By Emanuel Jalonschi
I know, I know. We haven’t spoken for a while. I hope you didn’t get your hopes up. I didn’t get beat up at a rally or arrested in Vieques or anything. There’s enough of Al Sharpton to cover for me and four or five other protesters, although I hear that may be changing, as he has gone on a hunger strike. Hunger strike?! One word comes to mind: camel. Figure it out.
This Saturday, with the threat of thunderstorms and a ruined game in the forecast, I sat with the captain of the Wave’s editorial ship, his buddy, and a pulchritudinous young lady. We watched the hottest game in town: the Mets vs. Yankees.
Rumor has it that the Mets were a baseball team once. Could’ve fooled me, man. While I’m foremost a Yankee fan, I have to admit it’s really sad to see what’s happening with the Mets. It’s like watching you’re younger brother stepping in a pile of horse poop and then wondering where the smell came from. It’s just sad.
As the game, and the butt-whooping, proceeded I had time to dwell on some of my days as a baseball "player." (The quotation marks are there because the talent wasn’t) One of the best things about college baseball is that on many occasions the pitcher has to hit. When I came up it was like seeing someone hold a chopstick with two toothpicks. This may be a good time to mention that I wasn’t what you would call a "power" pitcher. I wasn’t much of a "pitcher", period. But again, I digress.
There are really three major reasons why it’s imperative that pitchers come up to bat.
First of all, it maintains the purity of the game. Relax, I’m not going to quote Buddha, Aristotle, Baudelaire or Bentham. I know I tend to go into abstracts but stay with me here. I’m pretty sure there’s a point to this. The game of baseball is, and has been for the last century, a game of nine men. Even when the DH was introduced (one of the first signs of Armageddon) it was still a game of nine men and two half-players. One serves as the defensive half and the other serves as the offensive half. What a cheap bastardization of the game just to keep some middle aged former-athletes in the spotlight a little longer!
The "it’s good for baseball" argument is a crock, so give it up. It’s good for revenue and we all know how well Major League Baseball has done when it puts money as its first priority (please see ’81 and ’94 strikes).
For the love of god, let these fat anti-athletes waddle away into the great Cooperstown sunset. Sure it kept Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield around longer. But they were HITTERS - not baseball players. This isn’t a freaking batting range - it’s baseball. Learn to catch, throw and run and then you can stay on.
The purity of the game, and consequently the prestigious records and honors of the game, is compromised by the way the DH is used. The typical everyday DH is either too old, overweight or has a glove with holes like Swiss cheese (remember when Knoblauch was DHing). This changes the way stats are kept and gives an advantage to the "big" hitters. They need not worry about getting in fielding shape physically and talent-wise. This actually punishes fielders by putting them at a rest disadvantage. It also punishes smaller players who aren’t known for their power and rely on their quickly deteriorating speed.
The second reason is the "chess" of the game. In the National League, there’s a little more room and necessity for strategy because of the possibility of a double-switch and all the resulting variables. This is lost with a DH. This may be a small thing but remember that, after all, baseball is the ultimate game of inches.
The third reason, and the one I feel most strongly about, is the protection of the batter. By a pitcher knowing that he too has to face a possible mid-90’s fastball to the temple, he is discouraged to be as risky or intimidating inside. This is the reason that, no matter what his reputation is, I will keep saying that Roger Clemens is a punk. That’s right, a punk. Do you think that if he faced the same thing batters face he would have caused so many injuries with his errant inside pitches? This is the best way to keep headhunters like Rocket from causing potentially lethal injuries for the sake of that inside inch. I’d like to see his smart-ass facing Randy Johnson’s 93mph side arm slider. I bet he’d turn into a knuckle-bawler (get it? bawler?). He’s a punk until he actually becomes a baseball player. Pick up a bat and some testicular fortitude, Roger!
Alas, one columnist’s anger will not change the rules.
Ultimately, like all things in Major League Baseball, this will not be decided by fans. This will be decided by market analysts, sweatshop slave-masters (e.g. Nike, Reebok), spin doctors and the almighty greenback. (Had to throw a little Leftist jab.)
The DH (like the multi-million dollar contracts and the shoe deals) has taken away so much of the beauty of baseball. Perhaps removing this repugnant market strategy-turned-rule will be the first step in the right direction.