The Designated Hitter…Time to End the Experiment
It’s been 37 years since Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees became the first designated hitter in MLB on April 6, 1973 kicking off the American League’s 3-year trial run of the rule. The advent of the designated hitter was a boon to players like Blomberg who put it best in the following quote, “With Bobby Bonds in right field and three first baseman, I might as well donate my glove to charity.”
In 1973, in an attempt to combat declining attendance and declining offense, the American League adopted a rule stating that a team could designate a hitter to bat for the pitcher.
As of September 2005, there is a debate raging as to whether David Ortiz, regular DH for the Boston Red Sox deserves the Most Valuable Player award. Ortiz has had tremendous 2005 season at the plate, and proponents claim that he may actually be facing a handicap at the plate – it is harder to stay loose and warmed up when sitting on the bench for roughly 8/9ths of the game – and as such, is even further deserving of the honor. However, critics claim that a DH’s “value” as a player is seriously degraded by the fact that they do not contribute in the field.
Of course, some interesting situations have arisen over the years. One of the most controversial was the 1999 Gold Glove Award to Rafael “Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.” Palmiero despite playing only 28 games at first base that season.
Baseball has strived to to eliminate differences between the leagues by: dissolving the American and National League as legal entities; discontinuing the office league presidents; consolidating the umpires; and having all marketing, labor and television contracts negotiations conducted by MLB.
The Designated Hitter Rule stands out as this fundamental rule completely changes the style of game between the National and American Leagues. No other major sport “boasts” of having inconsistent rules.