Yesterday, the Texas Rangers had their first taste of interleague play for the season. Traveling to Arizona to take on the Diamondbacks, we get to watch the always entertaining spectacle of watching pitchers attempt to swing a bat. For purists, this is the way baseball was meant to be played – with sacrifice bunts, awkward swings and a pitcher that must step into the batter’s box if he is instigating a beanball war.
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However, the Rangers likely have no interest in anyone’s fondness for watching pitchers “swing” a bat, as they lose the designated hitter. On a team that has struggled to generate any offense, producing a meager .211/.293/.337 batting line heading in to last night’s action, losing the designated hitter is a tremendous hole in the lineup.
On the season, the Rangers designated hitter slot has produced a .308/.368/.346 batting line. While the extra base hits have been all of two doubles, the strange balance of Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland has worked. The Rangers designated hitter spot ranks fourth in baseball in batting average, sixth in on base percentage and eighth in OPS. For a lineup that has struggled as much as the Rangers have, this is production they sorely need.
Even more than that, this difference highlights the ridiculousness of interleague games. Why have two separate sets of rules for how baseball is being played in the major leagues? Either make the designated hitter universal, or eliminate it entirely. While the player’s union would likely object to the latter, perhaps adding a 26th spot on the roster would make that happen.
The Texas Rangers offense desperately needs the designated hitter. Yet, major league baseball also needs to end this ridiculous schism between leagues, where one side can have that slugger in their lineup, while the other side gets to watch Bartolo Colon run the bases. This just does not make sense.
Perhaps someday, there will be a unified set of rules for each league in terms of the lineup. In the case of the Texas Rangers, they are certainly hoping that such a ruling would include the designated hitter.