Hey, all you hardcore Buhlites…if you want to on the side of Bruce Jenkins, go ahead.
It’s a real shame that so many American League pitchers have been denied a chance to hit. As much as A’s fans enjoyed the pure athletic ability of Vida Blue, Mike Norris, Rick Langford and Dave Stewart over the years, they could have seen so much more. Given a reason to work on their hitting, they all would have responded professionally. Or maybe not, in a case or two. You learn something there, too.
“But it’s an age of specialization,” people say. On what basis? There are no designated runners or fielders. Specialization is an NFL team employing different defensive units on four consecutive plays. Specialization was forced upon the American League when the DH arrived in 1973, but it never was warranted. Without question, we’ve witnessed golden DH moments from the likes of Tony Oliva, Orlando Cepeda, Harold Baines, Edgar Martinez, David Ortiz, but I invariably ask myself, why? In what brand of league does a player not bat for himself? Have we become a generation of elitist pipe-smokers, outraged at the sight of an athlete’s vulnerability? “Fetch me my Thoreau, Jeeves. Barry Zito is batting.”
The “different set of rules” argument gets tiresome, as well. Thank goodness the National League has a traditional set of rules, and the disparity doesn’t harm the game in the slightest. It’s still the same game. Different rules would be three balls for a walk, or you start out by running to third.
So it’s not always a good show. Neither was Willie McCovey playing left field, or the 1968 Detroit Tigers playing Mickey Stanley (an outfielder) at shortstop because they were fed up with Ray Oyler’s hitting. Baseball is, by nature, a display of human frailty. It is notoriously, famously and gloriously a game of failure. As I discovered with the youth of my neighborhood, it’s a most pleasurable way to go.