The short-lived 2020 season included: seven-inning doubleheaders, mandatory batter requirements for pitchers, expanded playoffs, extra-inning runner on second, and the universal designated hitter.
An argument can be made that many of these rules were beneficial to changing the game of baseball for the better, but I think otherwise.
The Universal DH does not need to happen in the National League, and the Phillies should not want it.
Let me elaborate: The Phillies are a talented group and can use the lack of a DH to their advantage.
Phillies pitchers have had great if not legendary at-bats that have been wild to watch over the years.
Joe Blanton was one of the 2008 Phillies’ successes was the mid-season pick-up of Joe Blanton. Blanton pitched well for the Phillies in the second half of the season, going 4-0 in 13 games started, with a 4.20 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. Blanton’s playoff performance aided the Phils to a World Series Championship. Blanton started three games and won two of them with a no-decision for the other, but his World Series start was his best.
During his World Series start, Blanton pitched six innings allowing only two runs, with a solo home-run to add on to the 10-2 rout of the Dodgers. Joe Blanton hit the first home-run by a pitcher in the World Series since Ken Holtzman of the Oakland Athletics did in 1974.
Brett Myers, a key contributor to the Phillies 2008 World Series rotation, was an inconsistent player. That said, Myers would flash moments of great pitching but would carry an above 4.00 ERA and on average a 1.35 WHIP during his career in the city of brotherly love. Through all his inconsistencies and faults, Myers was able to put together one of the most critical at-bats in Phillies playoff history. The Phillies were facing off against a Milwaukee Brewers that was arguably being carried by future Hall of Famer, C.C. Sabathia.
Myers was down 0-2 before working the count full before he drew a walk. Jimmy Rollins was subsequently walked, which led to the iconic Shane Victorino Grand-Slam that pushing the Phillies over the Brew Crew with a 5-2 victory. Brett Myers also went on to go 3/3 with three RBIs in the NLCS to get another win for the Fightin’ Phils.
Hall of Famer Steve Carlton, arguably the ace of any Phillies Legend Team, spent 15 years of his career with Philadelphia. “Lefty” also had an iconic three-run home run in Game 3 of the 1978 NLCS against Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Phillies went on to win the game 9-4 but would eventually lose the series. He had a career average of .207, 112 RBIs, and nine career home runs.
Pitchers hitting is what contributed to the Phillies winning the 2008 World Series, and those players should not be discounted and replaced with the DH. There is no telling what a designated hitter would have done in these situations, so why change things in the National League?
Benefits of a Designated Hitter
The benefits of the universal DH allow for pitchers to focus on pitching and not risk themselves at the plate or on the base paths. Pitchers are always assumed to get a routine pop-out, groundout, or strikeout. The designated hitter spot allows for another power-bat in the line-up to possibly have an opportunity to launch another home-run. More runs equal more butts in seats. Protecting the pitcher from injury is the main reason for proposing the universal DH. The Chien-Ming Wang injury is often cited because he injured his foot running on the base path, which crippled his career in the majors. Wang is one of many pitchers who have injured themselves during an at-bat or running the bases.
Regardless, hitting, fielding, and pitching are all parts of the game, and pitchers should not be an exception. The uniqueness of the DH and allowing pitchers to hit in the American and National Leagues, respectively, have given baseball a great dynamic to see in interleague play and the postseason.
Statistically, from 1998-2012 the National League scored more runs annually than the American league by at least 300-400 runs. It was not until 2013 that the American League has been on a stretch of dominating the runs scored column of a stat sheet. In 2020 the National League scored just over a hundred more runs than the American League. The National League had the DH helping them out last season, but it does not mean that it should cause them to change the rules.
The American League has only beat the National League in runs scored by around 100-200 runs in recent years.
I would say no because anything can happen in a given season. Looking at runs scored annually by each league, they fluctuate and change all the time. This is the same with home runs on a yearly basis. What is the point of making the universal DH a thing?
Pitchers have the skills and talent to lay down bunts, sac-flys, and hit. In the immortal words of little leagues everywhere, “Everybody Hits!” The American League and American League managers suffer from this lack of strategy. Not being able to make a double switch and utilize bench players and the bullpen is boring. AL Managers can leave pitchers in for as long as they without changing line-ups and getting pinch hitters involved. Small-ball skills are fundamental and necessary to the game and do not get utilized enough when it comes to American League strategy.
The designated hitter is an excuse to prolong aging players’ careers who should retire at 36-37 if they cannot field and play the game to its fullest. Pitchers, as well as position players, need to be athletes and versatile. Promoting the DH takes away from the athleticism of the game and defeats the purpose of having nine players on either side face off against each other. If pitchers practice bunting, slapping a hit to the gap or guaranteeing sac-flys to their repertoire, it will provide reliability and skill to National League teams.
Phillies pitchers can work an at-bat or rake if need be. Vince Velasquez, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Eflin have all hit home runs in the majors, and who is to say they will not do it again. The Phillies Phaithful, the National League, and Major League Baseball should see the benefit of letting pitchers bat.
Personally, I do not want universal DH and hope it will not make a comeback in the National League anytime soon. Realistically, the National League is going to deliberate about this before the 2022 season but until then, let the pitchers hit!
Featured Image: Bradley C. Bower/Bloomberg News