Ban the DH? Why? Ban bunting, instead… and some Father’s Day Thoughts

Ban the DH? Why?

Declining attendance at PNC Park is not necessarily a Pittsburgh thing, though the numbers here are troubling. Major League Baseball is suffering a league wide attendance crisis and it has reignited a debate between the baseball purist and those who want a better game.

Ban the designated hitter or bring it to the National League?

Just for context, I am a progressive purist. I love certain aspects of baseball that make the game the charming, thinking man’s game that it is – I want no parts of a clock on pitchers, for example – but think progress is more important than stubbornness in any business.

To that end, Major League Baseball should bring the DH to the National League.

I understand the argument against the DH and I appreciate the intricacies of the, “National League game,” the strategies of double-switching, small ball and matchup battles that have managers announce a certain handed batter to force a pitching change only to pinch hit for a player that never saw a pitch.

I also understand the baseball purist who loved the days when the only two times the AL and NL got together was for the All-Star game and the World Series. The leagues had separate headquarters, the print on the baseball was different colors and the umpires were proprietary to the leagues (remember the burgundy jackets and big, hard foam chest protectors in the AL? Those were epic).

But the game has moved on. The leagues have been merged and interleague play is not going away.

The physical game has moved on, as well. Bunting is as futile in the pro game as pitchers taking swings. Pitchers bat somewhere around .112 and do not have a very good sacrifice ratio. Position players are actually worse when attempting to sacrifice and almost never successfully bunt for a hit.

The drag bunt from a speedy lefty who was a quarter of the way down the line before the opposing third baseman even realized the ball was down is a dying art form as is pushing a bunt far enough away from the pitcher but not too hard so that the lead runner is thrown out.

Pitchers are pitchers. They may have been great hitters at one point in their careers, but once identified as pitchers in college or in the minors, hitting becomes an absolute afterthought. Not a single pitcher is paid a penny for what they can do with the bat. They are solely paid based upon their ability to pitch.

Pitchers are specialists. They are placekickers. The argument that pitchers should work on their hitting because, well, they are baseball players is as absurd as arguing that placekickers should work on blocking or tackling because, well, they are football players.

The attendance argument advanced by Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is blockheaded. The National League historically outdraws the American League in total attendance though the AL can boast a smaller empty seat percentage. The DH will not make more people attend National League games, it will just make the game better, and that is why MLB should bring the DH to the National League.

What Father’s Day means to me:

My very good friend and Pittsburgh sports columnist, Dejan Kovacevic, wrote a touching and sensitive piece Sunday on his website about his special relationship with his father. I knew his father and am deeply sorry for Dejan’s loss as his father passed on Sunday morning.

Dejan lost his father on Father’s Day.

The pain is the same, regardless the date.

I lost my father on Labor Day in 2012. Father’s Days since have been bittersweet. While I cherish every memory I have of my father – a humble man – a baker – a man who loved baseball above other sports – a man who devoted his life to giving everything he had to those he loved – a man about whom I never, not once, heard a negative word – a man who taught me everything I know that matters (set them up with the fastball, change speeds and eye levels, stay low in the zone and, more than anything, pitch without fear) – a man who taught me how to be a father.

I am half the man my father was, but I will never stop trying to close the gap.

Father’s Days were always spent at the ballpark – Three Rivers first, then PNC – and I miss those moments, but I am so grateful for the memories I have and the connection we had. Sports was a huge part of that connection and I can hear his voice right now as I read my column to him and he responds, “I hate the DH – pitchers should learn how to hit.”

My dad was 5’7”, 165 pounds soaking wet in his heyday, and he pitched in the St. Louis Browns’ organization.

Five feet, seven inches. Imagine that.

Tells you everything you need to know about the size of that man’s heart.

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