A Designated Hitter Now Swinging in the NL

Purists — as they are often identified — will object.  It is also true that objections have streamed from them for much of the now nearly Half Century during which the Designated Hitter Rule has been an American League staple.  In fact tha National Professional Baseball League has for years stood as the only organized hard ball group — college ball included — not to employ the DH Rule.   Questions arise as to how its adoption by the Senior Circuit is likely to change The Game from its most familiar aspects of recent decades.  My preliminary venture:  some, but not profoundly .  Here is why.

Relief Pitching/Pinch Hitting Management.  Without doubt NL managers have grappled with a juggling of the relief corps with an attentive eye on each team’s upcoming hitting order.  Countless scenarios have arisen in which the “Double Switch” was invoked as a maneuver to bring on the hitting strength at the soonest, while holding a pitcher out of the batter’s box until the latest.  The DH removes such stratagems from consideration.  NL dugouts will now join all the others in engaging their adjudged best pitchers and hitters depending only on game circumstance — inning, number of outs, and score.  

Brush Backs.  It has been widely assumed that for as long as the (or a) pitcher’s name appeared on a lineup card hitters were less likely to be threatened the high and inside fast ball.  Retaliation stood close by.  But as a pitcher now take a rest while his team is at bat any such inhibitions would be removed, hitters thus standing in at growing peril.  It may well be that “quants” at SABR could produce credible AL statistics to this general effect, but if so they have been kept carefully under wraps.     

Migrating Sluggers.  Doubtless to a greater extent than was anticipated at its outset, the DH Rule has cleared pathways for veteran sluggers to prolong their years on the fields.  As time brought on an erosion of speed and defensive skills, keen hitting eyes and quick bats remained.  Numerous veteran National League stars thus migrated to American League clubs, much to the delight of fans and the enrichment of their own finances.  Contemporary stars such as Matt Holliday and Ryan Howard could previously have been motivated to join Albert Pujols and from earlier decades Dave Parker and Henry Aaron in setting themselves beneath new tents in a different league.  Or they may prefer to remain in place, serving as DH for their existing NL clubs.Conclusion.  No shortage of possibilities.  A certainty:  we will all know more about how this shakes out five or six years from today.  The NL’s adoption is unlikely to inflict any lasting harm to The Game, last seen on a field in 2021 as the Atlanta Braves claimed the 4th World Series Title in Franchise history.      


  • Roger McNamara

    Born and raised mostly in Cleveland, OH. Spent 3 years overseas duty in Military Intelligence. Lived in New York City for 12 years, where our 3 children were born. A lifelong fan and rooter for: New York Yankees; Cleveland Browns; Boston Celtics; Montreal Canadiens; The Ohio State University. More recently acquired an interest in UConn Lady Husky basketball. Now age 76 and retired --- except for writing articles for MentalDimes --- in the Pacific Northwest.

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