The Eagle Proposal for DH Change

Since God gave us the first "designated pitcher", what's wrong with Him also giving us a a new testament for a better way to use the"designated hitter"?

Since God gave us the first “designated pitcher”, what’s wrong with Him also giving us a a new testament from 42 MLB years experience with the old way for a better way to use the “designated hitter” in this century?

 

The problem with all the DH arguments is that they all start and end on two faulty premises that leave neither the pro or con sides any place to go. Both sides, in small groups or large, come together. Unload. Get nowhere. And then walk away to brood some more. Or else, in the case of old NL enthusiasts, simply stop going to see AL games because they are “not real baseball.” – My 31-year old son, Casey, is a perfect example. Those quoted words are his too. He only has seen one Astros game at MMP since Houston moved to the AL and that was in our first new league season. And that was only because the Astros were playing the Cardinals, Casey’s newly adopted team. As you know, the Cards play in the “real baseball” NL, but even the St. Louisans are compromised when they come to Houston because the AL DH rule is in place here. It was one and done for Casey in 2013, once that fact became abundantly clear in person.

The Two Faulty Premises

Faulty Premise #1: That Baseball is exempt from the rules of change that effect everything else in life. Not so. Baseball had been changing all along. It simply bit into one change by MLB that proved divisive over time when the AL was allowed to separately install the DH while the NL continued to play by the old rules.

Faulty Premise #2: That the DH Rule adopted by the AL in 1974 was the only alternative as the answer to pitchers being a dead spot in the batting lineup. Also not so – and we will hope to make a case for a new use of the DH that actually increases all managerial responsibility for strategically deciding how a roster of players are best used in the interest of winning ballgames. Those who support the current DH rule will no longer be able to sit back and wait for the NL to either “come around” or “be forced” into adopting the current DH rule as the only option for that idea.

There’s got to be a better way and some of us think there is.

Where the Eagle DH Plan is coming from

I’m a born in Beeville and raised in Houston NL guy. Unlike most of my NL-blooded friends, however, I have experienced a couple of epiphanies over the three years that the Astros have been in the AL. Here’s what I now see differently:

(1) The strategic depth of decision-making gravity associated with the NL managerial option to pinch hit for the pitcher is over-rated as a hitting strategy move. Just as often, what seems to happen is that managers will use a pinch hitter as a pitcher-change strategy move. It becomes a way to get an ineffective hurler off the mound on the pretext of there being a greater need to pinch hit for him that outweighs the value of leaving him in the game. That way, the manager doesn’t have to go to the mound and hurt the feelings of a big-headed and/or insecure pitcher by taking the ball out of his hands.

Pinch hitting for the pitcher is no superior strategy move. It’s an easy way for NL genius managers to simply kill two birds with one stone.

(2) With pitchers not hitting in the AL, managers in what we in Houston used to call “the other league” have no easy way out, via a pinch hitter, for removing an ineffective pitcher. If the AL manager takes his pitcher out a batter too late, it’s on the manager’s resume’ – with no easier way out of a close interpersonal encounter via a calculated act of pinch-hitter subterfuge.

The AL manager has to make the pitching change move directly by removing the ball from one guy’s hand and placing it the hand of another. If the very first batter against the new pitcher then gives up a bomb, the fans won’t be saying “too bad we had to remove the first guy for a pinch hitter our last time up.” They will be yelling at the manager: “Why did you put that bum reliever in the game?”

Where we are going with this suggestion

First of all,  we need to add that the whole idea came together this afternoon. I needed to write it down now before I lost any of its central points. Parts of it have been growing in my mind for some time, but it wasn’t until I read another specific suggestion by Bob Hulsey at Astros Daily about mid-day this Good Friday that all the parts began to fall in place here.

Bob Hulsey also offers an alternative to the current DH rule that I prefer to what we now have – and it frankly inspired me to take all the governors off our range of choices about the DH. We need to see if reasonable people on both of the current AL/NL polar sides can actually hear something they both would prefer over the current DH we’ve been stuck with for 42 years.

