, which I am saying will happen if the DH is instituted, you will be killing off many small market teams. Teams will be likely to follow the route of Loria down in Miami and the Houston leadership group in putting well substandard teams out on the field for years at a time with hope they can get enough top draft picks to maybe have a competitive team in decade... which they will likely have to sell off most of those players when major market/big salary teams come a calling with their absorbent offers. Yes, I know this is highly speculative, but the salary divide in baseball has been growing for decades and shows no signs up stopping, the Designated Hitter will only speed this up in the National League. And for those of you who are big market teams fans... as your ownership group throws money at player, just because they can, don't expect to see those ticket prices falling anytime soon... they have to make their money somehow.
Thanks for reading,
-T.O. signing out