The designated hitter position in baseball has been argued for more than 100 years. And in the asterisk 2020 60-game season, Major League Baseball has caved to the wishes of modern baseball fans and infuriating traditionalists by making the DH universal for both leagues.
The history of using a designated hitter has been questioned and made the two leagues unique, having two separate lineups, one with a pitcher and one with an extra hitter. With the National League adopting the DH this season, the Rockies now get an extra hitter in the lineup, which could spell trouble for opposing teams regardless of AL or NL opponents.
Plenty of these National League teams have excess players that wouldn’t see the field until a pinch-hitting situation when the pitcher would get substituted in a double switch and the manager would have to fiddle with the lineup card. Now, these extra utility players the NL teams have been carrying get experience, playing time and possibly contribute in a winning way.
Matt Kemp was one of the more interesting signings for the Rockies before the season started. Kemp didn’t even make it on the Marlins team and put doubts in clubs if he could ever play again, but the veteran has found his groove again, proving he loves hitting at Coors Field.
With 39 plate appearances so far this season, the veteran has hit two home runs with 10 runs batted in, not bad for a 35-year-old hitter. Not only does his hitting help the team, but his knowledge of the NL West and his experience in big-time games give the Rockies an edge on any team they’re facing. Expect him to stay in the DH slot, as Rockies manager Bud Black historically likes to go with the hot hand.
With a crowded infield, and not enough bats to go around, it made sense that Bud Black opted Brendan Rodgers to the alternate site. Rockies second baseman Ryan McMahon needs to figure out how to be more productive at the plate because if not, the team’s No. 1 prospect will be called up in a matter of days.
In a shortened season, there can be no room for slumps that last weeks. That’s why McMahon’s spot could be taken over by Rodgers, and the future star will be ready for the challenge helping this team propel to the expanded playoffs. With the DH, there are options and routes the Rockies can use if players are underperforming. If a player slumps, there is a pool of others at that same position that Black can use for a short-term use and bring in fresh bats and fielding from a player ready to prove themselves.
We saw last week when Black demonstrated a clever way to give his star players the start but a rest from the field. Right-fielder Charlie Blackmon was given the day off from the field, but he was used in DH spot. Expect this trend to continue with other everyday starters like Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story. Their at-bats are so valuable that you can’t take them out of the lineup, but they’re expected to get fatigued so you have to give them a night off their feet.
Another rule change is in extra innings where both teams get a runner on second with no outs. I wouldn’t be surprised if mangers used pitchers to bunt over that runner to third, or suicide squeeze a run in like the Indians did earlier this week.
But sadly, the days of pitchers raking are behind us. There are a lot of creative ways to get runs in and it doesn’t have to be pretty baseball, teams are just looking for wins anyway they can. The universal DH now gives managers many ways to score runs without the complication of double substitutions.
We will never see again a Jon Gray hit a 467-foot homer or 42-year-old Bartolo Colon hitting a bomb to left field in San Diego, making him the oldest player in Major League Baseball history to hit a home run, or a Madison Bumgarner crushing two home runs on Opening Day in 2017. Those days are behind us.
But moving forward, some National League teams were built for the DH without knowing it. The Rockies are in prime position to use the extra hitter against other teams and give the AL teams a taste of their own medicine.
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