In Defense of the DH Rule

I read an article the other day called “In Defense of the No-DH Rule”, where the author listed ten reasons why he doesn’t like the DH rule. Before I comment on this, let me say two things:

  1. I like the DH rule in the AL.
  2. I do not want to see the DH rule implemented in the NL. Call me a traditionalist or “old school” or whatever, but I’m totally fine with pitchers hitting in the NL, and I agree with the poster who says “It would be sad to see the rule that makes the NL unique disappear.”

The reason that I like the DH rule is simple: in general, pitchers can’t hit. They spend all their training time working on pitching (as they should), and don’t have time to spend at the other end of the batting cage. How does having an almost guaranteed out every nine batters make the game better? It does make managing more of a challenge (it’s more work to think about pinch hitters and shuffling lineups and when to make defensive changes and such) and that’s not a bad thing, but all they’re doing is trying to work around one player’s glaring incompetence in a vital aspect of the game.

Looking at the article (I won’t quote all ten points and address them individually, you’ll have to go to the article itself), of the 10 reasons in that article not to have the DH rule, five of them (1, 2, 4, 7, 8) boil down to “managing is harder because pitchers can’t hit”. Numbers 3 and 5 I agree with. Number 6 (“You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball”) isn’t helping his cause much — DHs only do one of those three, but pitchers only do two. The quote isn’t “You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you bunt the ball and hope to make contact and that the third baseman or catcher blows the play” (because pitchers generally can’t run, either). As for number 9, pitchers can and have pinch hit in the AL as well. I don’t understand how point 10 is an argument against the DH, but it also boils down to “pitchers can’t hit”.

Maybe because I’ve grown up a Blue Jay fan, I’m just used to the DH rule. But whenever I do watch an NL game, I shake my head every time I see the pitcher strike out on three pitches or weakly ground out. Forcing a player who’s great at one thing to go out there and do something else that he sucks at just doesn’t make the game better. You don’t force your punter to be a defensive lineman as well. You don’t force your goalie to take shots in the shootout.

I’ve said before that I don’t like the idea of a full-time DH because he only hits, and fielding is an important part of baseball. But I’ve changed my mind on that. Edgar Martinez was a great hitter who because of injury couldn’t play the field. Without a DH rule, you either force him to go out and play the field, or he retires. If you make him play, (a) his inability to play defensively hurts your team, and (b) his injuries probably get worse and he has to retire anyway. If Martinez had retired before becoming a full-time DH, baseball fans would have been robbed of watching him play and that would have been too bad.


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