The MLB has given attention to the thought of making the new rules from 2020 permanent. Those rules include the universal designated hitter, seven-inning doubleheaders, expanded playoffs as well as the runner on second base in extra innings rule.
Making the designated hitter universal (through both leagues) could change history if it is made permanent. However, should Major League Baseball keep the rule or leave it as a one-year wonder?
Major League Baseball implemented the rule in 1973. New York Yankees’ first baseman Ron Bloomberg was the first official designated hitter in a game against the Red Sox in April of 1973. However, the rule only stood in the American League. The National League still had pitchers hit 9th in the batting order.
Since the implementation, the MLB thought about interleague matchups outside of the World Series. When a National League team played at home against an American League team, the away team (AL) had to put a pitcher in the lineup to hit. No designated hitter. The tables turn if the American League team was home, where the National League has to come up with a player for the DH role.
Injuries Related To Pitchers’ Hitting
Injuries happen all over the league, as it is a part of sports. However, there have been incidents where NL pitchers have been injured in relating to being in the batter’s box, whether it is in practice or in a game.
In 2012, Pittsburgh Pirates starter A.J. Burnett, while attempting to bunt, got hit with the baseball. Burnett missed spring training and did not make his first start for the Pirates until late April.
An alike incident happened in 2019 when Washington Nationals’ pitcher Max Scherzer took a baseball to the face in practice while attempting to bunt. Scherzer suffered a broken nose and a black eye. Despite the injuries, Scherzer dominated in his start, the next day, against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Those two examples belong to a much larger group of incidents related to pitchers in the batter’s box. Sure, injuries do happen to position players other than pitchers. But when the MLB has a shot to reduce injuries, they should take it.
Tossing The Universal DH
From a spectator’s perspective, tossing the universal designated hitter would be beneficial for the fans watching. Seeing a pitcher attempting to hit 95+ mph fastballs and other off-speed pitches is one of the qualities that make baseball fun and diverse at the same time.
It is like William Perry on offense for the Chicago Bears. He was a defensive lineman, though he ran for touchdowns at the goal line on occasion. If you remove the pitcher from the lineup, the two leagues are destined to be alike. That makes the matchups less interesting for the fans, the ones who spend money on watching and caring for the league.
The moment of Bartolo Colon hitting a home run at Petco Park is still trolling the internet today. Despite falling off his pitching cliff, Madison Bumgarner is known as one of the better hitting-pitchers in today’s game.
Keeping the universal designated hitter will give National League offense, depending on the team, a slight advantage.
Both topics are very sufficient in this debate. One side deals with the injury aspect as the opposition deals with the marketing and fan aspect of things.
But as a verdict, Major League Baseball should scrap the universal designated hitter. The pitchers’ injuries do matter as well as their health. But pitchers being hit while in the batter’s box is less likely than a line drive hitting them in the face. Terrible injuries happened to Burnett, Scherzer, and many others. But there are ways around fixing those mistakes when it comes to bunting in baseball.
I would not be upset with Major League Baseball reinstating the rule but for their revenue sake, especially after having no fans for 95% of the season in 2020, they should keep their fans glued to the TV and their seats by tossing the rule and climaxing the game like before.