It reignited one of the most long-standing debates in baseball.
Earlier this week, after a frustrating, months-long back-and-forth, Major League Baseball and the players’ association were finally (begrudgingly) able to come to an agreement on an abbreviated 2020 season.
As part of this campaign — the shortest since 1878 — teams will play a 60-game schedule and a runner will be placed on second to start extra innings in an effort to avoid long-inning games. MLB will also institute a universal designated hitter, meaning the National League will have a full-time DH for the first time, a rule that will continue into 2021 and likely become permanent after the 2022 collective bargaining agreement.
With the DH back at the forefront of the discussion, the question remains: Are you for or against the all-time hitter?
At this point, the overwhelming majority of the general audience seems to be in favor of making the universal DH a fixture at the Major League level. Long in place in the American League, the argument is that another actual hitter leads to more runs and a more exciting brand of baseball, especially in an era where fewer and fewer NL pitchers are capable of anything more than bunting.
There are also, of course, the baseball purists, who believe that every position should bat and that the additional strategy needed in the NL enhances the game. To them, this is the way baseball was meant to be played.
But where do the area high school coaches stand?
On Friday, the TH reached out to as many of the 24 Big 30 coaches from last season as it could to poll them on this topic. We connected with 17, all of whom provided an interesting and thoughtful perspective on the DH debate.
Mirroring the general opinion, nine — a notable majority — of those coaches were in favor of a universal DH, some adamantly so. Three were split, but ultimately understood why the sport would be shifting toward this decision. Only five were firmly against an NL designated hitter, primarily citing that “old school” mentality.
Here’s a sampling of what they had to say:
Steve Yatzkanic, Cuba-Rushford, in favor
“First of all, I don’t like that both the leagues are different. To me, they should be the same, that never made any sense. That would be like half of the NBA having a 3-point line in one place and the other part of the NBA doesn’t. One way or the other, my first thing is it should all be the same, so when you get to the playoffs, it’s a level playing field.
“If you’re old school, and I am old school … but again I like the DH, because let’s face it, pitchers can’t hit, and I know that’s another strategy of the game but we all know, high school coaches, if we could get that worst hitter out of there and DH him, we do.”
Jame Thomas, Otto-Eldred, against
“I think the pitchers should have to bat in their position. I think that the DH position shouldn’t be a position.”
Reed Mitrowski, Franklinville, in favor
“I hope they go with it and they stick with it long term … (you’d see) more offense, ideally more runs. Not that low-scoring games can’t be exciting, but most games that I’ve been to that are fun, there’s big hits, extra-base hits and home runs, so that’s my thing.
“You go to a couple of MLB games in the summer, I’d rather see more offense than a pitcher come up who might not be able to hit and it’s kind of an automatic out. That’d kind of a wasted spot. Not that none of them can hit, but for the most part, it’s a sacrifice bunt or an automatic out.”
Les DeGolier, Olean, split
“I’m an NL guy, I’m a Braves fan, so I’m a big fan of pitching. I grew up watching Greg Maddux, he’s my all-time favorite, so I appreciate those pitchers that can do the little things to help their team — bunt, play the small-ball game.
“I get the big offense, drawing more attention and having the bigger scores and things like that. I don’t lean one way or the other, I appreciate both sides. Personally, I like the NL style where the pitcher’s forced to be a part of the offense, but you have to appreciate the DH and how it plays into strategy and appeals to a more high-scoring game. I guess I’m caught in the middle.”
Andy Carlson, Bradford, against
“I like the original intent of the game, it makes it harder on the pitchers, and I’m a pitcher, so I’m against using the DH. When you think about it, one of the major things they’ve been talking (about) is the length of the game; adding a DH to each league is going to make the game harder because — fortunately or unfortunately — pitching to a pitcher is a heck of a lot easier than pitching to a guy who’s going to bash 30 home runs. So it’s going to lengthen the game rather than shorten it.”
Nate Zitnik, Port Allegany, in favor
“You’ve got to think about now in this age of specialization, no one wants to see pitchers go up and flail the bat. As a baseball purist, you might look at this comment and say, ‘that guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about,’ but it gets another kid involved at the high school level, and at the MLB level, I love it because you’ve got to get creative as a manager, but I think you can get just as creative, if not more creative with your DH.
“I’ve always felt like that was something (where) they were behind the times. Baseball’s one of those purist sports where they don’t necessarily want to change things, but sometimes change is good, too.”
Mike Matz, Portville, in favor
“As a pitcher who couldn’t hit, there’s no reason to have a pitcher hit in the MLB. My dad will probably be irritated when he sees this because he’s a traditionalist, but no way. Look, there’s the competitive thing which is, you look at it and you think, a pitcher’s not going to contribute anything to the game play when they hit. Then I say, alright, we want fans to come out to the games, and kids especially.
“Kids, they don’t want to see a pitcher hit; they want to see a home run; they want to see a double, big offensive numbers. They don’t want to see Bartolo Colon go up there and (try to swing.)”