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The Designated Pitcher

May 22, 2008 - Brian Ferry
It seems to me that there are very few jobs on the planet that require a long-time employee to actually do less than they did before.

I'm not a long-time employee, but I seriously doubt someone will tell me as I get older to stop doing half the things I did before without adding new tasks to replace them.

Major League Baseball players are paid very well to perform a very limited, but, admittedly, very difficult set of skills. I get paid to perform a set of skills. If I don't bother to perform some of those skills, I have to be concerned about finding another job. If I were the Times Observer's second baseman last year and my editor said I was headed for left field, I wouldn't sulk in the break room, I would jog out and try to play left field until I was ready to not work at the Times Observer (ahem, Alfonso Soriano).

In general, fielders are expected to catch and throw. Things like backing up plays by other players and running must not be in all of their contracts.

Pitchers are expected to throw hard with a high degree of accuracy. Having a lot more of one of those can make the other less critical. They also have some of the same requirements of other fielders.

All of those players are expected to pick up a bat once every couple innings or so and try to get on base or help runners who are already on base move up. Getting on base is hard. It must be. Professional athletes who rely on baseball for money almost never reach base more than half the time over a season. Four out of 10 is considered extremely good.

Most major leaguers who can't do, very well, all of the things players or pitchers do, don't last long.

But, about half the pitchers in the western hemisphere don't even have to try to hit. Conversely, a few dozen major league hitters get to sit on the bench while their teammates are in the field, but still get to pick up that bat more than once. That's just not fair.

Almost all of these guys used to be able to do the things baseball players get paid for.

Pitchers at least try to hit, though most are not spectacular at it.

Designated hitters generally start their careers as position players.

Maybe there should be lifetime achievement awards that could be traded in for designated hitter status. Guys like Ken Griffey Jr. who play defense properly and suffer the physical consequences of it could be given vouchers for certain days off of outfield duty.

I'm not sure how a pitcher could earn designated non-hitter status. Maybe if, over 10 years, they never fail to try to cover first on a grounder to the right side.

American League managers should get paid less because they don't have to consider removing a pitcher who is still throwing well for a guy who might get a hit in an important situation, or even know what a double-switch is.

The designated hitter "position" should be retroactively abolished — baseball statistics are sacrosanct and have been defiled by this sham. Any statistics accumulated by players acting as DHs should simply be erased.

Don't even get me started on "All-Stars" who can't reach base when "the shift" is on. Must not be getting paid enough to have a little bat control.


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