The Not-So-Curious Case for a DH

I’ll start right off the bat and let everyone know that I like having a DH. When I go to ball games, I don’t want to see the pitcher hit; it’s usually painful, awkward, and a guaranteed out. Who wants to see that? Let’s be honest: the only pitcher who is a joy to watch hit is Bartolo Colon, and that’s because it’s always a funny at bat. Watching him swing a bat is something that always brightens my day.

This morning it was reveled that Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright will most likely be missing the entire season with an Achilles injury he sustained while getting out of the batter’s box. He was running to first on a pop fly and tweaked something, which ended up being worse than most had figured. He’s getting an MRI on Monday, but the conclusion seems foregone. Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer said this injury should get MLB talking about having a designated hitter in both leagues, something I agree with 100%.

Earlier this year, Arizona Diamondback rookie Archie Bradley got his first hit in his first big-league at bat. Pretty impressive, right? It was impressive until he got picked off at first for basically being a zombie on the bases, not paying attention to the pitcher. Cool, you got a hit, but you still got an out. These kind of things happen to pitchers all the time. They are slow on the base paths, don’t make aggressive slides, and are only good for bunting. It’s harsh, but true. I don’t want my starting pitcher to get hurt because he is far less replaceable than a position player. Injuries happen all the time in baseball, but having a DH can prevent a good many pitching injuries.

Now, there are plenty of pitchers who are actually pretty good hitters. Madison Bumgarner is a solid hitter, as is Zack Greinke. Lots of pitchers also enjoy hitting. Scherzer said he likes to take hacks and prepare for at bats, but understands that no one wants to see him hit. I think there are tons of good reasons to have a DH:

1) No more hurt pitchers. If they must get hurt, I’d rather they get hurt on the mound.

2) No more “easy outs”. Pitchers in the American League have to work a smidge harder because they don’t get guaranteed outs. You don’t get to look at the line up and smile because you only have to work to two position players in the next inning. You actually have to do what your team is paying you $15 million to do: get potentially difficult outs. You’re not getting paid more money than God to get easy outs. If you are making fat stacks, I want you to earn your worth, dammit!

3) No need to take pitchers out early. How often have you seen a pitcher in a groove, but pulled out of the game early because the manager wanted to use a pinch-hitter to try and get some offense going? How dumb is that? You shouldn’t have to pull your pitcher out of the game early to try and get some runs! With a DH, pitchers can go deeper into games and you don’t have to burn through your bullpen unless it’s one of those games where everyone is having a collective brain fart. It’s crazy how many bullpen pitchers a manager uses, just because his spot to bat is coming up. I think I’ve seen maybe one or two relief pitchers ever go up to the plate. In the NL, being a relief pitcher is a Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am kinda deal, isn’t it? Perhaps relief pitchers could go a little longer and you long-relief guy could go a more innings if they didn’t have to bat.

4) Use the DH to rotate players. Got a guy who has a hot bat but needs a day off? Put him as the DH! Take him out of the field for a day and just have him hit. Managers in the AL do this all the time when they need to rest some of their players. Just because you have a DH position does not mean you have to have the same person hitting there all the time. People like David Ortiz and Victor Martinez, who play there exclusively, are rare. Give your guys a partial day off and keep them more rested.

5) More offense!!!! It’s a pitcher’s paradise these days, with teams scoring fewer runs. We have fewer power hitters these days and offense is down all across baseball. It might not help much, but having a DH could potentially increase a team’s run supply. Unlike pitchers, a DH has the power to change the game with the swing of his bat. For real though, when it comes to hitting, you always hear me say “Aww crap, it’s Big Papi!” I don’t think I’ve ever said “Crap, Clayton Kershaw is batting!” Seeing a pitcher hit does not exactly draw fear in anyone…

If you ask me, I think it is inevitable that the DH will come to the NL. Pitchers are too valuable these days to risk getting injured swinging the bat. There are some injuries that you cannot prevent, but you can prevent injuries sustained while batting. Will Wainwright’s injury change the system? Probably not, but it sure is sparking a conversation.


Biggest Surprises Thus Far. 10 Whole Days into the Season. Yep. 10.

