I used to be against the DH, but then I became totally indifferent because it is not a question of it, but rather when. The DH in the NL is inevitable, get used to it. This is not the NLB and the ALB…it is MLB. MLB is the only professional sport where the rules are different for one group of teams compared to rules of another group of teams within the same association. There is no 3-point play in the Western Conference of the NBA but not in the Eastern Conference. The playing fields are not 100 yards for the NFC and 110 yards for the AFC, as they are in the CFL. Rules are consistent. Sure the AL could end the DH and the two leagues could have consistent rules then, but that isNEVERgoing to happen. So, the DH is coming whether you like it or not.
The DH has existed in the AL since 1973. I do not see how the image of baseball has been damaged one bit because of the DH. If you are less than 50, chances are you have no real recollection of the game without the DH. Not my choice, but we now have a full time DH in the HOF (Edgar Martinez), and probably another in a few more years (David Ortiz). The DH in concept and now practice, has been accepted. I am not saying people have to love the idea, but with the inclusion of Edgar Martinez in the HOF, there is no going back.
But in light of rule changes in MLB, the DH is a minor blip. The big change in MLB came in 1969 when the pitching rules changed significantly. The most dramatic change was lowering of the pitcher’s mound from 15 inches to 10 inches. Many of us were around in 1968, AKA the “Year of the Pitcher”, and yet we are still fans after such a significant change to the game. In 1968, 7 individual pitchers had ERA’s less than 2.00, led by Bob Gibson’s unworldly 1.12 ERA. I am constantly reading in MLB publications about pitchers with ERA’s around the mid-4.00’s, which are described as “respectable”. In 1968, 13 of the 20 TEAMS had ERA’s less than 3.00, with the worst team ERA being 3.64. In 2018, there were no teams with a combined ERA less than 3.11 (Houston). The Dodgers were #2 at 3.38. That 1968 team ERA of 3.64 would have been #3 in 2018. In total, there were 13 teams with ERA’s less than 4.00, and 17 teams greater than 4.00, with Baltimore an embarrassing 5.18.
MLB was certainly concerned about the obvious resultant lack of offense. Seven teams hit .230 or less, with only three teams with a BA .252 or greater (2 at .252 and Cin at .273). NYY had the worst team BA with a .214. The ChiSox scored an average of 2.86 runs per game, with the Dodgers and Mets not much better with RPG less than 3.00. Carl Yastremski won the AL batting title with a .301 BA. Pete Rose led MLB with a .335 BA and a total of 6 MLB batters had a BA greater than .300.
On December 3, 1968, an MLB rules panel got together and voted to lower the mound 33.33% from 15” to 10” hoping to put offense back in a venue meant to entertain. In addition to the lowering of the mound, that same group changed the strike zone from:
“that space over home plate which is between thetop of the batter’s shoulders and his knees when he assumes his natural stance.The umpire shall determine the Strike Zone according to the batter’s usualstance when he swings at a pitch”to:
“that space over home plate which is between the batter’s armpits andthe top of his knees when he assumes a natural stance. The umpire shalldetermine the Strike Zone according to the batter’s usual stance when he swingsat a pitch.”
This was just one of 6 strike zone changes from 1950. Below is a link to the strike zone changes from 1876 to today:
Is it any wonder that the AL was so concerned about the lack of offense so much that they instituted the DH? The idea of the DH was actually started in two 1969 ST games. On March 6, 1969, two games utilized what was called the Designated Pinch Hitter; two expansion teams, Montreal Expos and KC Royals, and NYY vs. Washington Senators. MLB nixed the idea at the time, but five minor leagues, including the AAA International League, adopted the DH in 1969.
Charley Finley and 7 other AL owners officially adopted the DH rule for the 1973 season on a three-year trial run, that has not gone away. In 1973, fittingly NYY and BoSox were the first to utilize the DH in a regular championship season game. The Yankees’ Ron Blomberg walked against Boston’s Luis Tiant. In 1973, the AL posted a higher batting average, which has remained intact through the 2018 season. In addition, attendance at AL games increased measurably.
In August of 1980, the NL actually met to vote on the use of the DH which was expected to pass at the time. However, when informed that the rule would not take effect until 1982, Philadelphia’s VP, Bill Giles, needed to confer with owner Ruly Carpenter before voting. He could not reach Carpenter and abstained. Pittsburgh GM, Harding Peterson, was instructed to vote with the Phillies, and also abstained. Final vote tally, four teams for the change (Braves, Mets, Cardinals, Padres), five against adopting the change (Cubs, Reds, Dodgers, Expos, Giants), and three abstentions (Phillies, Pirates, Astros). The Yes/No vote thusly failed.
MLB now wants to be consistent in their rules, MLBPA wants the universal DH rule, and the NL would welcome the additional offense. Thus, the push to give the NL the DH as soon as possible. I do think NL teams may have acted differently this winter were they aware of the possibility of the DH coming in 2019, but I believe that it was the DH’s that were harmed more than the teams. Players like Nelson Cruz would have had a multitude of NL teams interested in his bat had the DH been adopted after the WS. Even teams like the Tigers could have received quite a haul for Nicholas Castellanos had he been available as a NL DH this year, or Edwin Encarnacion.
Apparently, MLB believes that there needs to be a metamorphosis to enhance offense, which owners believe sells. There is now talk about moving the pitching mound back, which the MLBPA has reportedly NOT said no to. Also, more talk on lowering the mound even more. The strange thing is that with more offense, the games will undoubtedly get longer, but neither side has used that argument. If MLB wanted to reduce the length of games, they should go back to pre-1968 and raise the mound by 5 inches, back to 15. Pitching will once again dominate, reducing the number of base runners, and the additional time tending to base runners. So, it is not the length of the game that is the most pressing bullet point in change, but offense. If the game is exciting, the less relevant the length of the game seems. At least that is how I read the tea leaves.
While the DH seems to be a lightening rod of sorts, it really is not that massive of a change that will turn off even the most ardent of the DH detractors over a long period of time. Just like the 10-inch mound, AL DH, instant replay, the game moves forward and memories seem shorter. The DH coming to the NL will not have any impact for me on the game that I love.