By Christian S. Kohl
With several rule changes under consideration in MLB, two interesting prospects include expanding replay reviews in the game, and allowing the NL to exercise a DH option. If one were forced to choose either of these options, which would be best?
In my mind, the answer is clear. Expanding replay accomplishes little aside from extending games which already run extraordinarily long. There is little or no value in having umpires disappear into a dugout tunnel, look at who knows what, emerge minutes later and make a call. An NFL ref is forced to deal with endless amounts of speed, nuance and complexity that a Major League Baseball umpire does not.
Major League Baseball positions an umpire at every base and two down the lines during postseason games. Any umpire willing to hustle the tiniest bit to position himself to make the proper call may do so, and the need for replay should be so absurdly infrequent the issue should not even be on the table. If “getting it right” were such a high priority, umpires would consult each other more often and rarely, if ever, run to a player or manager who dares object to a call they make on the field.
On the flip side, forcing the pitcher to hit in the NL makes absolutely no sense. This is an antiquated rule which refuses to acknowledge that the game has evolved. Pitchers specialize as soon as high school, and many college pitchers never even pick up a bat. Watching these guys flail about is the opposite of worthwhile, and marks the only time in sports when someone who is not a professional athlete is asked to do the job of a professional athlete. They don’t want to do the job, and they cannot do the job. The only thing worse than watching pitchers hit is watching them run bases. The fact that these guys wear jackets is all the information required to realize how inane this rule is. We have guys running half speed with no base-running IQ just trying to get back into the dugout one way or the other. Meanwhile, their GM sweats every second hoping a $100 million investment doesn’t tear an ACL while not sliding into third base.
For the purists who adore the double switch and insist the pitcher hitting adds to the strategy of the game, I will say very simply this. Having a complete roadblock in any lineup adds unnecessary complexity, but that is not the same thing as depth of strategy. If every NFL team were forced to play one civilian from the stands on every down of football, that would certainly add complexity, but add absolutely nothing in terms of excitement or improvement. The pitcher in the lineup adds complexity simply because he is useless, and accounting for that becomes a nuisance.
Anyone tuning into baseball to watch managers institute double switches is missing the real action on the field. Lastly, the game being played under two sets of rules by the respective leagues has always been problematic and needs to end now. With the heavy institution of interleague play, where those games stack up late in the year favors certain AL teams who get to face the pitcher and penalizes others during stretch runs for postseason bids.
Allowing the DH in the National league is the absolute common sense move to make, which will eliminate the complex wrinkles of dual rules and add excitement of lineups with nine professional hitters rather than eight. Umpires making six figures for six months of work need no additional help. The same cannot be said for National League lineups. It’s time to allow the DH league wide once and for all.
Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.
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