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Controversial Ruling

For decades now, DH v. no DH has been about as divisive to baseball fans  as any hot-button issue has been to the general public of the USA.  If looking for a baseball equivalent to the constitution, you might cite the Knickerbocker rules of 1884, allegedly the first codified rules of the game establishing fundamentals like 3 strikes, 3 outs, batting orders, etc. Historically, Major League Baseball has been slow to make rule changes, but in the last decade or so we’ve seen a confluence of complaints about the game and an increase in rule changes to address these.

Regarding the DH, traditionalists say they like the strategy required by managers to make

timely substitutions at key moments in order to optimize their lineups and work around weak hitting pitchers.DH fans will argue that ESPN has never highlighted a double switch in their top ten plays of the day - dah-dah-dhunt! Has there ever been a water cooler discussion that started like this, “Did you see the Dodgers pitch around the eight hitter to get to the nine spot last night - how cool was that?” So you can see where I come down on this issue, but, full disclosure, I come from an American League town.  

Another somewhat recent rule change was implemented to address contact and injuries. The so-called Buster Posey rule which old-timers might call the Ray Fosse rule. Baseball has never been about brute force yet the practice of trucking defenseless defenders persisted until 2011,when Posey suffered a gruesome broken leg on a play at the plate. Enough was enough;the rule was changed the next year to eliminate such collisions at all bases. You’ll notice that “breaking up two” has largely been eliminated from the game with a focus on requiring legal slides or peel-offs on the bases - a standard that had been in place in just about every amateur league for decades.

So, what’s next? For years now, we’ve seen the infield shift used to effectively defend against pull hitters. Some baseball fans hate it because it works so well. Others argue they are pros and should be able to go “oppo.” I don’t think the shift would work against the likes of Tony Gwynn or Wade Boggs, but the game has changed in the twenty years since they were playing so what should the rules gurus do here? Stop the evolution or allow innovation?  

Where else might this go? Maybe you will say someday that you heard it here first, but at the end of the day, Major League Baseball is an entertainment business built around “stars.” The season is long and demanding so it’s a common practice to sit out key players here and there to the chagrin of fans. Taking another cue from amateur baseball, I wonder when we will see re-entry rules or free substitution? That would really give manager’s some options - it works for football, basketball and hockey, why not baseball? You might have heard it here first! 

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