The designated hitter is coming

Are you not entertained??? - Doug Pensinger

BATTLE STATIONS. Or ... not.

This is an article about the DH. If history is any guide, that means just below it, there will be people arguing about the DH. This is how the Internet works. This is how life works.

And this article about the DH comes because Bob Nightengale is warning us that the hitters are coming, the hitters are coming. One if by Phelps, two if by Baines:

The baseball purists are going to scream to the high heavens.

There will be National League owners fighting it, knowing their payrolls will swell.

But it's inevitable that change is coming.

The designated hitter, born in 1973 to American League parents, eventually will be adopted by the National League, too.

He's almost certainly right. It's probably a matter of when, not if. As a National League guy, all I've known is a league without a DH. When I think of the Giants and designated hitters, I think of the players they've used at the position in interleague play: Todd Greene, Alex Sanchez, Chris Jones, and Matt Downs. Maybe that's my problem -- when you follow a team that uses the 25th man as the DH, you can't help but wonder what the point is.

But fans of the American League have a different take, and most of them are disgusted when they have to watch a pitcher hit. This is what they think it looks like every time:


That's not really true. Some pitchers can hit a little bit, some can't. But most of them can't.

Both sides have impassioned, airtight arguments. Oddly enough, they almost always align with the league featuring the favorite team of the debater. It's almost as if human beings can trick themselves into choosing their beliefs based on long-held preconceived notions. Huh. Going to make a note to investigate that little theory later.

This is right about the part where I just lay into those rotten DH-lovers. Where I explain the magic of Barry Zito getting an RBI single against Justin Verlander, or where I point out that Clayton Kershaw's homer on Opening Day was worth more than a 100 homers by some achy-kneed has-been. Yeah, and this is where I tell you about small ball and playing the game the right way.

Except I have a confession to make. Oh, man, this is going to feel good to get off my chest. Here goes:

I don't care.

It's like confessing to that time I rifled a pudding cup against my science teacher's door in the seventh grade. Just … pheewwww … let it all go out at once, relax, and feel better. I don't care. I just watched an O's-Rays game, and I realized that at no point did I think about the DH. Sure, I thought, "Here comes the DH," or "Shelley Duncan is the Rays' DH," or "No, seriously, why is Shelley Duncan the Rays' DH?", but I didn't contemplate the DH as something that should or should not exist as the game was going on.

And I rarely think about the pitchers hitting in the National League during the games; it's just something that happens. The thrill of the unexpected makes it extra neat when a pitcher gets a hit -- listen to the roar of the crowd for a pitcher's single compared to the garden-variety single -- but it's rare that I leave a game thinking about the pitcher hitting, and certainly not about the DH in general.

In the World Series, the subject always comes up, and it's a big deal. The Giants have done some amazing things with the DH in the World Series, such as DH'ing Tsuyoshi Shinjo, a superlative fielder, and starting 35-year-old Kenny Lofton in center field instead, even though Lofton had clearly lost a step. The Giants also started Ryan Theriot at DH, and he scored the winning run in Game 4. So, yeah, I guess if the Giants are going to treat the DH like the fake vomit of the baseball world, it's going to be hard to take it too seriously. Maybe that's where it started.

But I stopped caring a long time ago. Pick one. Either/or. If you're asking me to choose, I'll take the NL-style, if only because I'm familiar with it. No one's asking me to choose, though, and the mucky-mucks at the top are going to make it happen. It's been inevitable since the switch to 15-team leagues. And like everything, we'll all get used to it.

You know what you don't read a lot of these days? Impassioned arguments against interleague play. Impassioned arguments against the Wild Card. Oh, you'll get the occasional grumbles from people if you prompt enough. But you rarely get a visceral, this-defines-me reaction like you used to from purists. The changes came, there was grumbling, and then everyone got used to the changes really, really quickly. If the NL gets the DH, I'll shrug my shoulders and hope they sign Matt Stairs.

This is supposed to be a knife fight between Internet baseball nerds. But I'm going to back away slowly and recuse myself from the debate. I just don't care about the DH, or whether the NL adopts it. It's been a near-certainty since the Astros moved to the AL, And I'm not sure why we should care so much.

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