I admit, I have been eating some crow for the first week of the season. I have been bragging endlessly about my Yankees, only to have them perform lack-luster at best. It pains me and makes me sad, but as I have written earlier, it’s only like, what ten days into the season? I’m not worried yet. However, there have been some other big surprises that have made me take pause and begin to search for some terribly yucky looking crows…

Kansas City Royals: Yeah…so…about those Royals. I made my post-season picks about a month or so ago and they did not make the cut. I figured the Tigers and the Indians were going to be the dominant forces within the AL Central. I’m not alone, though: most media figures and sports journalists also didn’t pick the Royals to contend this year. At the moment, they are the only undefeated team in baseball. Yep. The Royals, who have clearly heard everything the media has been saying, have a mighty big chip on their shoulder. Will they make the post-season after all? I don’t know. You have to remember that the Tigers are a force so far, too, so it’s gonna be a dog fight to the end in this division.

San Francisco Giants: Your 2014 World Champs are currently sucking eggs. Big, fat, massive eggs (by their standards. They’re still not on the level of, say, the Twins). Their defense has been poor, the hitters they have are light hitters (perhaps with the exception of Buster Posey), and the pitching has not been as stellar as it was last year. They seem to be continuing with the trend of winning a World Series and sucking balls the next season. Will they be this bad in July or September? Maybe. They need to find some offense and fast. I’d love nothing more than to watch them squirm toil at the bottom of the division, but they are a better team than that. There is no reason the Diamondbacks and Rockies should be performing much better this season (even though I REALLY REALLY REALLY want the D-Backs to contend. Hell, let’s have the Rockies contend too, just for grins and giggles!).

Miami Marlins: This was one of my wild-card teams and they are playing like they really want to prove me wrong. Their defense have been amazing, with WebGems cracking ESPN’s broadcast almost every night, but the pitching? Oy vey. Case in point: normally solid pitcher Mat Latos has a 17.36 ERA in two starts, in which he has only pitched 4.2 innings COMBINED. Jose Fernandez can’t come back from Tommy John soon enough! The Marlins have the talent everywhere on the roster to turn it around, but they will need more pop from the bats to combat the pitching miscues. This team has ONE homerun this year. Nelson Cruz hit two homeruns in one game the other night. Yikes.

Adrian Gonzalez: Color me kind of surprised! I know Gonzalez is a bomb-diggity player, but his hot start has taken everyone on planet by surprise. In eight games, he sports a .585 batting average, five homeruns, 8 RBI’s, and an OPS of 1.815. Sweet Baby Jesus.

Honorary Mention – Alex Rodriguez: You thought I could make it through a post without mentioning Bae-Rod, didn’t you? Ha! Nope. He has actually been a surprise to everyone, myself included. He may be striking out a lot, but he’s killing it with the RBI’s and is actually making good contact with the ball. His bat speed is good and he is seeing the ball fairly well. He’s atrocious when he’s playing in the field (did anyone else cringe watching him play first base? I was cringing so much I thought my face would freeze that way), so he is really only good for his bat. But, the Yankees need his offense and if he can keep banging out RBI’s, he’ll keep getting playing time. Besides, his walk-up music is “Don’t Stop Believing”, which is greatest thing he has ever done for baseball.

Again, I’ve said this 1,000,000,000 times, it is only ten days into the season and there is no need to assume any of these teams or players are going to continue playing how they’re playing. It’s just too early to determine anything. But, so far, these teams and players have made me take a step back and smile. Baseball is such a funny game, isn’t it?

Josh Hamilton

I have to admit, I have been feeling very conflicted about what has been happening with Angels outfield Josh Hamilton. It bothers me to hear all of the rhetoric being spouted from the Angels management, but I am comforted by the assurance from his teammates that he is still a member of the team. If you didn’t know, Hamilton has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, but has been clean for the last few years. He is a prolific hitter, or at least, he was a prolific hitter before he signed with the Angels in 2012. His numbers have been down since and has only been hitting .255 since joining the team. Considering the amount of money he signed for ($125 million, to be exact), those are not the number you want to see. Then, before spring training it was revealed that he had relapsed. He is currently recovering from a shoulder injury and not expected to play until May.

Say what you will, but the Angels knew of his problems long before he was signed. After the relapse, MLB decided he had not violated the joint drug agreement and was clear to play. However, the Angels are singing a different song. They claim that there were special clauses in his contract that would make his contract basically null and void if he suffered a relapse. I can understand their logic behind this move; after all, no one wants to pay a guy who might be hooked on drugs and not playing. The Players Association says that not letting Hamilton play is unjust and will surely file a suit if the Angels don’t let him play. Arte Moreno, the team’s owner, refused to say if Hamilton would ever play for the team again. His silence speaks loudly.

