Monday Rockpile: In Which Andrew Martin Proposes Baseball Heresy

Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The Rockies offseason has already seen some change, but this writer is already bored enough to propose sweeping changes to MLB.

Sunday night, when I typically write my rockpiles, I started cruising through the Denver Post's link section, hoping for inspiration, perhaps a topic to write about. An angle I hadn't thought of. Anything to spark the creative fire. However, the most relevant headlines, as I saw them, were that Tom Runnells was prepared to take the Manager's helm if called, that this new manager selection is probably too close to front-office meddling (my emphasis), and that the Rockies are bad because the guys running the show are bad (thanks, Woody; welcome to 2 months ago). Thomas Harding at MLB.com put up a nice piece about Jhoulys Chacin on ColoradoRockies.com as well.

While Saunders and Harding's pieces are both certainly worth the read, I think we've talked an awful lot about what the managerial changes mean for the organization already, and being October still, I'm still a little spooked from 2012 and not willing to restart the "if we could just get some growth out of our young pitching..." narrative just yet. Instead, I let my mind wander about something absurd I could write about for Monday morning.

So my roommate and I were talking about the Yankees/O's series the other day as we drove to Target to pick up the new XCOM game, and the topic of Derek Jeter came up. Jeter just led MLB in hits (216) at age 38. Jeter may very well be the best #2 hitter in history. The way I see it is that Ricky Henderson is the best leadoff man of all time, and Jeter the best #2 hitter, and then we can have endless arguments about who fills out the rest of the lineup.

Well, see, that got me thinking about the best Rockies #2 hitter in history. He's not there yet, but should Dexter Fowler stay with the Rockies for awhile longer and maintain this level of production (2012 version), I wouldn't be against putting him in that slot.

(The heresy is coming soon, don't worry.)

Then I bemoaned Eric Young Jr's injury this season. EYJ was batting .316/.377/.448 on the season before he went down with rib injuries among any other number of problems. He really looked like he was coming into his own and once again proving all of those scouts wrong who said he was done in Modesto. I was extra excited because before EYJ went down, it looked like we were going to have that Modesto/Tulsa EYJ/Dex 1-2 combo again, harkening us to the days of Willy Taveras and Kaz Matsui.

At this point, Matt points out that we have absolutely no place to play EYJ on a regular basis, should he actually have turned that next corner in his development into a MLB batter. He's right, you know. The OF is getting crowded with guys who should be playing daily and/or need the playing time to show themselves as belonging in the bigs. 2B is also a bad idea.

At which point, I uttered those words that I think a lot of NL fans are in denial of thinking themselves:

"Man, I wish they'd just institute the Designated Hitter across baseball."

Off Topic

Getting in arguments about the DH always makes me think of the episode of Futurama where Fry attends his first Blernsball game:

Fry: I don't get it. Is blernsball exactly the same as baseball?
Farnsworth: Baseball?? God forbid!
Leela: Face it Fry. Baseball was as boring as mom and apple pie. That's why they jazzed it up.
Fry: Boring? Baseball wasn't... hmm, so they finally jazzed it up?

I've only ever heard one argument FOR the DH staying in the AL that wasn't something about the "spirit of the game" or something else that boiled down to "well, that's how it's always been done". You see, in the NBA/NHL Eastern and Western conferences and in the AFC and NFC in the NFL, the game is exactly the same across conferences. However, in the World Series/interleague play, there is a distinct difference to a relatively fundamental aspect of the game, in that pitchers bat or don't. That's the gist of the one argument.

I don't really hate the DH, to be honest. Despite Crash Davis' strongly worded campaign to constitutionally ban the DH, it doesn't ruin my game experience. I didn't draw any less fervor out of the Yankees/Orioles series because Phil Hughes didn't come in to bunt or flail miserably at a few pitches. But maybe it does completely distract you from the game, I don't know.

With all of the pitcher injuries that we've seen happen these past few years (it seems like more than normal, doesn't it?), you'd think that the teams would be pushing harder for the DH. Granted, most of these pitching injuries happen when the pitcher is, you know, pitching, but risk is risk.

So here's how I would institute the DH rule across MLB:

Step 1: Expand active rosters to 26 men. This way, the NL can employ a Jim Thome/Adam Dunn type player as a DH without the dramatic liability on the field. On the other side, the AL can add that extra relief pitcher which makes all them doubleswitches in the NL so feasible.

Step 2: Both leagues have the OPTION to use the DH, but it's not required. While this is pretty much how the rule goes now, I added a wrinkle: before the start of the series, the home manager declares whether or not the DH rule will be in play for the entire series. Should the DH be in play, rules proceed as normal, as far as forfeiture of the DH and what have you. If not, it's NL baseball, baby.

Sure, those rule changes aren't exactly drastic. With Houston moving to the AL in 2013 and interleague play being a pretty perpetual thing, the 26-man roster makes a lot of sense for all of baseball. The second half, however, still adds an element of strategy to an upcoming series. Managers can opt to have their pitchers bat to neutralize a visiting full-time DH, or use the DH simply to level the playing field if the current active roster is somewhat of a mess due to short-term injury or optioned players in transition and thereby minimizing player substitutions.

Given the fact that it's been nearly 40 years of DH vs Non-DH MLB baseball, I do think that a lot of NL managers would opt to continue managing without a DH, based on whatever "purity of the game" mindsets they may have.

Either way, with Houston moving to the AL and the leagues being split evenly at 15, the homogenization of baseball is continuing forward. I personally consider this to be a good thing, but making the DH the home manager's call still keeps some extra variety in the game, and gives us something else to argue about.

To think this all came from a discussion on how to get more Eric Young Jr. in the lineup is hilarious.

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