Avid readers of the Jock Blog will not be surprised to hear this, but I’m pleased to hear the 2021 baseball season will feature no DH in the National League, according to early reports.
I say avid readers of the Jock Blog will not be surprised, assuming two things: 1) that there are readers of the Jock Blog; and 2) I’ve established my dinosaur credentials so many times by now, they could have written this JB in their sleep.
But I come singing a slightly different tune.
To endorse the return of “No-DH” ball in the National League is not a knee-jerk thing, it’s not a howling repudiation of the designated hitter.
Rather, it’s a considered response after watching and digesting 60 games of senior circuit DH.
I used to be an anti-DH zealot. It was my “If a man hasn’t found anything he will die for, then he isn’t fit to live”/MLK cause. I loathed it.
Then, after watching the Giants actually, you know, SCORE RUNS and, you know, actually HIT HOME RUNS, I had to come to grips with the fact that the DH might, you know, actually be fun.
I came to the negotiating table with the DH crowd, and we began to have conversations. The key question: Could I live with a National League that had 10 players for nine positions?
At the least, it was a conversation, not a war.
In the end, I’m OK with ending the experiment. I’m OK with bringing back the pitcher to hit. Some factors:
— The DH position for the Giants this year hit .181, with 8 HRs and 22 RBIs in 60 games. The Giants’ DH posted an OPS of .596. So, not exactly Edgar Martinez-type stuff.
— I wound up missing the rhythm of the lineup. I found the DH to create an amorphous feel to the lineup; missing a sense of where to pitch around and where to pitch aggressively. There was a void.
— I missed the idea of pitching changes as strategy. I know this has been mocked by the anti-DH crowd, but those little ‘moments of truth’ when a pitcher was due up at a key moment, and what to do with that moment . . . I missed those moments.
— I missed small ball. I know this makes me sound like I want to return to candlelight as my primary source of electricity, particularly in this homer-or-bust game, but a pitcher in the lineup might at least bring to the table a slight possibility of a sacrifice bunt, or a ball to the right side to move a runner over. You know, something other than swinging out of your a** every single time.
Again, I come to you somewhat defanged. After experiencing the DH, and realizing that the sun still rose in the East the next morning (which, quite frankly, surprised me), I understand that it may come home to roost one day, for good. Maybe even as early as 2022.
I even may have cheered when Wilmer Flores left the yard from the DH position. True story.
But after having lived it, I will politely decline. It’s like when your host is going around the holiday table, offering the fruitcake. You pass on it, with respect.
Bring back baseball, with the familiar rhythms that made it so reassuring, for so long.