Here’s the specific article link to where I found Bob Hulsey’s DH Plan column this morning at Astros Daily.com:

http://www.astrosdaily.com/column/11302141213fan.html

Here’s where we are going with a far-reaching plan:

(1) First we have to buy into accepting that those two faulty premises I listed at the start are true. Adhering to either of those false premises keeps baseball  from moving ahead. Hulsey’s plan fired the final “eureka” at me when this thought later landed: It’s not the DH that’s so bad. It’s failing to see that the DH could be used differently to actually put more strategical options in the hands of the field manager – and truly beyond any range of thought that now exists in either league. And, of course, we have to both see and accept that even baseball has to deal with change over time, but it doesn’t have to be passive, unconstructive change. It can be, and, hopefully, will be change based upon active study and rethinking and putting into action the finer points of everything I’m about to describe as a better way to use the DH.

Keep in mind – the DH is not going away, but it is in sore need of a better plan for its use in the game – and not be continued as a rule that has established a new position for aging hitters who can no longer run, catch, or throw the ball.

The DH should be a “tool rule” and not a “fool rule”!

(2) Those two points I described in “Where the Eagle Plan is coming from” have been germinating in my noggin for quite some time. If you can see what I’m saying, it will be easier to see why I’ve written my ideas for change in the DH in the way you shall see next. The Eagle Plan (just to give it a name) allows the pitcher to hit, if the manager allows him to do so under the new rules, but it also allows the manager to completely use the NEW DH system with pitchers. If the manager wishes to pay the price of not having to bat at all in a normal game in which the pitcher only comes to bat no more than 4 times, it will cost him on multiple DH tool deployments in one game – and he will have to have a depth of players available who can qualify as answers to the need for one individual time at bat per game.

(3) The Eagle Plan separates pitching and hitting decisions about the pitcher completely. The manager will no longer be able to use one to handle the other.

Here is the proposal in rudimentary form:

The Eagle Plan for the DH

(1) The new DH rule will only apply to pitchers. All hitting substitutions for position players shall continue to be governed by the current rules governing pinch hitters.

(2) The pitcher will bat for himself throughout the game, unless the manager decides to use a DH during a specific time that is coming up for pitcher – and then makes that decision known by the DH’s name to the umpire by the time the man batting ahead of the pitcher finishes his time at bat – and before the pitcher takes a single pitch as a batter.

(3) The use of the DH for any single time in the game does not affect the pitcher’s eligibility to continue. He stays in the game, unaffected on the mound by the manager’s decision to use a DH once or multiple times. Only the manager, injury, or ejection can remove a pitcher from the game.

(4) Only roster players who have not been in the game are eligible for service as a DH. Once they have completed a single time at bat in this role, these players are ineligible to return to the game for any further service as a DH or position player. Batting as a DH now becomes a “one and done” time as a batter assignment per game.

(5) If the pitching spot has 4 chances to bat in a single game, the manager has the power to let him use all, some, or none of those opportunities. If the pitcher (whomever it may be at the time the pitching spot comes up) does not bat at all on a 4 batting opportunity night, for example, it is going to cost the manager 4 roster players whose only service to the game will be their one-each times at bat for whomever is pitching at that time.

(6) To repeat for emphasis: Each DH appearance will be by the manager’s choice. The DH must be a fresh, previously unused player – who then makes a “one and done” batting appearance in the game. The pitcher is not removed because the DH bats for him. Unless injured or ejected, he must stay on the mound until the game either ends, or the manager removes him. Any multiple DH appearances beyond the first one are based on the same conditions and effects that applied to the first DH – for as long as eligible players remain on the bench to fill this “ONE APPEARANCE PER PLAYER PER GAME” role – and the manager decides to use them for the DH purpose.

The Good Effects of the Eagle Plan

(1) More Decisions By Managers. Hitting and pitching decisions by the manager are now totally separated. A pinch hitter cannot be used to remove a pitcher on the bubble. Only a DH can bat for a pitcher. Even if a manager has someone left to hit for a pitcher in the bottom of 16th inning, he’s still considered a DH if he bats for the pitcher – and cannot remain in the game to play any position in the field. – The pitcher, of course, will be allowed to continue, if the manager elects to stay with him in the top of the 17th.

