Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Speaking of baseball.
I guess everyone who loves the game was happy to hear that owners and players reached a new general agreement last week so that the ’22 season can get started and cram 162 games into less time than usual.
But it’s a sad day for baseball too. Because part of the new agreement is that the abhorred DH—the designated hitter that has tainted the American League since 1969—will be imposed on the National League this season. No longer will a pitcher come to bat with two on and two out and suck the air out of a rally. No longer will a pitcher get a surprising double that wins a game. No longer will a pitcher square to bunt without making any pretense of swinging away. A whole dimension of the game is lost.
Because it’s true: With pitchers batting, it’s a completely different game. To my mind, it’s a much more interesting game. Managers have to make moves accommodating that man in the nine slot. Pinch hit for him in the sixth when he’s still got good stuff? Or let him bat and hope for the best? Opposing teams love it when the number eight hitter makes the third out because the pitcher leads off the next inning. Guaranteed out, right? Usually, but not always!
These unknowns are the fascinating details that I’ve always loved about baseball. And now they’re being written out of the script. From now on it’s another slugger in the lineup, and all of the managerial finesse and magical against-the-odds surprises are removed.
Like I said in a tweet last week, the National League DH is the same thing as New Coke. A huge fail (at least for us purists).
They’re also adding two teams to the playoffs, which I don’t like much either. It’s said those additional games will add $100 million to the coffers. It’s a pretty transparent, and cynical, move.
Also, players will have advertising on their uniforms for the first time. Let that sink in. Next up to the plate, Juan Soto, brought to you by Hankook Tires.
What irks, and saddens, me is that baseball went along for about seventy-five years with almost no changes in the basics of the game. The way it was played in 1910 was pretty much the way it was played in 1968. The gloves and uniforms were improved, but that was about it. Then they lowered the pitching mound because guys like Bob Gibson were overwhelming the hitters. Then came the DH in the American League.
They’ve already made it so that an intentional walk is automatic now, rather than having the pitcher throw four out of the strike zone. Now they’re talking about making the bases larger and moving the mound six inches farther from the plate. Soon robots will be calling balls and strikes.
Us old-timers see all this as messing with a thing that was already perfect.
No good ever comes of that.
DON’T FORGET: My new baseball novel, The Prospect, is available for pre-order, scheduled for a May 1 release. Order now to help pump up the launch week impact, and if you’re interested in writing an early review, contact me for an advance copy at kevinbrennan520(at)gmail(dot)com. Thanks in advance!