One player who is not silent is Angels lefty CJ Wilson. Wilson, who is the team’s representative for the MLBPA, has stated that if Hamilton was playing well, none of this would even be happening. If he was hitting .300, like he was signed to do, the organization would welcome him back with open arms.”Literally everything is different if you’re good. If you’re good, you get away with everything. That’s all there is to it”, Wilson told reporters. And he’s right. That’s how sports work. Fans, owners, managers, etc. will forgive and forget if you are producing on the field.

But this puts us in a moral quandary: do we let Hamilton play or do we insist he get treatment before he steps back onto the diamond? And, if we do let him play, what happens if he doesn’t play well? If he doesn’t play well, the team looks like a fool, but he does play well, no one will care about his past drug usage. However, if the Angels let him play and we find out he isn’t healthy mentally, they will look like buttholes for letting him play. Really, the Angels are in a no-win situation.

I am going to play owner/president/manager for a second. If I ran the organization, I would not spout out stupid things. I would condemn his behavior, but I would make sure everyone knew his health was the most important thing. Then, I’d suck it up and pay him the money he is owed. I knew full well of his struggles when I signed him, so the whole “fool me once” thing goes into play. But, I will only let him play with the agreement that he get therapy. If he wants to play, he needs to get his mind right. He is only human, after all. MLB says he is allowed to play, so play he shall.

Hamilton did well in Texas because they gave him a structured system that did not allow him to have the leeway to use drugs. He flourished under this system. My guess is that he works best when teams apply the whole “ideal hands do the devil’s handiwork” adage.  Hamilton needs help and the Angels are only making it worse. Sometimes, athletes need a kick in the can and sometimes athletes need a butt pat. I think Hamilton needs a butt pat.

Personally, I think the rhetoric the Angels is using is all wrong. It makes them come off like they don’t care about Hamilton’s personal well-being. As an organization, the well-being of your players is far more important than the results they produce on the field. The Angels have plenty of talented men on the team who can pick up the slack while Hamilton gets better. You signed him to a contract knowing full well of his issues, so guess what? You have to deal with the fallout. Don’t try and talk your way out of this one because it just makes you look like a turd. And stop saying these things publicly. It does no one any good to hear you say these things. I’d be willing to bet Hamilton is hearing these things and is probably not looking forward to playing for you.

Overreaction Tuesday…err…week.

How would you feel if I told you the Yankees were 1-4, the Rockies were 4-0, the Braves were 5-0, and the Pirates were 1-4? It would probably surprise you and if you are a fan of those teams, you are probably freaking out a little bit. Or a lot. I’m freaking out a lot. As a Yankees fan, I am totally losing my marbles over the team’s horrible start, even though I have no need to. “It is not the time to panic,” Bae-Rod reminds me. Okay, if Alex Rodriguez tells me not to panic, I’m still probably going to panic anyway, even though I have no need to.

Welcome to Overreaction Week, the week where everyone assumes their team should just give up on the season or that their team will win the World Series. It’s a stressful week for the former because no one wants to see their team spinning out of control at any point during the season. But really, how am I supposed to react when my team’s best player is A-Rod?? Take a deep breath and remember that there are still 157 games left on the season. Cool, I feel a little better, but not really.

Sometimes, it takes a little bit for teams to start clicking and for nature to take order once again. I mean, c’mon, at the rate this is going A-Rod will be the AL MVP and the Rockies will be duking it out with the Braves for a World Series spot against the Royals. Does ANY of that seem plausible? Except for the Royals, not at all. Natural order will take place once again, but we have to give it a few weeks, even a few months for teams to get their stuff together. In the mean time, fans can freak out all they want but it won’t change anything.

So, to all the broadcasters out there: STOP SAYING TEAMS ARE IN THE CRAPPER FIVE GAMES IN. I’m looking at you Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds, and Tom Verducci. You guys called the Yanks/Sox game earlier today and it was a 3-hour Yankees bash-fest. Stop it. It’s been five games. Calm down. Yes, my pinstriped boys are not great right now, but for crying out loud! Don’t say they suck until a little further in the season. If it’s the end of June and they still suck eggs, then we’ll talk.

And to all the fans: CHILL-AX. We have a nice, long season ahead of us, so let’s not freak out yet. Baseball is a funny sport and we should let it take its course before we lose our minds.

As Bae-Rod says, “It is not the time to panic”.