The 2015 Milwaukee Brewers are not an easy team to write about. There is only so much to say about a team with the worst record in Major League Baseball and a seemingly endless steak of bad luck. With that in mind it’s time to discuss issues that are kind of related to the Brew Crew. The growing debate about whether the designated hitter should make it’s way to the National League is a good place to start.
Milwaukee baseball fans are probably the best group to ask about the DH. The Brewers spent 27 years* in the American League before switching over to the Senior Circuit for the 1998 season, so Milwaukeeans are especially aware of the benefits and pitfalls of the DH.
*The DH started being used in the 1973 season, so pitchers still hit for the Brewers from ’70-’72.
One of the prime benefits of the DH is that it extends the careers of excellent hitters that are either injury prone or breaking down because of age. Paul Molitor is one of the few Hall of Famers who spent most of his career as a Milwaukee Brewer and his career was greatly extended because of the DH positing. In 1991 and 1992 a mid-30s Molitor hit .325 and .320, respectively, playing primarily as a DH. Given the choice of “seeing Paul Molitor hit” and “not seeing Paul Molitor hit,” I’m confident most Brewer fans would chose the former.
The downfall of the DH is that it eliminates late game strategy and thereby reduces tension. The thrill of baseball is that games are a crescendo building to the final three outs. While this is true in the AL, it’s extra true in the NL. For example, if an AL starting pitcher is efficiently dealing through seven innings, great! he can go right back out there for the 8th, no problem. But what if it’s an NL pitcher and his batting spot is due up third next inning? And what if his team’s bullpen is shaky? And what if the first two batters reach? These are the strategic conundrums that make the National League game much nerve-wracking and mentally engaging.
All of this said, my position on the matter is that of a politician trying to make everyone happy. I like that the AL and NL are different. I liked watching Frank Thomas crush baseballs for the White Sox and for one magical year with the Oakland Athletics. Yet I also liked the absurdity of Ben Sheets flailing away and then making a hilarious comment about his hitting in the post game press conference.
Major League Baseball benefits from having the DH in one league and no DH in the other. So no, the NL should not adopt the DH.
What do you think?