Calling for designated hitter in NL an overreaction
While injuries to Wainwright, Scherzer occurred in box, hitting no more dangerous than pitching
By Mike Bauman
Every time a high-profile pitcher is hurt while batting or running the bases, you get people demanding that the National League adopt the designated hitter rule.
In the past week, there have been two prominent pitchers hurt in the offensive half of the game. So there have been twice as many people shouting about the evils of pitchers attempting to hit.
Every day of the year on the North American continent, there is a pitcher with a sore shoulder, a sore elbow, a sore forearm, a sore biceps, a sore wrist, a sore lower/upper/middle back. And every one of them got this soreness through the repeated act of throwing a baseball.
The real danger to pitchers is, of course, pitching.
Now we come to the two exceptions for this week. Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals suffered a ruptured Achilles' tendon while leaving the batter's box and heading toward first. Waino is not only a tremendous competitor but a man highly respected throughout the game. There is nothing that can be said here or anywhere that can diminish the importance of the fact that he will be lost to the Cards for the remainder of the season.
Max Scherzer, a pitcher of equal prominence for the Washington Nationals, suffered a jammed right thumb while batting, resulting in a sprained ligament. This was not a catastrophic injury, although it cost Scherzer a start Tuesday night, when soreness persisted in the thumb.
This being America, the two pitchers had completely different takes on the issue of pitchers hitting.
"If you look at it long term, I think eventually there will be a DH in the National League," Scherzer told Jon Heyman of MLB Network. "Those kids, they want to see V-Mart [Victor Martinez] hit. Those kids don't want to see me hit. Nobody wants to see a pitcher hit. No one pays money for that. ... If you look at it from the macro side, who'd people rather see hit -- Big Papi or me? Who would people rather see -- a real hitter hitting home runs, or a pitcher swinging a wet newspaper? Both leagues need to be on the same set of rules."
But Scherzer also said: "We keep searching for offense. This [the DH] would be the easiest way to add offense."
That is how the designated hitter came into its 50 percent existence in the first place. When lowering the mound didn't bring enough offense into the game, the American League leaped at the chance to add another hitter. The NL, rather smugly at the time, essentially said: "Thank you, but no, we will be playing with the grand old game's traditional rules." And it still does.
You can give Scherzer credit for this much: He could be facing pitchers in the ninth spot every fifth day. Instead, Scherzer is calling for one more paid hitter to face him. That's confidence.
Wainwright comes down on the opposite, or NL, side of this debate. He dismissed the alleged danger of hitting or running the bases, saying that his injury could have occurred while carrying his daughter up the stairs.
And on the topic of the NL adding the DH, Wainwright said: "I couldn't disagree more with that.
"I just think baseball is a National League game. I wish both leagues would convert to National League baseball. And I understand why people would say that, but you can't point to another instance, almost, where the pitcher has hurt [his] Achilles doing that kind of thing. Running the bases? Maybe once or twice a year. Maybe.
"Baseball, the strategy and the game itself in the National League is just a better game, in my opinion. I hope that people don't look at this -- which I know they already are --- and think that we should switch to a DH now. Baseball is a beautiful game. I just hope it doesn't change too much."
And this from a man who just lost the rest of his season to a hitting-related injury. That's a tribute to his insight and his objectivity.
Half of baseball sees the game that way. The Senior Circuit is holding onto the high ground here. There isn't anything in these two recent injuries to move the needle toward surrender, which in this case is the designated hitter.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.