Red Sox Life Showdown: The DH Debate

Red Sox Life
Contributing writers Ben Whitehead and The Guru

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the designated-hitter rule. On April 6, 1973, Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees became the first designated hitter in Major League Baseball history when he faced Boston Red Sox right-hander pitcher Luis Tiant. EL Tiante walked "Boomer" and the debate over the DH has raged on ever since.

Didn’t you just know that if there was going to be a fight about something the Sox and Yankees would be involved somehow?

Should the American League get rid of the DH? Should the National League finally embrace it? Strong, passionate and sometimes “unfriendly” arguments have been made for both sides. After 40 years, the issue has never come close to being resolved, be it in MLB’s front office or on the stools at The Cask ‘n’ Flagon.

With the Red Sox set to begin interleague play in Philadelphia tonight, Red Sox Life contributing writers Ben Whitehead and The Guru square off to settle the debate once and for all. Maybe.

Batting for the designated hitter rule is Ben Whitehead: I’m just gonna come right out and say it: the designated hitter ain’t going anywhere! Nor should it.

Yeah, I know there are the baseball purists who believe what they want to believe, but c’mon man! We are in a different world than it was in 1903. Baseball, like most everything else, is an evolving game. Should we do away with instant replay, too, just because they didn’t have that in the past? How about lesser testing for drugs, steroids and PEDs? Babe Ruth didn’t have to get his blood levels tested for HGH.

My point is, the DH is a beautiful thing. As Red Sox fans, we know. If not for the DH, we may still be on year 95 of the curse. Instead, thanks to Big Papi, we have TWO World Series titles in our pockets in the last 10 years.

To be totally honest, I’m all for adding the DH to the National League, especially now that Major League Baseball has an even number of teams in each league. The Sox play at Colorado in the last week of the season. Is it fair that Boston’s DH may have to take a day or two off that other teams like the Yankees, Rangers, etc., won’t at a time that is crucial to the final standings? How unfair is it that the Red Sox and Yankees maybe racing for the AL East crown or a Wild Card spot and New York gets to have a full nine-man lineup while Boston has eight and a pitcher?

I’m sure Bud Selig and Co. are contemplating all options, but something has to change. And the answer is not taking away the DH.

And pitching against the designated hitter is The Guru: The DH Rule started with the intention of making baseball more flashy, more exciting. This was on the heels of Denny Mclain winning 31 games and Carl Yastrzemski leading the AL with just a .301 average. The pitcher’s mound was lowered and five years later we had the DH in the American League. Hurray.

Call me a baseball purist if you must. Just keep in mind I don’t remember the game without the DH. I’m no Bob Costas waxing poetically for the bygone days of streetcars and the Polo Grounds. I just prefer brains over brawn.

Chicks may dig the long ball, but fans also love the multilayered strategy that made the game great. Who doesn’t like a double steal followed by double switch? Hitters in the National League will bunt for a hit, sacrifice and play hit and run. The game just moves faster. Isn’t that a complaint of baseball fans that the games are too long? NL games are shorter. Fact.

Managers in the National League are always thinking two-three innings ahead rather than waiting for a three-run bomb. What’s better, a great all-around player like Bryce Harper reaching on an infield single, stealing second then scoring on a hit and run or a lumbering slugger like Adam Dunn striking out 180 times a year?

An argument I always hear is that by taking away the DH players will lose jobs. That’s a fallacy created by agents and the union to keep salaries high. Usually the DH spot is occupied by an aging star (higher salary) that can no longer play the field on a regular basis (if at all). In the National League that spot is occupied usually by a younger player (lower salary) that can play multiple positions, can pinch hit (a lost art) or pinch run. You don’t think pinch running is important? Ask Terry Francona about Dave Roberts.

And finally, in the National League the pitcher has to bat. Just like when we played. There are nine players in baseball. Nine take the field. The same nine have to hit. From the sandlot to the Friendly Confines that is how the game is meant to be played.

How do you feel about the DH? Who wins the showdown? Comment below