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Murph: What is wrong with the DH in the National League? Four thoughts


© Jake Roth | 2019 Jul 1


The designated hitter in the National League.

Pass the vomit bag.

After that lovely imagery leaves your head, I will shift to a tone of conciliation.

Listen, if you’re a DH fan, knock yourself out. Be fruitful and multiply in the American League. Grab your Twins Nelson Cruz gamer. Wear your A’s Khris Davis shersey. Put up your Texas Rangers Shin Soo Choo Fathead on your kid’s bedroom wall.

Just keep your business out of my backyard — and the backyard of millions of right-thinking Americans who like this thing called … what was it again? … oh, yes: Baseball.

And save your Grandpa Simpson/dinosaur GIFs. Change is acceptable in life, when it’s positive. Divisional play. Wild card playoff berths. The thrill of the one-game wild card game. Instant replay, when used in a reasonable amount of time, like 60 seconds or less.

But the news that a possible agreement between players and owners involves the DH coming to the National League in 2020 and 2021 is a step too far. Now, you’re messing the essence of NL ball. Now, you’re telling those of us raised on the simple concept — nine guys, nine gloves, nine bats — to start rooting for a beer-league softball team.

What is wrong with the DH in the National League? A few thoughts:

— Yes, I like strategy. Don’t @ me.

Decry it all you like, junior circuit fan, but there is a lot to be said for that moment in the game when a pitcher is due up and the manager has a decision. There is a drama and a climax and real consequence to that moment; ask Dusty Baker about letting Mark Gardner hit in the 2000 NLDS against the Mets. You never have those moments in an AL game. Double-switches, pinch-hitters, it all adds to the texture. I covered the A’s for two years, and felt the dearth of managerial acumen required to skipper an AL game. Heck, don’t trust me, ask three guys who’ve said it on the record after time in both leagues: Dusty Baker, Duane Kuiper and Art Howe each say they prefer the buzz and thinking of an NL game.

— Bench play matters.

Other than today’s data-choked excuses for sending up hitters in righty-lefty situations, you don’t get a whole lot of movement on the AL bench. Conversely, NL benches are loaded with versatile, speedy and powerful bench parts who get use almost every night. Shout out to the Joaquin Ariases of the world. “The value of a good bench,” Kuiper told us today. It adds to our appreciation of the game’s artistry.

— Pitchers are people, too.

Bob Fitzgerald (shout out Fitz!) would harrumph at us after an unsightly and weak pitcher at-bat, but you know what? It’s part of the NL game. We are conditioned to understand that not every bat in your lineup is Barry Bonds, that a lineup has a rhythm. And, yes, sometimes pitchers provide the most unexpected joys of all. Obviously, we can all cite “Bumgarner, Madison” for all arguments, but even Barry Zito’s bunt and “Arabian horse gallop”, to quote Brian Wilson, in Game 5 of the 2012 NLCS, or his RBI knock off Justin Verlander (!!) in Game 1 of the 2012 Series thrilled, as did any Don Robinson at-bat in the Humm Baby days of the late 1980s. Pitchers can move runners (what a concept!) and even be so heretical as to lay down a key sacrifice bunt (!!) to affect the outcome of a game. Once again . . . baseball.

— If you play baseball, you should bring a glove to the yard.

That’s just moral and ethical. In the year 2003, Edgar Martinez, a fine hitter, never played an inning in the field. That means he woke up in his high-rise Seattle condominium, had breakfast, got in his luxury car, drove to Safeco Field, put on his uniform, sat on a bench for nine innings, got up four times to get in the box, went back into the clubhouse, showered, changed, and drove home to his high-rise Seattle condiminium . . . WITHOUT EVER TOUCHING A BASEBALL GLOVE OR THROWING A BASEBALL. If someone asked him what he did for a living, and he answered, “I’m a baseball player”, he’d be lying.

We could go on and on, but I value a Jock Blog reader’s time.

Bottom line: we’re fine over here in the NL. We don’t need your artificial contamination of the game. I know the union has pushed for it, but as Kuip told us this morning, if you asked a lot of NL players, they’d say they prefer the game as is.

When I was a cub reporter at the LA Times, I ran quotes for the UCLA basketball beat writer. One Saturday, in a nationally-televised game at Pauley Pavilion, UCLA came out of the locker room and unveiled what coach Jim Harrick announced were the new “big game jerseys” — mustard yellow home jerseys that offended any appreciator of the Alcindor/Walton/Reggie Miller home whites. The beat guy, Jerry Crowe, grabbed me and said: “Hey, kid. Go ask Wooden what he thinks of the new jerseys.” We both knew John R. Wooden’s crew never wore mustard yellow at home.

I ran over to Wooden’s seat at Pauley and asked him. His left elbow rested in his right palm. He paused, and said: “Well, there can be no progress without change. However . . . not all change is progress.”

Attababe, Wizard.

 

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