On April 6, 2013, we'll note the 40th anniversary of the first game in which a MLB team had a designated hitter, Ron Blomberg of the Yankees. Blomberg batted sixth and went 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI in a 15-5 loss to the Red Sox.
Also on or about that date, the first MLB season in history with two equal-sized, 15-team leagues with interleague play sprinkled throughout the schedule will commence.
One of the reasons for the Astros' 2013 move to the AL, which I wrote about here last November, was to remove perceived inequities in scheduling. In other words, some teams felt they had a tougher road to the postseason (notably in the six-team NL Central compared to the four-team AL West, which is where the Astros will be moving from and to) than others. In realigning, MLB is acknowledging these inequities and attempting to do something about them. We don't yet know the exact form the schedule will take in 2013, but presumably every team will play one with approximately the same degree of difficulty.
That leaves this as a possible scenario: Say the Red Sox are in a tough battle with the Rays and Yankees for a playoff spot, and the Angels are also fighting Boston for the new second wild-card berth.
But the Angels, Yankees and Rays have completed their interleague play, and the Red Sox have not, and there's a week left in the season ... and Boston has to travel to Philadelphia for an interleague series.
And their pitchers have to bat.
How is that fair? You'll say that all teams will (presumably) have the same number of interleague games and so Boston's DHs will be batting at some point while Yankees or Rays or Angels pitchers are hitting in NL parks, and you'd be right.
But is it fair to have one team have to do it during a pennant race while others don't? How can MLB's moguls continue to justify two different sets of rules, when there really aren't two different "leagues" any more? There aren't NL and AL presidents any more, as there were when the DH rule was instituted; the NL and AL are more like the NFL's NFC and AFC.
Having a DH rule in one league and not in the other would be like having three-point baskets in the NBA's Western Conference, but not in the Eastern Conference. Or two-point conversions in AFC home games, but not in NFC home games. (Which, incidentally, was the case in the old AFL; they had two-point conversions and the pre-merger NFL did not. When the leagues merged, they dumped the two-point conversion; when the NFL brought it back in 1994, it was for everyone, not half its teams.)
I'm not a huge fan of the DH. Raised on NL baseball as a Cubs fan, I've always liked the strategy, double-switches (when they're done right), etc. On the other hand, having watched Ted Lilly and Matt Garza attempt to hit over the last five seasons, maybe it's time for pitchers to put the bats down forever. Nearly all professional leagues except the NL and Japan's Central League use the DH.
Whichever side you take in this issue, I'd think you'd agree with this: It's time for MLB to have one set of rules. Either ditch the DH for both leagues, or have it throughout MLB, starting in 2013. If baseball wants fairness, that's a good place to start.