Mentz’s Minute: Go back to your roots, baseball

April 11th, 2013

If you know me at all, you know this: I’m obsessed with baseball. I started playing the game at the age of five, and now I coach my local 18U team back in my hometown of Fairport, N.Y. To put it simply, my entire life has been surrounded by the sport, and it is, in many ways, my best friend.

Few things in life are perfect, and baseball might just be one of them. The game itself – the way it is played, the way it is celebrated, the way it is remembered – baseball is perfect. However,  the designated hitter rule in Major League Baseball is anything but perfect. When it comes to the DH in baseball, I’m old school. There’s simply just no need for the designated hitter.

Since 1973, Major League Baseball has used the oddly inconsistent rule of allowing a designated hitter in the American League and disallowing a DH in the National League. It’s almost likely playing two completely different versions of baseball. How are you going to allow for one team to use the lethal bat of someone such as David Ortiz or Edgar Martinez but tell another team that they must have their pitcher bat instead? That’s the definition of unfair and imbalanced.

The DH was only added to increase the amount of runs scored, which in turn increases home runs, ticket sales and revenue. By my definition, the DH is a “new-era” fixture to the sport centered around increasing ticket sales and popularity rather than staying true to baseball roots. The MLB wants “fringe” fans to stay interested, so they try to boost the scoring as much as possible. Don’t believe me? Maybe you should wonder why the MLB turned the other cheek during the steroid era when Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds were destroying home runs and looking like The Hulk.

The option of having a designated hitter makes baseball almost too easy for a manager. How so? Consider this example: Your pitcher is throwing a shutout through seven innings. Your team has the bases loaded with two outs and the game tied at zero. Stepping to the plate is your pitcher, not your DH. Here’s where strategy is key: Do you use a pinch hitter, thus removing your stud pitcher from the game, in attempt to claim the lead? Or do you leave your pitcher in to hit, hoping he can reach base somehow?

These are the decisions that make baseball so tantalizing and strategic. It’s my theory that until you fully understand all that goes into the game, you can never fully appreciate baseball. Major League Baseball shouldn’t be catering the game to fringe fans who don’t know what RISP stands for. Instead, Major League Baseball should be catering to the die-hard fans that spend all winter staring out the window, waiting for baseball to return.