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Friday, April 4
Updated: April 6, 10:23 AM ET
Should the DH continue or should it be abolished?

The question: What should baseball do about the DH?

Jayson Stark
It's 30 years down the DH highway, and this rule makes even less sense now than it did in 1973 -- if that's possible. Here are five reasons baseball should abolish this abomination now:

  • Once, it was at least slightly intriguing to have two leagues playing the same sport using different rules. Now, with interleague play, it's not intriguing anymore. It's absurd.

  • Let's take that one step further. The DH rule may have cost the Giants the World Series. This was a team constructed around its bullpen, not its spare bench parts. So Dusty Baker essentially had no DH. In fact, his Game 7 DH -- Pedro Feliz -- was a guy who had made it through the first six games without an at-bat. No other sport would tolerate a situation this farcical.

  • The idea 30 years ago was that the DH would allow some beloved older hitters to extend their careers once they could no longer play the field. Whatever happened to that brainstorm? All these beloved older hitters DH'd Opening Day: Ken Harvey, Al Martin, Jeremy Giambi, Matt LeCroy and Josh Phelps. Face it: The DH is now just an excuse to be one-dimensional.

  • The only reason to have a DH rule is that fans allegedly like more offense. Obviously, DHs are better hitters than pitchers. But how much more offense does this rule really generate? The average AL team scored one more run every three games than the average NL team last year -- and got one more hit every four games. So we're talking about two extra runs a week. That'll pack 'em in, all right.

  • Finally, the game is simply way more interesting without the DH than with it. Period. Ask any manager which is more strategically challenging -- managing a game under NL rules or AL rules. It's no contest. It's baseball's cerebral side that separates it from all the other games ever invented. And the game is way more cerebral with no DH than with it. That's one thing that hasn't changed in 30 years -- and never will.

  • Rob Neyer
    I grew up with the DH.

    I grew up with Hal McRae, the best DH (before Edgar Martinez, that is).

    And I can't stand watching pitchers hit. Or rather, trying to hit. Or trying to bunt.

    All that said, I'm starting to wonder if it's time, after 30 years, for the designated hitter to go the way of the Federal League, flannel uniforms, and multi-purpose stadiums.

    The DH was originally installed because American League owners thought attendance needed a boost -- actually, what the American League needed was better owners -- and they thought that more runs would lead to more fans. Did it work? Attendance went up 17 percent in 1973, the first season of the DH.

    This was proof enough for the owners, and so we've had the DH ever since. But there's a lot more to attendance than scoring tons of runs, as any number of National League teams have proved since 1973. And perhaps more to the point, nobody needs help scoring runs any more; there are plenty of hitters with power and plate discipline to go around, and there are plenty of teams that don't care much whether their sluggers can actually play in the field without embarrassing themselves.

    So while it's been fun, and we'll always remember Hal McRae and Edgar Martinez fondly, 30 years is long enough.

    Tom Candiotti
    I played in both leagues and enjoyed playing the National League game better than the American League game. The game itself is better without the designated hitter. There is more strategy involved with double switches, balance in the bullpen and the benches becoming more important, and that adds to the excitement of the game for players. Most of that is lost with the DH.

    And the DH definitely becomes an advantage for National League teams in postseason play, when American League pitchers go to the plate to attempt a sacrifice bunt or try to put the bat on the ball in an important situation. But the AL will also have an advantage in its parks because the teams have that guy who is on the roster just to hit the ball, whereas the National League benches have to be filled out with utility-type guys who can play in the field rather than just go out there and pinch-hit.

    That being said, the game I grew up with is gone. Now, everyone wants to see the pitchers pitching and the hitters hitting. The emphasis in today's game is on offense rather than pitching and defense, and based on the way the game is played now I would like to see both leagues go to the DH. Let the hitters worry about driving in the runs, because the fans want to see scoring.

    Tony Gwynn
    Early in my career, I hated the designated hitter and thought baseball should get rid of it. But toward the end of my career, I realized that it allows older players to play a few more years. Paul Molitor is a great example. If there were no DH, it would've been difficult for him to accomplish all he did later in his career.

    I'm a National League guy, so I personally like the NL style of play. As Lou Brock once said, "You gotta earn it." You can't hide in the NL; you have to go out and play defense in order to have the right to hit. But now that I'm coaching at San Diego State -- we have a DH in college baseball -- I like having that extra offensive guy in my lineup and the extra possibilities it gives me (like giving a guy a "day off" by making him the DH).

    I realize a lot of fans don't like the DH, but it's a chance for a guy like Rickey Henderson to play another year. It's great for players who've had success in the game, but maybe can't take the grind of playing a full season at the end of their careers. It allows them to stay in the game -- and that's a good thing.

    Rob Dibble
    When the designated hitter was introduced in 1973, the purpose was to inject some life and offense into American League baseball. It was a bad idea from the inception, because it separated the American and National Leagues into two different styles of play. Every other professional sport has one set of rules.

    Thanks to that decision, baseball has one-dimensional players who pad their offensive numbers without having to play the field. And it totally changes the traditional strategies of baseball. In the NL, when the game goes into later innings, sometimes managers must pinch-hit for the pitcher in order to win a game and make double switches in the field so the new pitcher doesn't lead off the next inning.

    One of my former managers once was so caught up in a game that he inserted the pitcher into the leadoff spot and switched the replacement hitter/fielder into the old pitcher's slot in the batting order.

    It's also easier to pitch in the NL in certain situations. You can be in a jam, and then the pitcher comes up and you have a chance to work your way out of a bad spot, while in the AL that's not an option. The DH puts a professional hitter in the heart of the order and takes a normally easy out (the pitcher) out of the equation. There are no gimmes in the AL.

    If MLB officials are serious about speeding up games, they should realize that having weak-hitting pitchers bat three or four times a game would definitely move games along. It's time to dump the DH and make both leagues play with one set of rules.

    Joe Morgan
    I've never liked the DH because it makes a player one-dimensional. But it's been around for 30 years, and it's served the American League well in that it has kept a number of AL stars around for a longer time and helped prolong the careers of some good hitters. Still, I'm not a fan of anything that makes players one-dimensional. If it were my choice, I'd eliminate it, though it has served its purpose for the AL.

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