The designated hitter has been a controversial topic ever since its inception, and MLB enthusiasts have criticized the inclusion of the DH as an unfair advantage to American League lineups.
The designated hitter has been proven to add an extra offensive weapon to all American League teams, which can cause havoc for opposing pitchers. The American League is known as a powerhouse league, containing better offensive weapons than the National League. It is 2016 and the debate is still going strong. Is the designated hitter rule wrong? Is the designated hitter rule fair? Will the designated hitter rule cease to exist in MLB in the near future? With David Ortiz retiring, is it time for the DH to retire as well?
This season, the list of full-time designated hitters contains nine players: Ortiz, Carlos Beltran, Kendrys Morales, Victor Martinez, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Santana, Corey Dickerson, Edwin Encarnacion and Albert Pujols.
Of those designated hitters, eight of the nine are over the age of 30, with five of them over the age of 35. Ortiz is set to retire at the end of this season. Beltran, Martinez, Cruz and Pujols are toward the end of their careers as well. Some American League teams do not have a full-time DH, and with the list of full-time designated hitters dropping, soon no team will have one. With a young crop of hitters making their way into the big leagues, some managers will want to test them at multiple positions to see how useful they could be.
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It is important that every team, no matter the league, has one or two utility players for their roster. These utility players have been tested at a multitude of positions and may be valuable defensively more than offensively. As a result, the need for a designated hitter may not be as important. In fact, if these players are proven to be defensive weapons, that would make the designated hitter rule seem pointless.
The era of utility players in MLB has reached its peak. Players such as Martin Prado, Jose Ramirez, Ryan Braun, Corey Dickerson, Rougned Odor, Kelly Johnson, Marwin Gonzalez and Ben Zobrist have proven to be valuable at multiple positions. They could easily fill in at any position and managers wouldn’t have the need to place them at DH.
Times are changing, especially in the National League. It seems like the era of pitchers being an automatic out is over. Pitchers in today’s game have proven to be valuable at the plate, having displayed tremendous power and the ability to prove that they are not just an easy out. Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke, Noah Syndergaard and Jose Fernandez, among others, have proven to be offensive threats at the plate. As a result, it may get to a point where the AL may switch to an NL format. If these pitchers can prove to be valuable offensively, why not give them the opportunity to go for it?
The debate is still ongoing, and may go on for a while. However, the DH rule may not be around for long. Some have considered letting pitchers bat in the American League. Some have suggested that MLB should switch to an eight-man lineup. Whatever the case may be, these factors should be considered in the debates and discussions.