The major difference between the MLB’s National League (NL) and American League (AL) is that pitchers on NL teams are part of the batting order, while pitchers on AL teams are replaced in the order by a designated hitter (DH). If the AL and NL were separate entities, there would not be an issue; however, teams from both leagues play each other during the regular season, and again in the World Series. Having a different set of rules in the same league is a bit ridiculous and does an injustice to teams in both leagues when they compete. The NL should allow for the use of designated hitters to even the playing field.
In the past, every fielder, including the pitcher, had to bat. The use of the designated hitter (DH) parted from the more traditional conceptions of baseball. Since 1973, when the position was adopted by the American League, most collegiate, amateur, and professional leagues have followed suit.
The lack of the DH in the National League arguably diminishes the need for pinch-hitters and thereby degrades the strategic aspect of the game. Furthermore, AL fans will rarely experience the joy of seeing a pitcher defy expectations by smacking a home run.
Though there are legitimate arguments against having the DH, most are rooted in tradition. Times have changed. Games have gotten longer and fans demand a faster, more explosive contests. Designated hitters can give fans the excitement they want.
Pitchers are subpar batters due to their specialization and, in most cases, represent automatic outs. This is one of the factors that make a game longer and harder to watch. Pitchers’ common inability to hit curtails rallies and drains excitement from the game. At the risk of injury, managers may go so far as to tell their pitchers not to even swing in their at-bats.
There is no risk of a pitcher being injured if someone else is designated to hit for them. Pitchers can remain in the game longer because they won’t be taken out when they are due to bat. In a close game, the manager won’t have to decide whether to keep a pitcher on the mound or substitute him for a batter who can potentially drive in a run. The DH allows for an additional solid hitter in the lineup, allowing the game to be more high scoring. This adds a different strategic dimension to the game because there are no easy outs with pitchers out of the lineup. Additionally, the DH position gives players who cannot field the opportunity to extend their careers.
The designated hitter is a position that the National League should adopt for the good of the fans and, more broadly, for the good of the game.