Blog Entry

Realignment can't come before universal DH

Posted on: June 16, 2011 11:10 am
Edited on: June 16, 2011 12:50 pm
By Matt Snyder

With all this talk over the past week of realignment, moving of teams to different leagues and perpetual interleague play, I can't help but think we're putting the cart before the horse.

You see, any talk of having to play interleague games involves the DH question. It's a disadvantage for American League teams to have to play in NL ballparks, because they lose one of their better hitters. David Ortiz and Billy Butler will be relegated to pinch-hitting duties. The Tigers might shift Alex Avila to third base so Victor Martinez can catch and stay in the lineup. Adam Dunn -- who has been awful, but recently started swinging better -- is likely to ride the pine.

On the flip-side, National League teams aren't built with DH-types. So when they visit AL parks, they're forced to play a different brand of baseball and sometimes use a light-hitting utility player at DH. More often, they put their worst defender at DH and play someone else on defense -- think of the Cubs using Alfonso Soriano at DH in Fenway Park, for example.

Still, it's not how the teams are built.

When it's just a few games a season, no one seems to mind. But when you think about doing it all season -- as most of the realignment proposals suggest by moving a team to the AL and creating two 15-team leagues -- it becomes more of an issue.

The only thing I can think of is that the most important series of the season has this problem every single year. It has since 1973. The World Series is affected by the fact that two leagues playing the same sport have a fundamental rule difference.

How do we not collectively, as fans of the great game, revolt over this ridiculousness?

What if the East had no 3-point line in the NBA but the West did? What if the AFC didn't have an illegal contact rule on defensive backs, but the NFC did? What if the East allowed offsides in the NHL, but the West didn't? Don't those sound absurd?

Well, baseball has a huge difference in rules for each league. It wouldn't matter for the regular season if there were no interleague play, but, again, the freaking World Series would still tilt drastically in favor of the home team for each game because of how NL and AL rosters are built.

Saying to make the DH universal -- that is, to add the DH to the NL -- sets anyone up for scrutiny. You can't say you're for it without accusations of hating the purity of the game being hurled in your direction. But let's think about this logically, step by step, with three simple points:

1. I don't care if the DH is eliminated or added to the NL, but its use has to be uniform. Pick one side or the other.

2. The Players Association will never allow the league to eliminate the DH. It provides extra jobs to aging veterans who can swing the bat but can't field anymore. It extends careers. You can argue this vs. purity of the game all day long, or you can concede elimination of the DH isn't happening.

3. Runs are way down now that the game is (relatively) cleaned up from PEDs. While stellar pitching is exciting to people like you and I, it doesn't excite youth or casual adult fans like scoring runs does. Baseball is not nearly as popular with today's youth as some other sports, and that could become a problem down the road. There's already a growing problem with casual adult fans in terms of ratings and dwindling attendance. With the pitcher spot a virtual automatic out -- excluding the Jason Marquis and Carlos Zambrano types, of course -- it makes sense to use a DH in both leagues in an attempt to slightly increase offense.

It isn't radical to suggest the NL adopt a designated hitter. In fact, it's radical to have two leagues with a major rule difference. Making things balanced is simply common sense.

It's time to end the madness. Before anything else is done to baseball, the designated hitter needs to be used everywhere.

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Since: Apr 25, 2011
Posted on: February 16, 2012 1:34 am

Realignment can't come before universal DH

National League baseball with the pitchers batting is about as exciting as watching paint dry.  Spread the DH to both leagues.  It is just AWFUL!!!!

Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 22, 2011 10:36 am
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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 5, 2011 6:21 pm

Realignment can't come before universal DH

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Since: Jan 3, 2010
Posted on: October 13, 2011 9:11 pm

Realignment can't come before universal DH

The purity of the game argument is extremely weak.  Players from different eras cannot be compared directly right now anyhow.  Part of that fact is due to several rule changes.  The changing of the pitching mound height was a big rule change that had a noticeable impact on statistics.  The fact there is such a huge difference in rules between the two leagues makes it unfair to compare players between the two leagues TODAY (let alone a different era).  The average ERA difference between the AL East and the National League was about 0.6 in 2010. 