(2) More Balance in the Roster. The roster size may stay the same or even increase, but there will be no career-extension positions called the “DH”. With a single time at bat per game limit upon service to that role, clubs will have to shop for bench players who can both hit and add some strength to the needs of defense and base-running.

(3) Flexibility. Unless a manager calls for a DH, it will be business as it always used to be – and still is in the NL. He may allow a great pitching/lousing hitting pitcher to bat for himself the whole game, if he likes. But if that same pitcher is throwing a no-hitter and is coming up in the bottom of the 8th in a 0-0 tie with two outs, the manager doesn’t have to take the guy out of the no-no opportunity. He can bring in an unused bench hitter as a DH and, if that guy brings a couple of ducks home with his bat, the pitcher can still go back out and finish his no-no in what now becomes a 2-0 win, for example.

(4) Both the NL and AL will finally be playing the same game again. NL managers will then have more strategy decisions to make than they ever had previously; and AL managers will have more strategy responsibility for strategy decisions than they do now.

(5) We can stop worrying about some lights out .352 career DH going into the HOF someday without ever having made a “can of corn” catch in the field.

(6) It’s a very simple plan. The only two groups who won’t “get it” are either the same people who think we can take baseball back to what it was in 1973, or those who currently favor the present DH rule – and who also are patiently waiting for MLB Commissioner Manfred to “make the NL an offer they can’t refuse.”

(7) Keep in Mind. The game has changed. It is not going back to what it was in 1973. And the DH is not going away. Now the question is – can we have a better alternative to the current 42-year old MLB DH plan? – Or do we simply pause – as some pout their way to the baseball exit door – while the rest of us wait for MLB to make that DH offer to the NL that they cannot refuse? If the latter happens, the game is then stuck forever with the current elevation of DH to a position filled with the potential for producing 3,000 hit guys who never take a ground ball in the field.

___________________

A Closing Riddle: What if this happens someday? Two 50-year old guys are standing beside each other at the HOF Induction Ceremonies in July of 2037. One is a .310 hitting, 10-year Gold Glove shortstop; the other is a .329 hitting career DH who broke Pete Rose’s total hits record, but never played a single pitch in the field. They are bumped by a stagehand while they are both standing with the other inductees, plaques in hand, facing the crowd. Both drop their plaques at the same time.

Question: What happens next?

Answer: The former shortstop reacts quickly with his left former glove hand, snaring the falling plaque before it touches the floor of the stage. – The old DH simply looks down at his scratched and shattered plaque on the floor. Since he cannot bend over too well, he smiles and asks the old shortstop to help him pick up the pieces.

____________________

3/26/2016: ADDENDUM: CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE!

This afternoon, Larry Dierker commented on my column the following:

“I suggested this exact rule change in an email to someone (I thought it was you) a year ago. ….” ~ Larry Dierker, 3/26/2016.

I wrote back in response to Dierk’s comment:

“Larry – You didn’t send it to me. I would have written this column a long time ago and given you credit too, had you done so, but I’m glad we agree on an idea that only blossomed in my head over the past 24 hours. …” ~ Bill McCurdy, 3/26/2016.

A couple of hours later, I decided to research my archives for any possible notice from Larry Dierker on this subject – just to double check my memory. Here’s what I found from Larry Dierker in a comment he posted on this subject in response to my column of 9/10/2015. The column was entitled “The Baseball Rules: Should Any Be Changed?”

Larry Dierker wrote: “Eliminate the DH. Worse than the Black Sox Scandal and almost as bad as MLB. In it’s place, the manager can pinch hit for the pitcher any time without removing the pitcher. But the pinch hitter cannot re-enter the game. The union would squawk. Give them a 26th man on the roster. With 13 pitchers (which is ridiculous in and of itself), managers in the only real baseball league (NL) need an extra pinch hitter anyway. ~ Larry Dierker, 9/10/2015.

My apologies, Larry. You deserve the credit too for this idea. I do not remember reading your comment from last September – and I certainly would have given you initial credit for that central part of the plan, had I consciously remembered. If I did read it, I’m sure it rolled around on some subliminal level and found its way into the blitzkrieg of thought that has assailed me on this subject in the last 24 hours. I know for certain that all of the other ideas I expressed here were things that suddenly converged from a long train ride of private thought. The business of separating pitching change and hitting choice decisions with respect to who bats for the pitcher have been with me a very long time.

