I’m no fan of the DH, but pitchers batting has got to go

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Anna Hiatt argues for the DH to expand to the NL.  We all know the parameters of this argument by now and have engaged in it many times, so allow me to offer up my opinion on the matter in a way that attempts to eschew the religious war vibe of this time-worn debate.

I am an NL partisan. I have been since I started following the Braves in the mid-1980s. I’m not a fanatic about it, and it matters far less now than it did back before interleague play, realignment and new ballpark construction blurred the distinctions between the leagues, but I still remain an NL guy. And part of that is, yes, I like pitchers batting.

I like pitchers hitting for the same reasons I like medium-rare steaks, pale-skinned brunettes, Batman, bourbon and a lot of regrettable 1980s synth pop: personal taste. These things just strike me the right way and make me feel just so. It’s not an objective thing. Many people are vegetarians, many gentlemen prefer blondes, like Superman, hate hard liquor and would rather die than be subjected to Human League’s “Don’t you want me.” They have their tastes and I have mine, and there is nothing more obnoxious than someone telling you that your subjective tastes are somehow, objectively, wrong, so I live and let live when this kind of stuff comes up and I hope they feel the same way.

With that in mind, it’s worth noting that, though I prefer pitchers batting, I don’t believe the National League’s rules in this regard are objectively better. Indeed, when I take my personal preferences out of the equation and look at the matter rationally, I cannot escape the logic of the DH in today’s game and the futility of pitchers batting.

The game is not played by all-around ballplayers anymore. Pitchers are just dreadful at hitting and, increasingly, are unable to even bunt particularly well. The strategy and gamesmanship my NL friends like to talk up is rather contrived when one thinks about it. Really, these machinations are more about the avoidance of pitchers batting than taking advantage of it. The whole dance in which managers spend so much energy to optimize minor matchups, often costing them their best pitchers and best hitters runs counter to the idea of my best nine playing your best nine and let’s see who wins.

And it’s not like this will get better. If anything, it will only get worse. In the absence of any expectation for pitchers to hit before reaching the NL combined with the absence of any financial pressures that might make adding a specialist to the roster problematic, there is nothing that will incentivize teams to make their pitchers better hitters. It makes no real sense to have pitchers batting now.  We certainly wouldn’t set it up that way if we were starting from scratch today.

I think baseball will, eventually, expand the DH to the National League. It probably won’t be because one side of the great DH debate concedes defeat and the change is made for the greater good of the sport itself. Actually, I figure it will come as a result of some collective bargaining thing, in which the players give up something to the owners in exchange for 15 more high-paying roster spots. But it will happen. Probably within the next decade on the outside.

And when it happens I will be a little sad. But ultimately I must conclude that pitchers hitting is a lot like player-managers, automats, ornate bank lobbies, milkmen, drive-ins and any other number of 19th/20th century things which tickled my fancy. They were cool. I kinda miss them. But they are an artifact of history and today there is no logical reason to have them, even if it seemed natural and logical to have them once upon a time.

MLB orders Josh Hader to sensitivity training, participation in diversity initiatives

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Major League Baseball released a statement about Josh Hader a few minutes ago. Here it is in its entirety:

“During last night’s game we became aware of Mr. Hader’s unacceptable social media comments in years past and have since been in communication with the Brewers regarding our shared concerns.  After the game, Mr. Hader took the necessary step of expressing remorse for his highly offensive and hurtful language, which fails to represent the values of our game and our expectations for all those who are a part of it.  The Office of the Commissioner will require sensitivity training for Mr. Hader and participation in MLB’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.”

People can parse Hader’s apology if they want to — I wrote about what I feel like Hader needs to say and do to show that his tweets truly are not representative of who he is now — but this is probably about as well as Major League Baseball can do with this. The tweets in question occurred years ago, before Hader was in professional baseball. They even occurred before Major League Baseball had a formal social media policy. MLB attempting some sort of way-after-the-fact punitive action on Hader like a fine or a suspension would (a) be met with some understandable resistance by Hader and the union; and (b) would look more like the league trying to deal with a P.R. crisis more than dealing with the player.

That being said, the sensitivity training and diversity initiative participation makes loads of sense. If, as Hader said last night, he’s a different person now than he was back in 2011-12, he should embrace such activities. They’re positive ones and, hey, who couldn’t use a brush-up? If his claims of being a changed man were merely a reaction to a social media firestorm, well, that’ll be dealt with pretty well in those arenas as well. Either way, this gives Hader an opportunity to put his money where his mouth is.

If you think making Hader do such things is “punishment,” well, that opens up another conversation altogether I suppose.