The Designated Hitter Rule: It’s Just About Time to Do It National League


Since April 6, 1973 when Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees became the first Designated Hitter in baseball history, MLB has been divided amongst itself. The American League uses it and the National League does not. In case you were interested, Blomberg walked in that first at bat against Luis Tiant.

On face value alone it smacks of discombobulation. That would be like the NFL would have a rule that the American Conference would accept and the National Conference would not. Major League Baseball is an umbrella that covers both the American and National Leagues. There should be one set of rules which governs both leagues and they both must follow all the rules.

As a baseball purist from the medieval times, I was dead-set against the rule when it came into play nearly 40 years ago. I thought it would fizzle out and just go away within four or five years. It did not represent a level playing field for everyone.

The DH’s inaugural year in the All-Star game was 1989 and was to be in effect only when the game was played at an American League venue. In 2010 it was decided that all All-Star games would implement the DH format.

In 1976 it reared its ugly head in the World Series. Today it is used when the games are played in the AL and not when played in NL parks. Confusing, nonsensical, the old, “When in Rome do as the Romans do.”

Being that same baseball purist that shook his fist at the TV in 1973 and cursed the American League, I now waive the white flag. I surrender, give up, why can’t we just all get along?

The time has come for cohesion. There is no need for National League managers to “plan ahead” when the inter-league games start. Everyone should now use the same rules. It isn’t even fair when we speak of pitcher’s records. The AL hurlers are handicapped having to face nine decent hitters, instead of eight good hitters and, in most cases, an automatic out, as is the case of NL pitchers.

It has even affected the Hall of Fame selection. Edgar Martinez has some excellent statistics but in his career which spans 2,055 games, he only played a position in 592 of them. So I assume most writers who didn’t see fit to vote for him blame it on the fact that he only “played” 29 percent of the time. The actual “playing” apparently didn’t bother Martinez because as a DH he crafted a slash line of .314/.428/.532. At 1B his line was /.380/.453/.810, and at the hot corner he posted a line of .302/.391/.459.

In 2012 the combined ERA for American League pitchers was 4.08, while the National League pitchers posted a 3.95 mark. I chased the numbers back to 2000 and they were pretty much in line differentially. Some seasons the AL pitchers were almost .4 of a run higher than the NL.

To develop a comparison for the offensive side of it, in HR the AL teams averaged 179 while their counterparts averaged only 152. The averages and OBP were very close but the AL still had a very small advantage. What would that say? Most of the DH are power hitters?

When it does come to a National League city near you, and it will, embrace it. Dusty Baker and the rest of them can just put it on auto-pilot and let her go. No more double switches, just take the hook to the mound.

The longer this “evil twin” persona continues, the worse it gets statistically for player’s careers. They all are major leaguers, they are all paid a competitive wage (yeah right) and they should all drink from the same cup.

Are you with me or against me?

Follow me on Twitter.
Read more of my work on my MLB blog.