St. Louis Cardinals: The non-inclusion of the DH in the National League
The St. Louis Cardinals play a slightly different style of baseball because of the DH. There is now modern discussion of including it in the National League. Why am I vehemently against this?
The designated hitter was introduced to Major League Baseball during 1973 in an effort to increase offense around the league. While it partially achieved these effects, it also created a sense of identity between the two leagues. For starters, the background of the DH and the St. Louis Cardinals‘ relationship with it must be discussed.
It was implemented in 1973, a full 46 years ago. Bartolo Colon, the oldest player to appear in the MLB in 2018, was 1 month old when the first DH stepped up to the plate. This was an entirely different era of baseball and history in general. The St. Louis Cardinals had not won a World Series in a full 6 years!
The Athletics won the 1973 World Series, and the Dolphins the Superbowl. Being born in 2000, I cannot remember a time where either team went deep into the postseason for their respective sports. The cost of a 1973 Superbowl add was $88,000, compared to $5 million in 2018.
Baseball was a widely different sport in 1973. I cannot stress this enough. The eventual World Series-winning Athletics had three separate pitchers who won 20 games. There were only two such pitchers in the entirety of baseball in 2018. The game has drastically changed. Why should a change enacted in a different era still be prevalent today?
Pitchers and hitters go about their games in many different ways. So do statisticians. If you had mentioned the concept of quantifying the value of a player (via Wins Above Replacement), you would have been mocked in 1973. The baseball world would have called you a nerd and moved on. Suggesting adding the DH to the NL would have been received as heresy. These are old ideals that we are attempting to imprint on a modernized sport.
One aspect of this modernization is the introduction of the two-way player. This is a player that both pitches and hits when he doesn’t pitch.
Shohei Ohtani of the Angels is the posterchild of this movement, performing well in all aspects of the sport. His success in 2018 has opened the path for players like Michael Lorenzen of the Reds and Matt Davidson of the Rangers to explore this path. The Tampa Bay Rays have a prospect named Brendan McKay who is attempting to follow in the footsteps of those before him as a two-way player.
This season, Ohtani became the first man since Babe Ruth to pitch at least 50 innings and hit 20 home runs. Ruth is often considered the best player to have ever graced the field, and we are seeing his second coming. The universal DH removes the true usefulness of these players by removing the at-bats they would receive while pitching.
More from Redbird Rants
- Cardinals Rumors: 3 pros and cons of signing Carlos Rodon
- What’s next for the St. Louis Cardinals after Contreras signing?
- Report: Cardinals Emerge As Mystery Team for Carlos Rodon
- Cardinals: Trade targets after signing Willson Contreras
- Reflecting on the 2013 Cardinals’ top 30 prospects
One argument for adding the DH to the National League is that baseball is the only sport wherein the two divisions play by different rules. Is it not also the same sport where the field of play is not uniformly defined? Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Dodger Stadium are all ballparks that come to mind.
Fenway has the Green Monster in left field, Wrigley has ivy on its walls, and Dodger Stadium’s longest wall is 395 feet from home plate. These ballparks have become iconic in the baseball world and will most likely never be shut down or have their walls renovated drastically. If this rule is not modified, why change another “vestigial limb”?
A final argument used by many people is that the DH improves the safety of pitchers. I would argue that a pitcher is in more danger on the mound than at the plate. Comebackers and line drives seem to do much more harm to a pitcher than a hit by pitch. Most players hit by pitches remain in the game and run the bases. Most pitchers hit by a comebacker take a trip to the injured list.
Before improving safety at the plate, safety on the mound must be considered. Pitchers have been offered padded caps to protect their heads from line drives and prevent injuries like the one suffered by Jimmy Nelson of the Brewers and Alex Cobb of the Orioles.
Now, this is a situation that would be ideal for the 2019 Cardinals Roster. Jose Martinez is an ideal DH and would fill the role immediately. However, that is a long-term solution to a short-term problem. A better solution would be for him to learn how to field or to put him in a different situation to succeed.
There are inherently players who cannot field but hit very well. There are also players who cannot hit but field very well. Brendan Ryan and Jose Iglesias come to mind. We cater to those who hit well but not to those who field well. Why is that? Why should those players careers be extended, but not the fielders?
My point is this is not a viable solution in baseball in 2019. It causes more problems than it would solve in the National League. It also removes almost any nuance left to the game of baseball. The art of the bunt will be lost. The strategy of the game is almost entirely removed. Pinch-hitting becomes almost a non-factor.
There are many many things that Major League Baseball should change before even considering introducing the DH to the National League. Much more pressing concerns include the state of Free Agency, pitcher safety on the mound, and interest among younger people. An increase in putting the ball in play will do better for the sport than a rule change like this.