MLB should embrace history when addressing DH conflict

By Rob Vogt Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/7 0:38:01

In advance of next week's Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Commissioner Rob Manfred will probably speak out about the future of the designated hitter - a position implemented by the American League in 1973, but eschewed by the National League to this very day.

Not surprisingly, baseball fans are divided on this issue. Proponents feel that ­allowing a non-pitcher to hit allows for more offense, and thus more excitement for paying ­customers. Critics claim that leaving the pitcher's spot in the lineup requires managers to consider strategic maneuvers such as sacrifice bunts, pinch hitters and double switches.

So, which side is right? Actually, both. Yes, having another legitimate hitter in the lineup holds American League pitchers' feet to the fire, forcing them to confront an entire lineup over and over again.

And yes, watching National League managers manipulate their bullpens and benches through the late innings of a low-scoring pitchers' duel is a treat for baseball strategists.

The solution is ridiculously simple - keep the DH in the American League, and keep requiring pitchers to bat in the National League. Left-brained fans might blanch at this disconnect, but any semblance of "equality" went out the window when Bud Selig introduced an "unbalanced schedule" dictated by inter-league play.

The players' union, ­carping for additional roster spots in the National League, certainly won't like the move.

But American sports fans ­clinging to a rapidly disappearing middle class can probably live with the disapproval of a union that protects the interests of ­millionaires.

More than any other professional American sport, baseball is defined by historical contrast.

Three-hour games vs ­societal attention deficit ­disorder. ­Tobacco-spitting roughnecks vs analytics-crunching geeks. Pot-bellied sluggers vs year-round athletes.

Instead of trying to resolve those conflicts, why not embrace them? Fifty years ago, baseball was America's national pastime. By embracing significant differences, the sport can attempt to return to that status.

The author is a Chicago-based freelance writer.

Posted in: Extra Time, Baseball

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