So, I was totally going to write about this and then Tom Verducci had to go and steal my thunder! But I think my point is still pertinent and his article actually helps me out, so here we go…
A lot has been made over the disparity between the American and National Leagues. Until the last two seasons, it was looking like the AL was going to just go on dominating endlessly, with the exception of a year where the Phillies would rise up and say “no more.”
Now, in this offseason which has seen two huge NL stars jump to the AL (Pujols and Fielder) in no small part because of the DH rule, there is some sentiment that the balance of power will shift back in that direction.
There are some obvious reasons why the DH gives the AL an advantage. Having an extra “real” hitter in the lineup helps.
But, a more subtle reason has to do with player development. No team illustrates this more clearly than the Giants. Aside from the health of stars, the major story line in camp this year will be the “battle” for first base.
Brandon Belt got off to a nice start by going 4 for his first 5. Yesterday Aubrey Huff hit a home run. Brett Pill has his best (last?) shot at making an opening day roster. The real question seems to be: would you rather have Belt taking 4 ab’s in Fresno or sitting on the bench in San Fran? Huff is going to get his shot.
However, if the Giants played in the AL this all would be a non-issue. Belt would play 1B pretty much every day and Huff and Pill would make a decent DH platoon. Simple. Done.
AL teams have a clear, if sometimes unnoticed, advantage here. The DH allows them another spot to let young players develop and impact their team instead of rotting on the bench or having to go to AAA.
I’m with Verducci: I think pitchers should have to hit. I like the extra element and strategy that it brings. But, I think the imbalance is ridiculous. And the reality is the DH isn’t going anywhere. The players love it because it can help them extend their careers. We are not going back.
But as baseball becomes more and more uniform across league lines, the day is coming where the DH is a universal rule. And, as much as it might offend my purist sensibilities it will be more fair and it will allow players like Brandon Belt to cut their chops in the big leagues, where he belongs.*
*of course, the Giants might be in this position anyway with the DH rule by signing a vlad guerrero (or whoever) who would be blocking belt.