The addition of the designated hitter is probably baseball's most notable rule change of the last 50 years. The creation of wild card teams and the wild card playoff game is also up there, but as far as inning-by-inning management goes, it's the creation of the DH.
It sounds like the designated hitter could arrive in the National League within the next few years, though nothing is set in stone. Will we see a designated hitter at SunTrust Park at some point?
I'm completely for a league-wide DH. As you can see, people are pretty evenly split on it:
Should the National League add the DH?— Scott Coleman (@scottcoleman55) January 24, 2016
This article probably won't sway your opinion one way or the other. That's OK. Thousands and thousands of words from both sides of the aisle have been written about the possible rule change, and a Google search on the matter is worth doing.
The designated hitter isn't what it used to be. More and more teams are using it as a way to rest players without taking their bats out of the lineup that night. Fans want to see the best players play; if Freddie Freeman could use a breather, would you rather him miss an entire game or just not catch bad throws from whoever is playing third base that night?
The DH also rewards teams with more talent. The Cubs are a great example; why force a pitcher to hit two or three times when an exciting young talent like Kyle Schwarber or Javier Baez sits the bench? Those guys may not be able to play due to a crowded 25-man roster.
Jon Lester – a .041/.078/.041 career hitter – would stand in the box three times that evening, not even make an effort, and walk back to the dugout. The opposing pitcher(s) view it as an automatic out, an easy way to get out of the inning should things get hairy. I want the best product possible on the field; a DH helps makes that happen.
Adding the DH also keeps a more even playing field in free agency.
Brian McCann will probably end his career as one of the 25-best catchers in history. There have been a lot of catchers in baseball history. As C.J. Nitowski pointed out, only American League teams pursued him when he hit free agency. Why should an NL team in need of a catcher have to shy away from a hitter like McCann? Because they can't use him as a DH in the final years of his deal when an American League team can? That doesn't seem fair.
Finally, the way the game is managed really does not change all that much with a DH. There is nothing lamer than intentionally walking a terrible 8th hitter to face an even worse pitcher. That's not strategy; it's an obvious decision which takes the air out of big innings.
It's not as if teams couldn't pinch-hit for their DH late in games. Should a manager want to bunt – which is stupid most of the time, anyway – he could pinch-hit a better bunter. You can still pinch-run. You can still hit-and-run. You can still double switch. You can still shift defenders. You can still play the lefty-righty matchup with relievers. The only thing that changes is the starting pitcher not walking up to the batter's box, taking two strikes down the middle and rolling over the third, just to trot down the first base line.
We can do better, and the American League already has the solution. Let's bring the DH to the National League once and for all.