As The Baseball Leagues Merge

I haven’t always been a baseball fan. When I was 11 the Washington Senators left for Texas and I transferred all my loyalty to football. But when I moved to San Diego in 1995 I began to follow the San Diego Padres of the National League’s Western Division. At the time, with the exception of Spring Training, the All Star Game, and the World Series, their teams never played each other. On the plus side when the best teams of each league met in the World Series there was a mystique as they knew very little of each other. On the minus side American league fans virtually never saw Tony Gwynn play. Conversely National Leagues fans were also denied Cal Ripkin.

That changed in 1997 when baseball started inter league play. All of baseball played by the same rules with one exception: the designated hitter. In 1973 the American League ruled that one player didn’t have to bat but would be replaced by a batter who didn’t play in the field. Since pitchers virtually always bring up the rear in batting average it’s assumed they wouldn’t bat.

So what did they do since 1973 when teams from different leagues play? They decided that they would play under the rules of the home team. National League teams in American League parks were allowed a designated hitter and American League pitchers in National League parks had to bat. In fairness since most players play for multiple teams most American League pitchers had some experience in the batter’s box.

But this year the National League has also decided in the designated hitter. And I have to confess I’m saddened by this. I like the idea of all players playing both sides. It also called for creativity on the manager’s part. Most pitchers don’t pitch the entire game and the manager has to decide when he is “done.” But if he is pitching well but will bat the next inning, do you substitute him for a stronger batter? The hall of fame pitcher Greg Maddux famously worked hard in his batting skills knowing it would increase his chances for staying longer in the game.

This also means that the lines between the leagues have further blurred. I’m guessing that the number of times a team plays someone in the other league will grow to the point where we’ll lose track of which teams are in which league.

Oh well, I guess change is inevitable.

But I’ll still watch.

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