MLB: Why A Universal Designated Hitter Is Bad For Baseball


The MLB could add the designated hitter to the National League as soon as 2017, but that could be bad for baseball.

Since Rob Manfred has taken over Bud Selig as baseball’s commissioner, he has had an agenda to spice up the game. The use of extended replay, pitcher time clock, and extra netting for the safety of spectators have been the latest integrations. Now, however, Manfred and the National League may be anticipating the addition of the designated hitter for the future.

Currently, the American League is the only league to have the designated hitter on a regular basis and wasn’t adopted until opening day in 1973. Before then, it was fair game for both leagues and pitchers could hit. The San Francisco Giants and the rest of the National League do use the designated hitter, but only for interleague games at American League ballparks and if the All-Star game is hosted in an American League town.

Year-after-year, the designated hitter discussion has come up as to whether it should exist or not.  The designated hitter is a beneficiary tool for, for example, subpar defensive players.

Edgar Martinez, who has the designated hitter award named after him, is one of the greatest designated hitters of this generation. Having to start his career as an infielder, he eventually transitioned in a full-time designated hitter and his career took off. Not that Martinez couldn’t play the field, but he had to compete with the likes of Tino Martinez and John Olerud at first base over the years that were Gold Glove material. His bat was more valuable than his defense.

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Some may argue that having a designated hitter is a bit of a disadvantage. It can be, but there is no guarantees having the extra every-day hitter will make a difference.

Another benefit to the designated hitter could be to help one’s health.

Rather than take a whole game off, a player can use the designated hitter slot to get at-bats in without having to strain themselves by playing the field. Seeing an average of three to four at-bats per game and no field time is a great way to grab credit despite maybe being a little sore or nicked up.

The designated hitter also allows someone who has been injured on the disabled list to help get back into playing everyday, something the National League might desperately miss and why this push is being made. If you are in the National League, to get back from injury there is a lot more minor league time and pinch hitting opportunities, as they hope to get back up and play.

For the owners paying their players, it would be safe to assume they want their players out there every day earning those paychecks as opposed to sitting there and getting paid. They are guaranteed contracts.

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The designated hitter has it perks, but is it the wisest choice?

Last but not least, keeping the designated hitter strictly to the American League has created a culture to baseball that should not be tinkered with. It has created a competition between both leagues giving each a sense of identity. The American League gains advantage by using the designated hitter and the National League gains an advantage using the pitcher to bat.

What gets downplayed, is the fact the National League already has their own version of the designated hitter. But it comes in the form of a pinch-hitter. They are not playing every day, but in specific scenarios, they can come in to get some extra hits or drive in some much-needed runs. A full-time designated hitter in the National League isn’t needed.

Designated Hitter
Aug 16, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) rounds third base on a solo home run against the Washington Nationals during the seventh inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

Also, how can you take away the great moments of pitchers making unbelievable extra base hits, or pitchers punching the ball over the wall, seeing the opposing pitcher in denial? It adds a sense of entertainment to baseball. As a pitcher, nothing is more degrading than giving up a hit or a homerun to an opposing pitcher. That is supposed to be the easy and guaranteed out. But for some, becoming good hitters has made the game more exciting.

Some past inducted Hall-Of-Fame pitchers were able to grab the wood and drive the ball. Warren Spahn, Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, and Bob Lemon were all great hitting pitchers. Former pitchers and current pitchers today such as Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Mike Leake, Micah Owings, Carlos Zambrano, Dan Haren, Tyson Ross, etc., they all can hit. They cherish their opportunities and try to become good hitters.

How about the funny moments of Bartolo Colon trying to hit a pitch, or a 40-year-old veteran Tim Hudson hitting a homerun and getting tested after the game? Those are great moments.

When pitchers hit, they create moments that are just unexplainable and an identity the National League has stayed with since the beginning of professional baseball.

The news of the National League wanting to add the designated hitter, as offensive production is down and innocent injuries of pitchers getting hurt at the plate is a little disheartening. Offensive production is down as pitchers today are craftier with their pitches and their numbers are improving. Also, how often do injuries at the plate occur for pitchers? Adam Wainwright was a fluke accident that could have happened to anyone. This could be a ploy by the National League teams or the commissioner dealing with an attendance stalwart, as having offense is always the best solution to sparking fans’ interest.

Manfred’s concerns for the game and trying to improve it are respectable, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of taking away entertainment and something pitchers like to do for pride. They want to prove they are good hitters and make it sting for opposing pitchers. When Bumgarner walks up to the plate and battles, eventually striking out and showing the grimace and frustration at the plate, it doesn’t get any better than that. He wanted to hit that ball.

I am in favor of keeping the designated hitter, as it has become a norm of the American League and an identity. For the National League, they have been about tradition and having the pitcher walk up to the plate and hit. That is the National League identity. Having named the designated hitter award after Edgar Martinez, that has put a lock on the role from ever leaving the game, as it has become more significant. It gives meaning to future ball players.

They either need to agree upon losing the designated hitter in general, or keeping the current format.

Next: San Francisco Giants: In Need of Bullpen Renovations

Nothing is being implemented for 2016, but this could be the last of pitchers getting regular plate opportunities and it would be bad for baseball.