“As much as you dislike the National League, its purer rules have provided an abundance of drama this week as pitchers have been coming through at the plate: Micah Owings’ game-tying homerun versus the Astros, Carlos Zambrano’s opposite field shot at Wrigley and the Cincinnati Reds couldn’t get former pitcher Rick Ankiel out to save their lives. It’s late in the game, your bench is empty, but you need a clutch at-bat from one of your pitchers. Who do you send to the dish and why?”
I actually think that this is a great question and it’s something I was thinking about earlier this week while I was looking at the recap of Owings’ heroics. As much as I talk about the American League being superior to the NL, I do like the analytical aspect of having the pitcher bat. It makes the role of the manager much more important and allows for more creativity.
However, I think this question also leads to some other interesting facets of the game because it’s interesting to see how pitchers react when they switch leagues. For instance, Johan Santana is not someone you think of as a hitter but that’s because he’s spent his entire career until now in the AL. But, when you look at his numbers in the few games he played interleague, he didn’t acquit himself all that terribly. So, the Mets, in addition to getting one of the best pitchers in the game, also picked up a guy who’s not a total liability in the nine-hole. That’s a huge advantage to any team.
Now, I’m not saying that I’d send Santana up to bat at the end of the game when I need some clutch hitting but it’s nice to get a little more than you bargained for. And let’s be honest here, at this point in the season, I’d say it’s a pretty easy decision that
the guy you’d love to have available is Micah Owings. I mean, the guy
is just a hell of a good hitter no matter how you look at it. Zambrano
has his upsides and Rick Ankiel is a good story but Ankiel is a
position player now so he doesn’t really count. And I’d say that
Zambrano and Owings are the only two pitchers I’d ever feel comfortable
sending to the plate when I really need to get something going.
Having said all that, I have to take exception to your initial premise that the NL is more pure. Like all sports, baseball has evolved over time and the DH is merely one more step in that evolution. You could easily argue that basketball is much less pure because they introduced the three point line and the shot clock. I mean, if it was still the same way Naismith wanted it, games would end 12-6 and you’d be bored out of your head. When it comes down to it, sports exist to entertain the masses and it is the masses that decide what they want. This leads to inevitable conflict between the strict constructionists (people like you) and the reformers (people who wear pink hats). So, perhaps “pure” is the correct term after all but pure does not always equate to “better.” If you aren’t convinced, maybe you should take a look at what Scalia, Cheney and their merry band of strict constructionists have done to the Consitution.