The Designated Hitter: a regrettable inevitability

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I’m a National League guy and I’ve never been a big fan of the DH. It’s not a superiority thing or an elitist thing — I know that pitchers can’t bat — it’s just a familiarity thing in my case. I’ve watched tons more NL ball than AL ball in my lifetime, I just like it better, and you have as much a chance at talking me out of that position than you do talking the Pope out of Catholicism.

The Philadelphia Daily News’ Bill Conlin hates the DH too — he hates just about everything — but unlike me, he’s ready to surrender:

The American League went from All-Star Game whipping boy and an entity
lacking the NL’s diversity and overall pizzazz to where it is today:
dominant for the simple reason that nine hitters in a lineup are better
than eight.

And where the disparity really kills the National League in the World
Series and in the equally lamentable interleague play is in the No. 9
spot. With their DHs typically power bats of the Matsui, David Ortiz,
Vlad Guerrero stripe, most teams configure their lineups to put speed
and contact at No. 9. A second leadoff hitter, if you will . . .

. . . Once again, I call for the National League to restore the measure of
competitive balance the DH rule has drained from the game since 1973.
It’s not because I like it – although the National League sometimes
reminds me of an auto industry where the automatic transmission was
never invented.

I can’t argue with the underlying logic, and that’s saying something here because I can argue with just about everything Bill Conlin says. But he’s right: it’s not aesthetically pleasing to watch fat, old players who can’t play defense anymore, but there’s no escaping the fact that they’re more effective in the batter’s box than a pitcher.  And while there are other things in play leading to the AL’s competitive advantages — having two teams in the Yankees and Red Sox driving higher payrolls being chief among them — the DH has contributed to that as well.  George Will probably said it best in his book Men at Work:

“The best case for the DH is this: It represents that rarest of
things, the triumph of evidence over ideology. The anti-DH ideology is
that there should be no specialization in baseball, no division of
labor: Everyone should play “the whole game.” That theory is
obliterated by this fact: Specialization is a fact with or without the
DH. Most pitchers only go through the motions at bat.”

I’m almost always going to go with evidence over ideology, but in this case I’ll make an exception.  Personally I hope the NL holds out. Not everything has to be about offense and vive la difference, don’t you know.

But I understand if they cave one day. It may be better for Major League Baseball in the long run, even if it doesn’t make for better baseball form an aesthetic point of view.

Mariners claim Dario Alvarez off waivers from Cubs

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Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports that the Mariners have claimed pitcher Dario Alvarez off waivers from the Cubs. The Mariners will option him to Triple-A Tacoma and have him report to minor league camp. Alvarez will serve as bullpen depth for the Mariners.

Alvarez, 29, has  spent parts of four seasons in the majors with the Mets, Braves, and Rangers. He signed with the Cubs as a free agent in November. Across 48 innings of relief, the lefty owns a 5.06 ERA with 61 strikeouts and 22 walks. His spring with the Cubs wasn’t any better, as he yielded six runs on seven hits and six walks with 11 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.