Now let’s get on to the important point. – How do we get into a plan for putting this kind of idea into play for serious consideration by all of MLB

_____________________

Easter_Egg

Happy Easter, Everybody!

_______________________

eagle-0rangeBill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

https://bill37mccurdy.com/

 

 

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10 Responses to “The Eagle Proposal for DH Change”

  1. Tal Smith Says:

    Bill, that is a thought provoking idea which I like far better than the current DH rule.

    If I understand your idea, simplistically it could be stated: If a pinch-hitter bats for the pitcher, the pitcher does not have to be removed from the game.

    An added benefit might be that the opportunity to utilize more PH might result in teams carrying more bench players and fewer pitchers. If we can get away from 12 or 13 or 14 man pitching staffs that would obviously result in fewer pitching changes and the practice of bringing pitchers into games where they face only 1 or 2 batters because of L-R match ups. The game flows much better when pitchers are removed only for injury or ineffectiveness. Your proposal goes a long way in achieving that objective since there is no need to remove an effective pitcher simply because the situation calls for a PH.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      “If I understand your idea, simplistically it could be stated: If a pinch-hitter bats for the pitcher, the pitcher does not have to be removed from the game.” ~ Tal Smith.

      Tal – Yes! That’s it in a nutshell. Then all those things you describe are both intended and possible as a result of these changes.

      Hopefully, there remains some way to get this proposal before the powers-that-be for study, refinement, fine-tuning and fair, honest consideration.

      All the original DH rule did was polarize the NL and AL – and turn a rule change into a new “offense only” position that no one really feels good about when it comes to the HOF possibility.

  2. Larry Dierker Says:

    I suggested this exact rule change in an email to someone (I thought it was you) a year ago. I mentioned it Joe Torre in New York several years ago (when we drafted Correa), and to Hulsey last month in Austin too. The union won’t buy it because it potentially eliminates a high salary. So, given the need for more pinch hitters, give them another player on the roster. It would make managing more challenging and give fans who are not looking at their cell phones more to think about.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Larry – You didn’t send it to me. I would have written this column a long time ago and given you credit too, had you done so, but I’m glad we agree on an idea that only blossomed in my head over the past 24 hours. This plan will change everything that’s now wrong with the DH. It converts the DH into another tool for the manager to use, and yes, it rids the game of the DH as a high paying position for those who only work the offense side of the game. Anticipating the union”s objection to the loss of a high paying salary, you make up for that sacrifice by keeping the old DH spot for a complete player, plus, maybe even add another full position or two for utility players. And, yes, then the manager has got much to think about in the dugout besides that hook he’s picked up in his golf swing.

      • Bill McCurdy Says:

        Upon Further Review …

        Dear Larry – Check the Addendum I just wrote at the bottom of the column body. After my initial response to your thought that you had written me about this rule change some time ago, I went to my archives on both e-mails and column comments to find that you DID actually leave a column comment that spoke to the very heart of, if not the whole of, my proposal, back on 9/10/2015!

        My apologies. I don’t remember reading your comment, but I have too much respect for you and the the value of giving credit where credit is due.In slightly different language, you and I are both all over the central point in agreement, it seems: That is, to allow a hitter or hitter for one or all the times a pitcher’s spot comes up, but allow that managerial decision to always be independent from the other managerial decision on how long the pitcher stays in the game on the mound. You say, “get rid of the DH.” I say keep the DH title for any batter who hits for a pitcher. We want to keep that DH identity for the sake of greasing the skids with DH defenders, while we work hard to change the meaning of DH from being a full-time roster spot for a hitting-only player – to a tactical maneuver that actually gives the manager more choices about handling hitting and pitching decisions at the pitcher’s spot more in touch with the needs of the game by separating the two decisions altogether. Who bats as a DH? And how long a pitcher stays in the game? – They are separate questions under this plan – and they both belong to the manager as decisions only he can make.

        Now let’s try to figure out a way to get something in motion for serious consideration by all of MLB.

