WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

I hate when this happens …

I won’t go into specifics, but I just finished the first draft of a baseball novel a couple of months ago, and I’ve been starting to revise it this week. Part of the revision involved some more research on fundamental aspects of the book, some inside baseball, as it were, and in the process much of the meat of the book is looking like it’ll have to be changed.

For one thing, I’ve learned there was once an ill-fated TV series that comes pretty close to my story. Not naming names, but the show even used the same MLB team that I’ve chosen (though most of my book’s set in the minor leagues). People might think I’m ripping it off, though I’d never even heard of it till now. I said to myself, No biggie—just pick a different team. But then you realize you have to deal with the idea of the Designated Hitter, that contemptible abomination imposed on the American League in 1969. I want my main character to be able to bat, but he’s a pitcher, and I don’t want to change that.

Then I dig deeper and learn that in the lower levels of the minor leagues they always use the DH. Even in AA and AAA ball, National League affiliates have to use a DH when they play American League affiliates. My guy would hardly ever get to swing a bat and display his considerable prowess!

Like I said before, I’ve already taken liberties by changing the names of the minor league teams I use, so people can’t say “no Amarillo Sod Poodle ever threw a no-hitter!” These are fictional teams with realistic elements, but I can’t screw around with the real rules of the game.

Verisimilitude’s a bitch sometimes.

I’m brainstorming like mad to solve these problems, but the dilemma boils down to, Do I succumb to reality and honor the DH (real life)? Do I change my guy’s position after all? Do I keep things the way I have them and risk that a few people will remember the ill-fated TV show? Worst of all …

Do I scrap this book?

To quote one famous baseball tale: “Say it ain’t so!”

21 comments on “I hate when this happens …

  1. Berthold Gambrel
    June 12, 2020

    First, a caveat that I don’t really follow baseball, so that may make all this invalid….

    Unless the book is set in the past, I think I see a possible way out: could you make it a world where they’ve repealed the DH in the American League? The change would ripple through the minor leagues, and from what I understand, many people would welcome such a change. True, it’s not 100% realistic then… but based on the number of people who I’ve heard complain about it, I think a lot of baseball fans would be willing to suspend disbelief for such a world.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 12, 2020

      Not a bad idea! I could set it in that fabled “near future,” and these days it seems like anything can happen in the near future, right? 😉

  2. Stuart Danker
    June 12, 2020

    Aw man, that’s quite a dilemma you have right there. No matter what you do though, don’t scrap the book!

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 12, 2020

      This is why revision sucks! Thanks for the vote of confidence, Stuart.

  3. kingmidget
    June 12, 2020

    As far as I know, no team is required to use a DH if they don’t want to, so given your MC’s awesome prowess at the plate, why not have his team let him be the one pitcher who gets to hit instead of using the DH?

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 12, 2020

      I’ll have to look into that, because my research so far says that at levels below AA, the DH is mandated. In AA and AAA, NL teams don’t use the DH against other NL teams but they have to against AL teams. Maybe there are other nuances …

      • kingmidget
        June 12, 2020

        I’m trying to think of whether I’ve ever seen a pitcher hit when I’ve been at River Cats games and I don’t recall it ever happening. But I think that’s something you could work around, even if it’s “mandated.” Or have him be in a NL team’s farm system and have him hit when they play other NL teams and use those instances to show his hitting prowess. Depending on whether it fits, you could use his inability to hit when they play AL teams as some point of contention in the story.

      • Kevin Brennan
        June 12, 2020

        That’s a good idea. Plus he can pinch hit occasionally, though that must be rare in real life.

        It’s complicated. Look what I just pulled off the Pacific Coast League Wiki: “PCL pitchers hit when both clubs are National League affiliates and they have agreed to have their pitchers hit. Two National League affiliated clubs may agree to use the DH instead. The reason for this is that as players move up and get closer to reaching the majors, teams prefer to have the rules follow (as closely as possible) those of the major leagues. The DH is always used when one or both teams are American League affiliates.”

      • kingmidget
        June 12, 2020

        Yeah, in the majors, the only time you see a pitcher pinch hit is in the 17th inning after they have run through all of their position players. But again, if your character is such a good hitter, using him as an occasional pinch hitter might make sense also.

        By the way if you want a baseball fan as a beta reader, I officially volunteer.

      • Kevin Brennan
        June 12, 2020

        I might take you up on that! This is one I’m planning to shop around to agents, so getting it shipshape is important. ⚾️⚾️⚾️

      • kingmidget
        June 12, 2020

        I’d be happy to do it, and if you’re trying for accuracy, it could help. No charge.

  4. MacNutt
    June 12, 2020

    I misread “Designated Hitter” as “Designated Hitler”–that’s a much worse problem!

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 12, 2020

      On the contrary. I think you might have just given me the perfect answer!

  5. Audrey Driscoll
    June 12, 2020

    The bit about the TV series reminds me of discovering the “cult classic” Re-Animator movies after I’d written (and maybe even published) my first novel, which was inspired by the story “Herbert West, Reanimator” by H.P. Lovecraft. I was blissfully unaware of those movies while writing the book, which is just as well, because my take on Herbert is completely different (and more interesting, in my opinion). I don’t think this has been a problem for me, but if you’re planning to shop your ms around, it’s worth avoiding unintended similarities.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 12, 2020

      That Re-Animator discovery must have made you queasy. No writer wants to hear someone say “you ripped off so and so!”

      I was stunned to find the TV series, but it was canceled after one season, so not many folks would remember it. But the ones who do would probably say “you ripped off so and so!”

      I’m going to keep the similarities to a minimum.

      • Audrey Driscoll
        June 12, 2020

        I think fans of the Re-Animator movies aren’t likely to be interested in my books. 🙃
        Definitely don’t scrap that book, Kevin. You’ve put a lot of time and talent into it, so it’s worth modifying. And you’re getting helpful tips from baseball-savvy writers.

  6. laurieboris
    June 12, 2020

    Hi, Kevin,

    My two cents is that you should go forth and write! Plus, the designated hitter rule is dreadful. But…some MLB pitchers fielded during their college and even single-A days. Hence the reason why Jacob deGrom is such a good hitter/fielder. Or you could have him pitch in the NL.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 12, 2020

      Thanks, Laurie. Yes, I’ve got him in the NL, so I think between pinch hitting and playing against other minor league NL teams, I can get him plenty of time at the plate.

      I rue the day the DH came along. If the NL had it, there’d be no such thing as a double-switch!

  7. Marie A Bailey
    June 14, 2020

    I know zip about baseball, but I like Berthold’s suggestion. It is set in the future, isn’t it (don’t mind me, I don’t know one day from the next)? Get rid of the DH and blame it on COVID19 🙂

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 14, 2020

      True. Anything can happen in an imagined future. World peace? Why not?!

      • Marie A Bailey
        June 19, 2020

        Why not indeed. A utopian twist would be very appealing, given the dystopian world we currently live in.

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