The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

July 18, 2013

DH debate at 40: No sign of slowing down

(Continued)

There are purists who have a hard time forgiving MLB for the installing the DH, though. Remember the movie "Bull Durham," when Kevin Costner's character Crash Davis launches his crude rant about the qualities and superficialities of life.

"I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing AstroTurf and the designated hitter," he said.

The NL guys, naturally, tout the purity of the no-DH game and the additional substitution strategy it provides. Many pitchers simply find it fun to try to hit — even if it means sometimes looking silly swinging meekly at strike three.

Yes, DH conflicts keep on coming — even in spring training. The home team is supposed to decide whether or not to use it and sometimes managers disagree.

Cincinnati's Dusty Baker wanted to use Shin-Soo Choo in that role for an exhibition game in March as a precaution for his tight right quadriceps, but Arizona's Kirk Gibson insisted on keeping the pitcher in the lineup so he could let starter Brandon McCarthy take some swings. Baker and Gibson argued before the game about it at home plate. Gibson prevailed because the Diamondbacks were the host team.

When the games count, of course, the DH is used in AL ballparks and pitchers bat in NL venues.

This year, that will force Detroit manager Jim Leyland to leave designated hitter Victor Martinez out of the lineup at Miami on the final weekend of the regular season while the other teams in the league use their DH as usual. If the AL Central or wild-card races are still unsettled then, that's the kind of potentially pennant-altering wrinkle that could someday prompt a change.

"I think that we need to get a unified set of rules, and I believe that we will get there some day," the 68-year-old Leyland said. "I don't know if I will be there to see it, but I think we will get there. I don't care which way we go, but I think that without question we need to do it."

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