Baseball has changed. The national pastime has once again shifted back towards the “Golden Age” that my father and grandfather grew up in. It was a time where pitching and defense reigned supreme and one power hitter couldn’t carry a team to a championship. It was a time of small ball, bunting and stealing your way to a World Series title. I am, however, a product of the steroid-era. I have known nothing but moon-shot homers, HGH, and marveling displays of unnatural human strength. As I see the shift that the game has made, I begin to question the role of the designated hitter.
Adopted in 1973 by the American League, the DH has been contested and challenged on numerous levels. Should a DH be allowed into the Hall of Fame? Why is there even a DH these days? I question the necessity of a true power hitter these days, as baseball has once again made a 180-degree turn and headed back towards a defense oriented game. Even more, as baseball attempts to distance itself from the steroid scandal, how can washed up, bulky men, who were commonly linked to the outbreak of widespread steroid usage, be allowed to continue to compete in Major League Baseball.
It has become evident that the DH is outdated. As the MLB season is in full swing, many of the commonly known DHs are struggling mightily. Take David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox for example, .154 BA, 19 strikeouts in 52 ABs. He is adored greatly for his role in the 2004 Red Sox championship run. He hit walk-off home runs, go-ahead homers, and game tying doubles all postseason that year. Yet now he struggles to get around on upper 80s fastballs. He can’t produce. I don’t want to say that it is because he has stopped taking steroids in light of the stricter drug-testing policy MLB has adopted, but it sure seems that way. There has been a steady drop off in his production over the past few years and this year he is downright dismal. If that is not enough to sway you, take these other DHs into consideration:
1.) Travis Hafner, Indians (.197 BA, .328 slugging percentage.)
2.) Ken Griffey Jr., and Mike Sweeny, Mariners (.208, no home runs, 6 RBIs)
3.) Nick Johnson, Yankees (7-for-48, .146 at DH)
4.) Pat Burrell, Rays (.231 BA, 0-for-12 vs. lefties)
5.) Jason Kubel, Twins (4-for-35, .114 at DH)
These are household names. These are guys who have been granted multi-million dollar, long-term deals to hit home runs and drive in runs, yet they are failing to do so. It is time for Major League Baseball to sever the ties. If you do not want steroids in your game cut the DH and eliminate his role. He is outdated, unnecessary, and lacks the full skill set to earn the paycheck he receives. The DH no longer produces at a high level and he cannot provide another reason for him to keep his job. The time is passed; he cannot keep up with the change in the game. It’s time to move on.