Many of you are likely familiar with Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell.
He’s been writing about baseball for more than 40 years, and has been the Post’s main baseball columnist since 1984. He’s written seven books about baseball, several of which I’ve read and recommend to you. He’s knowledgeable about the sport and its history and is an excellent writer.
Friday, he wrote this column about some of the proposed changes to baseball rules and procedures, all of which is worth reading.
I’m going to quote quite a bit of it here, for a reason which will soon be obvious to you.
I often have said that I enjoyed both forms of Major League Baseball, each in its own league. But then the World Series rebukes me. In each game, one team is doubly penalized: playing on the road and playing by the other guy’s rules.
This is your Ultimate Showcase?
The union is never going to kill the careers of its 15 DHs. And it shouldn’t. So for decades, everyone has known the only possible unification would be all-DH.
Now’s the time. Some will scream. I won’t. I became a baseball fan long before the DH existed. I mocked it. Then I covered the Orioles for many years, and not once did I ever say, “I miss watching pitchers hit.” Last year, pitchers batted .115.
It’s fun to see Max Scherzer slap a single to right field and run it out as if he thinks he’s Ty Cobb. But I will sacrifice that pleasure to get rid of the thousands of rallies I have seen killed when an inning ends with one pitcher working around a competent No. 8 hitter so he can then strike out the other pitcher. When you get in a jam in the American League, you must pitch your way out of it, not “pitch around” your way out of it.
As a result, some weaker pitchers survive in the NL. But survival-of-the-unfittest isn’t good for the evolution of a league. Over time, high-quality hitters migrate to the AL, where they can have longer, richer careers by finishing as a DH. That is the main reason the AL has dominated interleague play in this century.
I haven’t watched baseball for quite as long as Thomas Boswell, but I’m not too much younger than he is. I used to feel the way he did, too. When the DH first was invented, I mocked it, too, and said, “I prefer National League baseball.”
I don’t, not anymore, and Boswell has summed up the reasons quite well, I think, and eloquently.
When (not if) the designated hitter becomes part of N.L. baseball and all 30 teams play by the same rules, I grant you, there will be a part of baseball that has existed for well over a century that will, at that time, be history, something we can tell our grandchildren about. “Once upon a time, a pitcher named Travis Wood hit a home run in the playoffs the year the Cubs won the World Series,” you’ll say, and your wide-eyed grandchild will say, “Really?”, and you can call up the video and prove it really happened.
And for those moments, we can, all of us, be a bit wistful and remember those moments fondly. And yes, that game was one for the ages, but such games are vanishingly rare in modern baseball. When pitchers no longer bat, we’ll find other games that have crazy, fun things happen for other reasons that we will paste in our memory books forever.
What I won’t miss is watching Jose Quintana stand at the plate as if he has absolutely no idea what to do with that stick in his hand and make an out 94 percent of the time he stands there, and he’s far from the only pitcher who does that.
The game will have changed and it will be different, and I acknowledge those of you who will miss watching pitchers bat.
I won’t, and I’ll conclude this essay with more words from Thomas Boswell, who, though he is 71 years old, is surely not an “old man yelling at cloud”:
Baseball has a chance, right now, to improve itself on many fronts. Unify the DH at last. Make the World Series fair. Force the NL to improve. Weed out relievers who are one-batter trick-pitch freak acts. Erase some of those 2½ -minute naps when a reliever arrives mid-inning. Cut down mound visits. Expand rosters so players can get more rest and suffer fewer injuries. Speed up the game — a lot. Put in that 20-second pitch clock. By May, no one will even notice it.
Except, perhaps, when we consistently leave the park before 10 p.m. and say: “That was fun. I had almost forgotten how a baseball game was supposed to feel.”