If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a fan of the New York Mets who are, of course, members of the National League. All of us have been watching “traditional baseball” all our lives and, to an extent, there’s a sense of pride that comes along with that — at least in my opinion.
When the American League adopted the designated hitter in 1973, I don’t want to say it cheapened or watered-down the game, but it certainly changed the landscape of America’s pastime. Whether that change was for the better or worse of the game is a personal opinion. But for many, either the DH is an abomination or it’s the zenith of the game’s evolution — that’s just how it is.
As for me, I’ve staunchly defended the National League’s brand of the game as baseball the way it was intended to be played for decades. The pitcher hits, the double-switch lives on, and managers are faced with countless strategic options, necessitating a skipper to think several moves ahead as if he were playing chess. To be perfectly honest, it’s a smarter version of the game. I like that.
However, through my eyes, a .115/.144/.148 slash line, 42.2 percent strikeout rate, .132 weighted on-base average, and a negative 25 weighted runs created plus rating — which is exactly how MLB pitchers performed at the plate last season over 5,135 plate appearances — simply aren’t enough to stave off what feels like an inevitable shift in the sport.
I’ve come to the realization that the only thing holding me back after years of knowing deep down that this was better for the game was nostalgia. As a lifelong fan of “traditional baseball”, the National League way felt like a sacred part of the historic fabric of our sport (yes, as fans, it’s ours too).
Coming to terms with this decision was an intensely personal battle, please believe that. I, as many of you, love baseball in all its glorious forms. Heck, 80 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America just voted Edgar Martinez — virtually a career-long designated hitter — into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. If there was ever a time to make the change, now would have to be it, right?
Sure, the strategic aspect of National League baseball will be a thing of the past, and that’s most assuredly nothing to shake off. But just like the American League and its fans did over 35 years ago, we’ll get over it. In my opinion, it would take no more than a month for each and every one of us to not just get used to the Mets using a designated hitter, but come to actually enjoy the added offensive dynamic to the game.
For example, with the added depth on the Mets’ bench this season, a designated hitter could have its perks. Having a Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto slide into the DH spot, strengthening the team’s defensive acuity when the need arises by playing both Juan Lagares and Keon Broxton in the outfield could be a win-win for a roster that — despite making a half-dozen notable additions this offseason — is still a bit thin on grass-roamers.
I’m not here to change minds. I respect everyone’s opinion on the matter; it’s a touchy subject. Someone reading this just said, right now, “once you start messing with century-old traditions, what’s next?”. Rest your minds, folks. The game will survive. As will our undying love affair with it.