I may be one of the very few, but I happen to enjoy the designated hitter disparity between the National and American Leagues. It's a functioning fossil of the once great fissure between the two syndicates that had once met just two occasions a season. Two? The World Series and the All Star Game.
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One of the central pushes behind Interleague play - I think - has been buried today by technology. When the league crossover began in 1997 the mainstream Internet was in its infancy. Our 'global' digital baseball talk was limited AOL chat rooms.
The only way to connect with the stars of the opposing leagues were during spring training contests, ESPN highlights, or whichever network was running the national schedule, which wasn't a 1/5 of was it is now.
Growing up in Philadelphia I had little chance to ever experience the superstardom of Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken Jr. or sorta-stardom of Travis Fryman or Ruben Sierra. I barely got to see Barry Bonds.
Eighteen year olds today have nearly unlimited access to all of Major League Baseball. What? Dad's too cheap to have the Extra Innings package, or MLB.tv access? I pulled up the Mike Trout page w/highlights in just seconds. The At Bat app is $20 a year and is loaded with everything BUT live, full games.
If this type of pervasive technology was available two decades ago, perhaps one of the (few?) things Bud Selig is praised for, the birth of Interleague play, never comes to exist.
Interleague play two or three times a year was annoying. It felt jumbled, intrusive and even worse, an exhibition-itive nuisance.
As awkward as it is having a team hop leagues - time helped me embrace the Brewers - as the Astros did to create two, uniform fifteen team leagues, I've come the revere the constant Interleague contests. Sure, it's odd when the Phillies open '14 IN Texas, or the Tigers end '13 IN Miami, but because the AL/NL matchups have been ongoing since the beginning of last year, any crossover series no longer feels like the inescapable bad penny.
But again. I like AL having a DH, and the NL having the pitcher bat.
I'll summarize Joe Posnanski's brilliant writing on the DH, what's so illegally abhorrent about the imbalance?!
Is it really much different than speed limits in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania being different? Because of growing up in Philly, doing 75+ on Michigan roads like 75 and 696 felt like I was doing warp 9 out of the Neutral Zone. When I visit home, doing 65ish has me feeling like snails are passing me on 95.
Sales tax is different everywhere. Some states don't even HAVE state taxes. Vegas and 75% of Nevada has prostitution, nowhere else does.
Why does everything have to be the same.
It's only a matter of time before the designated hitter is fixed in both Leagues. In fact, as much as NL managers may not want to give up the strategic advantages they have in IL games, and the World Series, they may face no choice as long as aging sluggers view the American League as a beckoning homestead to finish their careers. Not to mention, the exorbitant price AL teams will pay to lure those NLers over. See Pujols, Albert and Fielder, Prince. More recently McCann, Brian and Choo, Shin Soo.
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I'll try to savor my precious .143 hitting pitcher, and all the glorious double switches while they last.
But a few things happened this weekend during IL play that's given rise to an idea that MLB should consider during the contests.
Forget about the fact that there's an undeniable and voracious injury epidemic in baseball now. *Perhaps MLB should re-evaluate the list of what's prohibited by the Joint Drug Agreement. I'm serious. A post for another time.*
My be-liked Rays have been besieged by pitching injuries. Jeremy Hellickson hasn't pitched yet, Matt Moore is likely headed for elbow surgery and just Saturday, Alex Cobb went down with a 4-6 week oblique injury.
Need I recite the Tigers pains?
Cobb was apparently experiencing tightness after his first pitch of the game against the Reds. I'm sure two subsequent at bats - granted, seeing only four pitches - did nothing but aggravate the impending strain.
#Rays Archer suggested interleague play (hitting, running) led to Cobb's injury, said it was "saddening"— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) April 13, 2014
See where I'm going with this?
I realize Justin Verlander got an oh-fer-seven years off his back with TWO hits in San Diego on Saturday night, but the second one almost came with a steep cost.
First, we have to go back to June 17, 2008. Chien Ming Wang had won 38 games the prior two season and was off to an 8-2 start with the Yankees. Then running the bases against the Nationals in an Interleague game, Wang tore tendons in his foot. Since then, Wang, constantly fighting injuries, has won 8 Major League games and currently resides in Louisville playing for the Bats. I get it. These guys are professional athletes and doing things like running and swinging, as foreign to their bodies as it may be, shouldn't wreck careers. But they can. It's impractical to think Wang's foot injury didn't derail his career.
Now you might see it.
Verlander almost got thrown out from right field on his second hit. He had to unexpectedly scurry to first.
Doing something he doesn't normally do eas-i-ly could've resulted in a misstep on the bag, and there goes Verlander's ankle, similar to Wang.
I wish each league would remain autonomous with its view on the designated hitter FOREVER, but until then or until it's uniform, especially in light of baseball's present black injury plague, MLB I beseech you to apply the DH rules to ALL Interleague contests.
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