By Ken Reed

It looks like Major League Baseball (MLB) is actually going to make it to the starting line this week and play some real games in 2020.

Personally, I don’t think Covid-19 is going to allow MLB to complete their shortened 60-game season. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to watching some real live baseball games.

Not all baseball fans are happy, however. I live in a National League (NL) city and I’m surrounded by fans who are up in arms over the fact the designated hitter (DH) will be used in NL games this season for the first time.

For years, the NL has fought a lonely battle against the DH. Virtually every organized baseball league — including international leagues, high schools, American Legion, colleges and minor leagues — have the DH rule. (Japan’s Central League doesn’t use the DH but their Pacific League does.) The result is that pitchers are rarely asked to hit as they climb the ladder to the big leagues. Therefore, pitchers as hitters are worse than they’ve ever been.

Most of the time, it’s down right embarrassing watching a pitcher go to the plate and try to swing the bat in NL games. It’s as if teams pulled some beer-guzzling fan out of the stands, gave him or her a bat, pointed the way to home plate and said “Good luck!”

Can’t we face reality here? Hitting isn’t part of a pitcher’s job description. Scouts, GMs, managers and coaches never consider how pitchers hit when evaluating them. Hitting and pitching are two completely different skill sets. Position players work endlessly on their hitting skills. Pitchers might spend 5 minutes a week on hitting, and half of that is spent practicing sacrifice bunting.

As fans, we enjoy watching professional-level sporting events because we can see the greatest athletes in the world demonstrate their elite skills. That’s true in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and most of the time in MLB. There’s one exception: pitchers trying to hit in the National League.

Baseball traditionalists are desperately trying to hold on to the pitcher having to come to the plate in NL games, despite the fact pitchers aren’t professional hitters — not even close. And for what reason? The “exciting thrill” of watching managers walk out of the dugout and tell the home plate umpire that they are about to execute an exciting double-switch?

It’s time for baseball traditionalists to see the proverbial light and move forward. It’s been 47 years now since the American League (AL) adopted the DH. Leagues around the globe have followed suit. This horse left the barn a long time ago.

Surrender and accept the DH NL fans.

And then focus on the enjoyment of seeing one more professional hitter in every NL team’s batting order this season.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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