MLB Week in Review (June 8-14)

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In 1973 the MLB was faced with one of the biggest changes to the game that the league had ever seen with the introduction of the designated hitter.

The DH was a complete turn away from the traditional game as the American League was looking for a way to boost offence.

They looked at that ninth spot in the lineup where the pitcher would essentially just take up space.

In the original game, every player could essentially be put anywhere on the field and they would be able to play that spot.

As the game evolved and the league became more professional with a lot more money flowing that jack-of-all-trades player began to disappear.

Although there are plenty of kids in little league who can still do it all, as they grow up and move through the system they begin to specialize.

Almost everyone has been a pitcher at some point but that ends when the path to the MLB is set and pitchers begin focusing on getting more power in their pitches while the position players begin to focus on their own spot on the field.

The utility player is pretty rare and the split between pitchers and batters has only grown with the specialization of the sport.

It is why the experiment with Shohei Ohtani is so interesting because nobody both pitches and hits regularly.

To be great pitchers have to spend their time focusing on getting their arms right for the upcoming start.

They are trying to avoid injury and trying to dial into their pitches to make sure that they are getting the right velocity and movement.

It takes a lot of focus on that one aspect of the game and as a result, the other aspect of the game has become an afterthought.

Pitchers rarely pick up a bat and work on their batting because they are focusing on the other aspect of the game.

That specialization has led to a lot of pitchers who count among the worst hitters in the game.

Before 1973 every pitcher would have to at least put some batting time in but they simply weren’t good enough to have a consistent impact.

It was considered an automatic out as pitchers got better at throwing the ball and worse at hitting the ball.

That led the American League to look for a bit of a radical idea, at least for a sport that is not in love with change.

They decided to eliminate that pitcher from the batter’s box altogether and allow another player to hit in that

The Designated Hitter was not a popular move by traditionalists as it made one player a hitter and nothing else.

To traditionalists that is sacrilege as they should play a position and do more than coming up to the plate four times a game.

The move did help boost offence though and for fans, it has led to some great players and exciting moments with some great hitters like Frank Thomas, David Ortiz and Edgar Martinez.

The National League has refused to adopt the rule since and have left the pitchers to hit.

Steadily their averages have fallen and although there are a handful that are legitimately good most are an easy out.

This week at the quarterly meetings the MLB continued a long debate about adopting the DH throughout the MLB.

There are certainly teams and owners who believe that this is still against everything baseball stands for and would never want to see a DH throughout the league.

Others think it just adds to that unique difference between the leagues and provides a little bit of a home advantage for inter-league play.

The league under Rob Manfred is committed to making changes and bringing more people to the game.

With every sport struggling they are trying to find ways to boost the attention on the league and adding more offence could be the answer.

Manfred claimed that there was progress made on the discussions to adopt the DH across the league but also said that there was only a little bit of movement.

The debate continues though as the National League is still hoping to keep the old rules while the league as a whole is looking to bring the DH in for every team.

It will remain a massive debate as traditionalists and a new generation butt heads again when it comes to the future of baseball.


Extra Innings

Harper and the MLB

The Home Run Derby is a strange part of the MLB All-Star festivities as it is by far the highlight of the break but players tend to hate it. It can mess up a player’s swing as they can sit there for a few hours just trying to hit home runs. Many players prefer to sit back and keep their swing intact rather than making adjustments and struggling coming out of the All-star break. This year Bryce Harper has decided not to enter the derby but the MLB isn’t too happy about that decision. The All-Star game is in Washington this year and Harper is the biggest star in the city. Looking at it from a business standpoint the league wants him there in front of his hometown crowd while Harper simply doesn’t care about an event that doesn’t matter.

Experiment Over?

Shohei Ohtani has been one of the biggest stories of the season from his signing to his quick start. He is one of the first players in decades to both pitch and hit on a regular basis, coming to the league with the promise of being able to start every five games and hit somewhere in between starts. He has looked pretty good for his first season in the MLB but this week the experiment came to a halt. Ohtani was placed on the DL with a UCL sprain but things only got worse as more information was discovered. From the sounds of things, it seems like Ohtani will need Tommy John Surgery and could be out until the 2020 season bringing one of the best stories of the year to an end, at least for now.

End of an Era?

Miguel Cabrera was among the best hitters in baseball for years with a mix of power and simple ability to hit for contact. His pursuit of triple crowns and batting records captivated fans for years. Lately, though he has not been the same guy and with a team struggling to stay relevant in the league he has almost disappeared. Last year his season was essentially a write-off after back spasms kept him out of the lineup more than he was in only playing 38 games. This week his season ended when he ruptured a bicep tendon that will require surgery to repair. A second season in a row written off by injury leads many to see the start of his decline and the beginning of the end of his fantastic career.

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