(Image: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty)
Say what you will about the Houston Astros, but they’ve had about as big an impact a last-place team can have – by switching to the AL, they’ve taken the novelty out of interleague play. Now that there are interleague series all season long, it just isn’t special anymore. MLB tried to hold on to some of that magic this week by having all regional interleague rivals play home-and-home series, but…it wasn’t the same.
With that in mind, Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman had an amusing take earlier this week on the futility of pitchers at the bat:
I once regarded the designated hitter as a hideous and cancerous blight that would inevitably lead to the collapse of civilization. I still do, but I can live with that. What I can no longer endure is the sight of gifted athletes victimized by a conspiracy to make them look like clowns. […]
Besides the pitiful spectacle they present, batting pitchers distort the game, at least when the game is between an American League squad and a National League opponent. This year, under the expanded interleague schedule, that is just about every day.
Chapman uses the example of Ryan Vogelsong’s recent injury – he was hit by a pitch that broke a finger on his throwing hand – as an example of pitchers taking unnecessary risks by batting. But frankly, his argument that pitchers look like fools hitting for themselves is pretty persuasive by itself.
It’s obviously unfair that AL pitchers now have to hit for themselves at various points throughout the season when they have little experience in the batter’s box. When you consider that NL pitchers are overwhelmingly bad at hitting despite having plenty of experience, maybe it’s a sign we need to reexamine the wisdom of the practice.
When the Brewers switched to the NL, I was struck by how much strategy was involved. With the pitcher in the lineup, how the bench and bullpen were managed in late innings required more savvy than the AL game. I still feel the NL offers a more sophisticated, nuanced style of play – one that I find more entertaining.
I also understand that sometimes the world moves in a direction that does not align with my personal preferences. When only two baseball leagues on the planet don’t use the DH, it’s a sign I’m behind the times. Now that baseball is going through some major changes – including all-season interleague play, and potentially expanding instant replay – this might be the perfect time to bring the DH to the NL.
Even if it does lead to the collapse of civilization, at least we won’t have to watch another Mike Fiers plate appearance. Too bad we won’t be able to go back in time and erase Ben Sheets’ at-bats from history.