        Regards, Bill McCurdy

  3. Doug S. Says:

    I am not of the same level of MLB inner workings of Mr. Smith and Mr. Dierker but I am going to add my suggestion on this topic. First off I am life long StL fan (and will always remain so) and don’t like the DH one bit but then again I want both leagues to play the same game.

    My suggestion is a little different in that both leagues would have the DH. In my suggestion the DH is simply removed from the game when the Starting Pitcher exits the game for any reason. The Pitcher is then inserted into the batting lineup in the spot the DH had occupied. This would allow most DH’s to get a minimum of 2 and sometimes 4 or even 5 Plate Appearances a game. Strategy is created when a Manager has to decide do I stay with a struggling SP to get one more AB from my DH or do have to pull him now. Additionally I would suggest increasing the roster size to 27 to allow teams proper coverage of additional PH’s needed when a SP is ineffective early or pulled early with an injury. The injury side is the biggest concern as i would hate any MLB Pitcher being exposed to injury due to a Manager attempting to get his Sluggo DH (insert David Ortiz name if you so choose) another AB. Another aspect is that Managers might be more likely to bat high OBP guys in the DH spot in the #1 or #2 slots to get max AB’s versus Sluggos in the #5 – #7 positions.

    I would think the Players Union might be appeased with the 2 extra roster spots adding another 60 MLB players while the DH pay might go down a little but in most cases they would still get 60% + of their current PA’s.

    • Bob Hulsey Says:

      Doug, that is my plan in a nutshell but I don’t take credit for it. Someone else presented the idea. I have a hard time believing the DH-as-PH rule would get AL support whereas ours might, especially if you dangle roster expansion as a bonus.

      The plan you and I espouse makes the game begin like an AL game but finish as an NL where most of the managerial chess moves are done so fans get to enjoy the best of both experiences.

  4. stanfromtacoma Says:

    I guess the rule would be that a manager can use a pinch hitter for a pitcher without the pitcher being required to leave the game. Once the plate appearance or time on base was over the pinch hitter would no longer be eligible to enter the game. I can’t think of a principled reason why that rule should only apply to pitchers. The rule would be that a manager can use a pinch hitter without the player being pinch hit for being required to leave the game but the pinch hitter would be unable to further participate in the game once his plate appearance or time on base as a result of his plate appearance was concluded.

  5. Dennis Corcoran Says:

    I think you should share your idea with the baseball commissioner Bill and see what he thinks.

  6. gregclucas Says:

    Making the starting DH come out of the game when the pitcher he is batting for is removed is certainly a different Idea, but maybe a bit too radical. In 1979 I proposed something directly to the late Joe Reichler of MLB when he was a live guest on my radio show in Buffalo. It would call for a DPH (designated pinch hitter) for the pitcher who could hit for the pitcher twice in a nine inning period with the first one a “free one” allowing the pitcher to stay in the game. However, on the 2nd use the pitcher would have to leave…and that DPH would have to be replaced in any future at bats during the first nine innings. He could return if the game went extra innings. My plan allowed for players who were physically past playing defense, but could still hit, be more than pinch hitters and get more at bats, but would also require managers to be judicious in which at bats they would use the DPH. It would still see pitchers hit if a sacrifice bunt was preferred or if there were two out and no one on base, for example, in early innings.

    This plan was devised back when pitchers went much deeper in games and might actually get three or four plate appearances. Now, in the NL the starter rarely gets more than two anyway and pinch hitters are used anytime a reliever is due to hit.

    I also called for “grandfathering” the end of the DH to match the end of players careers that were extended soley by its use. Opponents could use the DH, for example as long as players like Big Papi were still playing for Boston. In games in which neither team had a “grandfathered” DH the DPH rule would be used. Eventually everyone would use it every game.

    Since “hitting specialists” would still have a role–although used twice in nine innings instead of four—with a rollover in games that went ten or more– a high dollar player would still fill the job in most cases. His at bats would be precious and usually in RBI situations. However, as a further concession to the union, teams would be allowed to add a 26th active player to the roster.

    The point of all this talk and comment from everyone is the game can be made to work with a compromise solution if Baseball wants to bother coming up with one.

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