Sunday, April 21st, 2002
Bud Selig is full of crap - you know it and I know it. Baseball was
in the red last year? Maybe you should get someone besides Arthur
Anderson to keep the books, Bud. The commissioner's argument is weak,
but that's not to say that baseball doesn't have its problems when it comes
Although I take a certain underdog satisfaction when the A's beat
up on the Yankees, I know that if the A's did it consistently, the
Yanks would just whip out the checkbook and buy Oakland (they're already
part way there by signing Jason Giambi). A system needs to be developed
whereby large city teams are still rewarded for drawing fans, but not allowed
to use their population advantage to crush small market franchises.
The Texas Rangers have some outstanding players - foremost among which
is Alex Rodriguez, the highest-paid player in the game. I don't really
have a problem with A-Rod making $22 million this year - what I do
have a problem with is that Texas can afford anyone else. After A-Rod, Juan
Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez round out the top three spots in Texas'
A number of franchises might like to have these guys in their lineups. Teams
such as the Pirates, Marlins, Padres, Twins,
Athletics, Expos, and Devil Rays would certainly benefit
from their talents. Although there are probably plenty of reasons why the
three Rangers wouldn't want to play for the Expos - or any of the other six
teams I've listed - I imagine the main reason is that A-Rod can't throw a
decent curve ball.
A-Rod would have to be on the mound because there would be no money left
over for pitching. The three amigos' cumulative paychecks exceed the entire
team salaries of the aforementioned seven Major League teams. It's time to
level the field.
The Designated Hitter
I know there are a number of players out there (Edgar Martinez, I'm
looking in your general direction) who have no desire to get rid of the
designated hitter rule, but this stems more from self-interest than any
compelling argument that the game is better off because of it. Those who
say that the difference between the American and National leagues is simply
that in one the pitcher bats and in the other he doesn't suffer from a central
misinterpretation of the effect that the DH rule has on the strategy of the
I've actually heard people - players and commentators (people who ostensibly
know what they're talking about) - say that baseball shouldn't eliminate
the DH because no one wants to see a pitcher at the plate. This is a little
like saying you shouldn't set yourself on fire because burnt hair smells
While you could make an argument that the statement is factually true, it
neglects more important consequences. I happen to disagree with the statement
literally (I'm a Giants fan and I do want to see pitchers hit),
but let me provide a partial inventory of how the DH changes baseball at
a fundamental level:
Pitchers Hitting: You're the manager for a National League
team and the bases are loaded in the seventh inning. Your team is batting
in a 2-1 game and your pitcher is due up. Do you bring in a pinch hitter
to try to get some badly needed runs? If you do, you have to pull your pitcher,
who has yielded only one unearned run and three hits - not to mention that
your bullpen is wiped out after an extra inning game the night before. If
you don't hit for him, you may lose your last chance at a big inning. This
is a difficult decision for a National league manager. If you're an American
League manager, you go get a cup of coffee.
Pitchers Being Hit: You want to cut down on Roger Clemens
treating Mike Piazza like the eponymous furry creature in the Whack-A-Mole
game or Pedro Martinez dominating the inside portion of the plate?
Make those guys get in the batter's box. Sure, if Clemens beans someone,
the opposing pitcher is going to go after one of the Yankees, but this lacks
the immediacy of putting Clemens sunny side down. Joe Torre had a
rolodex of excuses for not starting Clemens at Shea last year - anyone who
was paying attention knew that he didn't want his ace playing grown-up dodge
Sacrifice Bunt: Don't get me wrong, I like to watch Barry
Bonds knock them out of the park as much as the next guy, but I think
small ball is the heart and soul of the game. Get 'em on, get 'em over, get
'em in. It requires teamwork, selflessness, and strategy. You see players
bunt in the American league, but it's not an innate part of a manager's approach.
Stolen Bases: See above. A crucial component of the game. If
you're in the American League, what's the incentive to steal second base
when you're counting on the guy at the plate knocking it over the fence?
Either way, you score - wouldn't you rather jog to second than sprint?
The Double Switch: This is similar to the pinch hitter quandary,
but it's even more complex. Let's use the above example, but this time, you're
the manager of the opposing team and your pitcher has just loaded the bases
in the 2-1 game. The pinch hitter coming to the plate has absolutely murdered
your guy on the mound in the past.
The problem is your pitcher is due to leadoff the following inning. If you
bring in someone from the bullpen, he's going to have to bat right away.
You want to start off with a speedy base runner so you decide to do a double
switch. This means you remove the guy who made the last out in the previous
inning (your defensively strong shortstop) and put the reliever in his position
in the batting order - this way, he won't be due up until after eight other
hitters have batted.
Then, you bring in your bench shortstop (who is defensively inferior to the
one you just removed) and place him in the pitcher's spot in the batting
order. Now you've changed your defensive strength up the middle and your
batting order all because you don't have the DH. It's a little more complicated
than "no one wants to see a pitcher bat."
Next time - the Wave and soggy hot dog buns.