Texas Rangers: American League Teams Disadvantaged Without Designated Hitter
The existence of the Designated Hitter (DH) position has divided baseball fans since its inception in the American League in 1973. This week, Kansas City Royals’ manager Ned Yost said that he believes American League Teams are at a disadvantage when playing without the DH in National League parks. His point has merit and perhaps no team is more disadvantaged without a DH than the Texas Rangers.
"Following the Royals 2-1 loss to the National League’s Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Yost told reporters,” I love the National League rules when National League teams are playing National League teams. But for interleague, I think they should just make it all-DH.” ( Story )"
Yost has a tremendous point. When American League teams are not allowed to use the DH, two distinct advantages are given to the National League team. First, the AL team must sacrifice the use of one of its best hitters or play him in the field where he is almost certain to be a defensive liability. Second, American League pitchers are not as comfortable or adept at handling the bat as are NL pitchers.
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Historically, this situation cost the Texas Rangers dearly in the 2010 World Series against the San Francisco Giants. That season, the Rangers’ DH was Vladimir Guerrero who hit .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBI in the regular season.
In game one of the series, Texas chose to put Guerrero in left field in order to keep his lethal bat in the lineup. The results were ugly. Though going 1-4 with two RBI, Guerrero committed two errors in the outfield where he looked as bewildered as Yeti in the middle of Times Square.
It is easier for a National League team to adjust to life with a DH than it is for an American League team to play by NL rules. All a NL team has to do is insert its top bench hitter into the lineup or give a regular player a night off from the field while still allowing him to hit.
When the 2015 Rangers play in a National League park, one of their two most productive bats this season, DH Prince Fielder or 1B Mitch Moreland will have to be out of the lineup. Fielder will likely play 1B but he is a much worse defensive player than Moreland thus putting the Rangers at a defensive disadvantage.
Also, interleague play in NL parks forces AL pitchers to hit and run the bases, neither of which they do regularly thus putting them at risk. A 2010 article by Erin Redmond (Story) details numerous examples of AL pitchers suffering injuries related to hitting, which they may attempt only a handful of times per year.
Baseball is the only sport that has different rules for different teams. Imagine how absurd it would be if a Big 12 team played at an SEC stadium and was told that they could only have three receivers on the field at once. This is basically what MLB does to AL teams in interleague play.
To find out which team is truly the best, the rules for every team in baseball should be the same. Major League Baseball should take Yost’s point further and permanently institute the DH in the National League as well.
Some purists say that MLB should do away the DH and return to how baseball was played in the good old days. But that is akin to telling the NFL to do away with the forward pass or the NBA to take away the 3-point shot. Besides, who would you rather pay money to see hit, Prince Fielder or Wandy Rodriguez?