It is like comparing apples to oranges. Yes, they are under the banner of Major League Baseball, but are they really both ‘major league?’ When they have different rules, are they playing the same game? I could quote specific statistics all day long, and you will see that except for a few percentage points one way or the other, the teams have equivalent stats over the last hundred years. But, though all men are created equal, these leagues are not created equal in Major League baseball.
The Designated Hitter… (Yes, I went there).
Putting an extra man on the team is such a massive advantage that the American League has over the National League, that even though these two Baseball Leagues are neck and neck for stats (with a few exceptions), I can not see that the American League is even playing the same game as the National League. This allows a team to keep their pitcher fresh for more of the game, and if another field position is injured during the game, or just gets too worn out, the DH can then take their place! Why not just keep a Pinch Hitter in both leagues and be done with it? This would put both baseball leagues on even footing, at least.
In essence, the game and strategy is completely different in both leagues because of this one rule. In Major League Baseball, when the Pitcher is not part of the lineup, he is able to conserve his strength solely for pitching. In the National League, the pitcher has to not only bat, but also potentially sprint up to 120 yards – either at once or in 30 yard segments. That puts a lot of wear and tear on someone who is then expected to keep a consistent performance while in the field.
The Justification for this rule is that great pitchers tend to make awful batters. Well, didn’t Babe Ruth start his Major League career as a pitcher?
In the American League, you have the capability to make every swing really count. The best pitchers, those who have honed their skill, and specialized to such a degree that some argue that they must make sacrifices in other areas of their game play. Besides, don’t home runs sell tickets?
One of the biggest arguments that I have seen in blogs, on the news, and in person seem to be that adding a designated hitter in Major League Baseball somehow cheapens the game. It means people have to specialize in offense or defense, and that somehow makes the game worse. To be honest, that doesn’t make sense to me. Why not specialize in baseball? American Football has an offense and a defense, and no one complains that they aren’t ‘playing the whole game’.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the idea of a Designated Hitter in Major League Baseball in either league, but the two leagues should not be playing by different rules. Especially when those two leagues are expected to play against each other – albeit just a few times a year. It was bad enough when the umpires were different from league to league, and therefore adopted different standards.
Let us look at the ‘poster boy’ for the American League, the New York Yankees. They have won 26 of the American League’s 61 wins in the World Series. Does this mean that because the American League has won more than half of the World series they are a better league all around? No, it means they have the Yankees. When you have a League that places a priority and strategy around power hitters, and one baseball league that places priority on speed and fielding, when the two collide, it is hardly a fair assessment.
Being a Chicago Native, my favorite National League vs. American League game has got to be the windy city classic in which the two Major League Baseball teams in Chicago, the White Socks and the Chicago Cubs square off. As of 2009, the teams are neck and neck. 36 to 35 in favor of the White Socks. Now sure, you can claim the Cub’s curse, but just a few years ago, the Boston Red Socks showed us all that curses can be broken.
The point here is that these two leagues both have some amazing players, and amazing teams. When playing by different rules, how can you judge one against the other?