Designated Hitter Rule Here To Stay, Could Be National League-Bound In 2013

By Tom Froemming

This season marks the 40th in which baseball’s American League has had the designated hitter rule, known officially as Rule 6.10, and today marks the date the DH debuted.

On this day in 1973, Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees became the first major league designated hitter. He drew a walk with the bases loaded in his first at bat. Even tough it has been so long, designated hitter is still a dirty word, especially to National League fans.

Edgar Martinez, the greatest DH of all-time, was denied entry to baseball’s Hall of Fame, not because he doesn’t have numbers worthy of the hall, but because he rarely used a glove over his 18-year career. He ended his playing days with a sterling slash line of .312/.418/.515, was a seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger. Still, in his three years on the HOF ballot, Martinez has topped out at just 36.5 percent.

You have to wonder when, or even if, the perception of the DH will ever change.

With the Houston Astros heading to the AL next year, Interleague Play will take place year round. Does that mean the designated hitter could become a universal rule in 2013 as well? If it’s ever going to happen, next year would make the most sense.

There has been no official indication from Major League Baseball the DH rule will become universal, but the writing’s on the wall. If you’re going to have the two leagues play each other all year round, it’s going to be even less and less logical to have them play under different rules.

I like pitching, I like defense, I like lower-scoring games. For a long time, that meant I felt like I had to like having pitchers hit. Over the past few years, I’ve changed my tune. While I’ll always like all the substitutions, pinch hitting and double switches that come with NL baseball, pitchers really have no business in the batter’s box.

Pitchers have to spend so much time on their mound work, even the guys who were hitting stars in high school or college don’t have enough time to take batting practice to be respectable hitters. Plus, some of them go to extreme lengths to stay warm between innings. I saw Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto running the bases in a jacket yesterday. Just embarrassing.

You wouldn’t want to see centers shooting 3-pointers or kickers playing quarterback, so why have pitchers hit? I know it goes against tradition, but I think it’s time to see the DH in the NL.

Quick question: Who would you rather see hit? David Ortiz or Kyle Lohse?

Having to answer a similar question (I can’t quite remember the players, it was a few years ago), is exactly why I’ve changed my mind. Speaking of Big Papi, with 447 plate appearances this season, Ortiz will surpass Martinez and Harold Baines as the player with the most plate appearances as a DH.

If you’re interested in reading the actual DH rule according to the MLB, here’s it is in its entirety:

Any League may elect to use the Designated Hitter Rule.
(a) In the event of inter-league competition between clubs of Leagues using the Designated Hitter Rule and clubs of Leagues not using the Designated Hitter Rule, the rule will be used as follows:
1. In World Series or exhibition games, the rule will be used or not used as is the practice of the home team.
2. In All-Star games, the rule will only be used if both teams and both Leagues so agree.
(b) The Rule provides as follows:
A hitter may be designated to bat for the starting pitcher and all subsequent pitchers in any game without otherwise affecting the status of the pitcher(s) in the game. A Designated Hitter for the pitcher must be selected prior to the game and must be included in the lineup cards presented to the Umpire in Chief.
The designated hitter named in the starting lineup must come to bat at least one time, unless the opposing club changes pitchers.
It is not mandatory that a club designate a hitter for the pitcher, but failure to do so prior to the game precludes the use of a Designated Hitter for that game.
Pinch hitters for a Designated Hitter may be used. Any substitute hitter for a Designated Hitter becomes the Designated Hitter. A replaced Designated Hitter shall not re-enter the game in any capacity.
The Designated Hitter may be used defensively, continuing to bat in the same position in the batting order, but the pitcher must then bat in the place of the substituted defensive player, unless more than one substitution is made, and the manager then must designate their spots in the batting order.
A runner may be substituted for the Designated Hitter and the runner assumes the role of Designated Hitter. A Designated Hitter may not pinch run.
A Designated Hitter is locked into the batting order. No multiple substitutions may be made that will alter the batting rotation of the Designated Hitter.
Once the game pitcher is switched from the mound to a defensive position this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for the remainder of the game.
Once a pinch hitter bats for any player in the batting order and then enters the game to pitch, this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for the remainder of the game.
Once the game pitcher bats for the Designated Hitter this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for the remainder of the game. (The game pitcher may only pinch-hit for the Designated Hitter.)
Once a Designated Hitter assumes a defensive position this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for the remainder of the game. A substitute for the Designated Hitter need not be announced until it is the Designated Hitter’s turn to bat.

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