On April 6, 1973, Ron Blomberg stepped to the plate in the top of the first inning for the New York Yankees against Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. He had 564 career plate appearances with the Yankees before that one particular at-bat. But this time, instead of playing first base or right field, Blomberg was a designated hitter -- the first ever in baseball history.
Blomberg worked out a bases-loaded walk, and since then, the AL has adopted the policy of have a DH bat for the pitcher. It was that one bases-loaded walk 40 years ago that has plagued the game of baseball in the AL, at least in my opinion.
As a fan of NL baseball, I despise the DH.
What makes baseball fun to watch is all the strategy that is involved. Many managers are thinking through potential scenarios several batters ahead of what is actually going on.
In the NL, managers know exactly when their own pitcher and the opposing pitcher are coming up to bat. Should he pinch hit when his team has a rally going, even though his starter has a manageable pitch count? Should he leave in a reliever to try to retire an extra batter knowing that his spot is coming up in the next inning?
These questions and more are constantly going through an NL manager’s mind, making this game great. It’s a mental game as much as it is a physical game, forcing managers to look back on the decisions they made and make the necessary adjustments if those decisions failed.
Now of course, AL managers are skilled in the strategy of the game. It’s still baseball of course. Bunting, stealing and the hit-and-run can all be successfully worked into the game.
But usually, a primary DH is a big bopper who gets paid to drive the ball out of the park. Home runs are great for the sport, but they can take away from the strategic decisions of the game.
An AL manager -- knowing that he never has to worry about clearing the pitcher’s spot (except for a handful of interleague games each season) -- can hope for a three-run homer, while an NL manager will likely opt for the bunt, especially if it’s the pitcher batting.
Some fans love watching the ball fly out of the park, and while I do too, as a true baseball fan, I would much rather see a close game dominated by small ball.
And also, with the pitcher hitting, that adds an interesting dynamic from a fan’s perspective. I always love it when the pitcher gets a hit for the team I’m rooting for, and I can’t stand when the opposing pitcher reaches base.
I’m not sure if the NL will ever adopt the DH permanently, but I sure hope not. The only remote reason why I can somewhat tolerate the DH is that it creates a rift between the two leagues, rather than have the same game played in both.
But after 40 years, true fans would have to agree that NL baseball is the sport in its truest form.
No knock on Blomberg -- who wound up hitting .329 for the Yankees in 1973 as their DH -- but I do believe the DH has ruined AL baseball.
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