It’s the most wonderful time of year, but this isn’t Christmas.
It’s that time of the baseball season when the Phillies are in Seattle, the Yankees are in Wrigley, and Ben Francisco is a designated hitter.
Ah, Interleague play, my favorite time of year. The only time of year that almost breeds as much anger, frustration, and debate as the All-Star game (Thanks, Bud Selig).
I love turning on ESPN this time of year, only to hear the exact same arguments I have heard debated for the last decade:
“Should Interleague play be abolished?” “Is it fair that the Mets have to play the Yankees every year, while the Phillies, Braves, and Marlins do not?” “Which league is better?” “Should the designated hitter be abolished?” “Should the National League grow up, put down the Walkman, turn off the VHS, and adopt the designated hitter?” “Was George W. Bush a good president?”
Alright, I made up that last one, but every time I see interleague play I think of Bush Jr. because he was the only owner at the time to vote against interleague play. Maybe he saw all of this coming – the debates, the criticism, the uproar. Maybe he was just choking on another pretzel, and couldn’t raise his hand to vote “yes” for interleague play.
Either way one thing is for certain: Interleague play isn’t going anywhere. You know why? Because it’s a cash-cow.
Too many people love seeing the Yankees play the Mets, the Braves play the Red Sox, and about 873 people (average attendance at a home Marlins game) love seeing the Marlins play the Rays. There is no use in arguing over its existence because it will always exist. However, I am always up for a good designated hitter debate.
Before I begin, let me say that I see both sides of the argument. I understand why American Leaguers don’t want to see their most prized assets running around the bases. It’s a liability. If C.C Sabathia gets seriously injured running around the bases in a National League ballpark, I totally understand the frustration that would come out of the AL.
At the same time, I see the NL’s point of view. Baseball has had pitchers run the bases for over a century and the DH makes life way too easy on AL managers. They are never put in any real difficult decisions.
AL Manager – “Two outs in the bottom of the sixth, a man on third in a 1-1 game, and the pitcher is coming up to bat. Do you think I should pinch hit for ‘em? This is too hard.”
AL Bench Coach – “Joe, for the last fricken’ time, we’re in the American League. We have a DH, so we don’t actually have to manage.”
AL Manager – “Oh you’re right. I’m going to nap in the clubhouse.”
Where do I sign up for that job? You see, that’s no real fun either, so this is actually a good debate. However, unlike every “expert” on ESPN I am not going to pick between the two because that is not the issue here.
The issue is you have two leagues with two different rules. You can’t have that when teams from those two leagues play each other, whether be it in June or October, so the solution here is simple: make the rules the same for both leagues.
I know it seems I am sitting on the fence on this one, but I don’t see any outstanding evidence for either side that makes me think one is better than the other.
However I do see evidence that says Major League Baseball needs to pick which side they’re on, and pick soon. If they want to get rid of the DH, then they have to rid it from the minors, collegiate, and high school level as well. Almost every league of baseball that exists has adopted the DH, so if you’re banning it from the MLB you better ban it everywhere else too. You can’t have pitchers not swinging bats or running bases from age 14 to 22, only to then throw them in a MLB game and say, “Here take this bat.” That’s how injuries happen.
If they choose to implement the DH, the same thing goes. While the vast majority of baseball uses the DH, there are still a handful of professional leagues that do not use a DH. If the pitchers aren’t going to have to hit or run at the show, why jeopardize their future by having them get injured running the bases at an independent league.
Jeez, that didn’t make any sense either. What now…?
…So how about the All-Star game deciding home field advantage? I’ll save those 800 words for another time.