Make the rule uniform.  Fantasy baseball players (except the AL/NL only fringe element) would rejoice greatly. 

Since: Jul 1, 2010
Posted on: October 13, 2011 9:52 am

Realignment can't come before universal DH

For me, a lot of the "purity of the game" arguments seem weak, as I felt the game lost its purity a long time ago. Specifically, I tuned it out during the strike of 94-95, and haven't really been brought back in. Sure, I got interested during some of the Yankees-Red Sox postseason series, but the disparity between large- and small-market teams and the influence of performance-enhancing drugs has really made me not care a whole lot about the game. For me, these things destroy the purity of the game. How does playing teams in the other league hurt the purity? In every other major sport, teams play the other division/conference. The ONLY reason this is even noticed in MLB is because the two sides play by different rules. You give them the same rulebook, and it's just another game. To make both sides happy, why not have a 10-man roster with both a pitcher AND a DH batting? The player's association still has the DH position to keep the veteran players employed, and the NL "purists" still get to utilize the roster strategies they want. Is it "pure?" No, but again, who really cares? Unless something is done to improve parity, the purist arguments fall flat.

Since: Mar 23, 2007
Posted on: October 13, 2011 7:46 am

Realignment can't come before universal DH

Nice stray man argument Matt. The real issue isn't the tradition, it's the perversion of the game itself, and the way the DH completely changes the complection of the game, strategy-wise. And the players' union is going to balk at the cutting of 15 jobs, at most, a year. Fielding is part of the game, and so is the strategy of whether to remove your pitcher and play for another run, or keep your pitcher in, betting he has stuff to go another inning. And if you look at the modern DH, it is commonly no longer a slot utilized by a team to play old sluggers. There are certainly examples of this (Thome), but there are numerous examples where teams are using younger players who lack defensive fundamentals in that spot.  One huge reason I have no AL team loyalty is because I find DH baseball hard to watch. It has little to do with the tradition of the game, but in a broader sense, when you so pervert the strategy of the game itself by using a DH, you are indeed destroying the game's tradition. 

Since: Oct 13, 2011
Posted on: October 13, 2011 12:33 am

Realignment can't come before universal DH

The Astros... back to the AL?

Better check your research. Not only have the Astros been in the NL for 50 years, even when they were a AAA affiliate, this was an NL town, as the Buffs were in the Cardinals farm system.

The Astros like the idea of moving...?

I'm an Astros fan. I frequent Astros fan boards. I read the Houston Chron comments and comments on stories you find there... you clearly have none of that same experience if you think there is anything less than a vast majority of Astros fans absolutely pizzed off that Selig's doing us in... again.

I think you might confuse us...

For the Tampa Bay Rays who are, indeed, on record that they want to switch leagues.

Or, for the Washington Nationals who could switch with Tampa, and a city with an AL history... Washington... could enjoy a spirited rivalry with the O's.

Or, for the Milwaukee Brewers... no wait... you know that Milwaukee would be going back to the AL.

And if all that happened? KC, with a history of playing in the AL West and who isn't much farther away from where the Rangers play than HOU is, could readily play there again. (I bring that up b/c supposedly it's a priority to get a Central time zone partner for Nolan's team.)

Since: Oct 13, 2011
Posted on: October 13, 2011 12:23 am

End the DH Divide by Compromise Rule

Surveys show a majority (~55-60%) of fans who frequent baseball message boards... thus, likely the more intensive fans... would prefer a compromise rule be engineered of some kind over having to endure establishment of a universal DH (ostensibly, NL fans) or elimination of the DH (ostensibly, AL fans).

The proposal I've offered is to appoint a blue ribbon committee of non-executive and non-players-union well-known baseball advocates... media guys like Bob Costas could be considered... ex-managers like Lou Pinella... ex-umps like Harry Wendelstedt... maybe even someone like George Will...

