Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's Time For Everybody To Play By The Same Rules

There were some big changes announced in the world of Major League Baseball on Thursday. While it had been rumored to be happening for a while, it was officially announced that in 2013 the Houston Astros would be leaving the National League Central and joining the American League West.

This now puts 5 teams in every division, and also means that one team from each league will be playing each other in interleague play from Opening Day until the final day of the season.

The other change was that each league will add another wild card team to the postseason, meaning each league will have 5 playoff teams. Which also means that there will be a 1-game playoff series in each league before the Divisional Series start.

I'm not really opposed to either change. It only makes sense that each league and each division have the same amount of teams in them. It's not really fair that an AL West team only had to compete with 3 others to reach the playoffs while an NL Central team had to contend with 5 others.

Of course, while things are starting to make more sense in the world of MLB, there's still one giant difference between each league, and that is the designated hitter.  MLB continues to be the only major sport in this country where half the league plays by one set of rules and the other half another.

It makes sense because we're all used to it by now, but at the same time, it doesn't make any sense at all.

And it's time for MLB to make that next change as well.

On Thursday Bud Selig said that there will be no change to the DH rule, and that it would require a "catalytic event" to change the rules. Well, given the decision that MLB made today, that event may come sooner than Selig realizes.

Think about it, with interleague play going on all season, that means that come the end of the season there could be an American League team fighting for that final playoff spot that is forced to finish its season on the road against a National League team.

Suddenly, in the most important games of the season, that AL team is at a serious disadvantage from the start. Now, in order to get MLB's attention, let's pretend this team is the Yankees.

What happens if the Yankees miss the playoffs because they had to have CC Sabathia hit? What about if the Phillies lose important games during that final series because they're forced to use some utility infielder as their designated hitter?

Now you could counter this argument by saying that each team will be playing the same amount of games outside its own league, and that it evens out in the long run. That's true, but let's remember this is still the same league that decided the All Star Game should decide homefield advantage in the World Series because one All Star Game -- AN EXHIBITION GAME IN THE FIRST PLACE -- ended in a tie.

Still, why even put yourself in the position to have a controversy?

It's only logical that both leagues should play the same sport by the same rule. People can cry about tradition and history if they must, but the designated hitter rule has only been around for 40 years to begin with. There's a good 100 years of history and tradition that were ignored before that.

Plus, how can you use history and tradition as an argument when we now have 10 playoff teams and interleague play taking place all season long?

Change and progress are always bad things. Not everybody needs to get off your lawn.

As for which change MLB should make, personally, I have no preferred set of rules to play by. I enjoy the National League style of play in that it's much more strategic because the pitcher hits, and therefore allows the fan a lot more opportunities to second guess and feel important.

At the same time, I'm also annoyed when I see a team have a rally going in the early innings only to see it end as a pitcher who spends 99% of his time working on pitching strike out to kill the rally.

So I'd be fine with either. Though I think it's obvious that the easiest path to take would be to implement the designated hitter in the National League. It'd just be a lot easier to get that change through the MLBPA because if you removed the DH from the American League then you're taking away jobs from players. Something the union won't allow.

And yes, putting a DH in the National League will cause a lot of NL fans to scream about it being a travesty and they're destroying the sport, blah blah blah. They'll get over it, trust me.

Especially when it means that players like Albert Pujols may be able to stick around in their league and with their current teams a lot longer than they can now.

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