And give those guys 3-6 months to meet, brainstorm, and determine a compromise rule that best appears to meet the AL fans' hunger for greater offense that has to-date centered simply on substituting the pitcher's at-bats, while also the NL fans' hunger for inclusion of managerial strategy which also has to-date centered on keeping the pitcher's at-bats.
A simple way the goal could be reached... just to provide one example... is to do what is already being done in Spring Training... that is, allow home managers to choose whether they want to use the DH on a game-to-game basis... though, to ensure that neither way of playing the game is more dominant, you could place the limit on it such that no more than 41 home games can employ the DH and no more than that can disregard it.

But if you don't like that one, if you look around the internet, you'll find at least a dozen other ideas for a compromise rule... and perhaps this panel would pick one of those, or perhaps they would invent their own. But in the end, the DH Divide Era... one which, by the way, has statistically favored the American League if you analyze wins and losses in World Series games since the DH was fully established in the 70s... will finally be put behind us, and a World Series that actually pits teams that played the same game and whose pitchers faced similar work loads will be re-established.

Since: Sep 11, 2006
Posted on: June 17, 2011 8:42 pm

Realignment can't come before universal DH

The way I look at it the league is full of themselves.

On one hand they claim they don't want the DH in the NL because they want to protect the purity of the game.  On the other hand, they refuse to get rid of this abomination to the purity of the game called Inter-League play.

Either go for purity and ditch the inter-league play, allowing the AL to continue it's use of players who can't field (which I think is one of the biggest aspects of the game) .. or .. force teh putrescence of the DH on NL teams and stop this nonsense about purity which every one knows isn't really an issue (the reality is NL owners are cheapskates and an extra long reliever costs far less than a DH).

My thoughts
 - get rid of Interleague play
 - move the Brewers or the Astros .. or both .. back to the AL. 
 - add two expansion teams to offset
I love the idea of two more teams, because the balance is swinging back to pitching, and if your DH argument is to lengthen careers you will be opening 50 roster spots.  If you only move one team to the AL (the Astros like the idea of moving), then give one team to each league.  If none move, then the AL gets both teams.  If both move, then the NL gets two teams.

Let's face it, there are deserving cities/markets out there and none of the current teams that are struggling financially are wanting to give up their franchises despite whining about costs.

Viable options listed by 'metropolitan' (not city only) populations would be Portland, Sacramentio, San Antonio, Orlando, Las Vegas, San Jose, Columbus (doubtful due to the Reds), Charlotte, Indianapolis, Austin, Norfolk, Nashville, Jacksonville, Memphis .. and so on.  Some of these have proximity issues to other teams or large fan base issues that might pose problems.  The reality is, two 16 team leagues makes more sense than a 15-15 and especially more than a 16-14.  I truly believe part of the reason for the current 16-14 was to pave the way for future expansion.  Granted, the economy isn't great right now, but I think this oculd be overcome.  It's not like these cities couldn't put up at least as much money as the bottom teams in MLB financially speaking.

Since: Mar 5, 2007
Posted on: June 16, 2011 12:26 pm

Realignment can't come before universal DH

While Matt Snyder makes the very good point that more significant inter-league play would benefit from a single rule book, presuposing that adoption of the DH rule by the NL is a necessary prerequiste to realignment isn't correct.  There is no reason, other than a desire to get "everything done at once," to insist that rule and schedule change(s) must accomany league/division realignment.

There are several possible proposals, though the one that seems most obvious and easily accomplished is a move of the Houston Astros from the over-loaded NL Central to the undermanned AL West.  Presto!  Two 15 team leagues, each with three five-team divsions and the Rangers/Astros rivalry graduates from inter-league to intra-division.

Once the league structure is defined, we can then start what will be the fierce debate over rules.  While Snyder appears to favor the DH, it's hardly "automatic" that this rule ought to be adopted throughut MLB.

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