April 28, 2015

A new low in pushing the DH on the NL — with a #hypocrisy alert

Craig Calcaterra, head blogger at NBC Sports' Hardball Talk, usually has more of a brain than he does today, where he argues that Adam Wainwright's apparently blown Achilles and Max Scherzer's thumb being jammed on batting are arguments for making the National League adopt the designated hitter. Scherzer argues for the DH himself, but he's wrong too. (I'll focus on Calcaterra's piece, though.)

First, they're no such thing. Achilles tendons can be blown in other ways. For pitchers, even if batting and pushing out of the batter's box causes the actual injury, surely it starts with the stress of pushing off the mound and rubber. Also, given the rash of dumb spring training injuries, a player like Scherzer could have jammed his thumb in other ways.

(Update: Calcaterra notes that he said in his original post that both were fluke injuries. If so, then why did you use them as the leading argument for your post? If it's a "dumb rule," then don't open your argument based on flukes, maybe? That's especially true since 16 months ago Craig, you said you loved pitchers batting; indeed, you've said that more than once. Also per that post, the NL has stayed with its traditional rule for 40-plus years; who says both leagues have to be the same — after all, Japan's two leagues split on the issue, too. So, why you got on the DH soapbox last week, I have no clue. And, I'm not going to bother trying to find out.)

Second, if Craig's really THAT worried about injuries (not taking his claim that he noted the two injuries of record were flukes), let's avoid Tommy John surgery for pitchers and replace them with machines, or require pitchers to throw underhand or something. Is not this year's injury rash of TJ surgeries "unacceptable" as compared to one major injury that

(Update two: Waino, contra Scherzer, specifically opposes the DH being put in the National League, even after his injury, fluke or not.)

Third, Calcaterra has generally seemed to support efforts to speed up the game. But, the designated hitter is a game slower, even if not the biggest, in baseball and Craig knows that. (Five Thirty Eight claims its only a minuscule one, but, hey, I haven't clicked on a link there in six months and am not planning to start now.)

Fourth, why not go full-on free substitution? Let's start with "courtesy runners" for normally slow-moving catchers, like we have in high school baseball. After all, such catchers trying to find a higher speed than second gear  — let's take a Brian McCann as a stock example — are likely increasing their risk of hamstring pulls. So, Craig, why not let each team have four or five Billy Hamiltons for this? (I'm really surprised Charlie O. Finley didn't push the Claudell Washington idea further in the 1970s.)

Or, per a commenter there, why not just have eight batting spots? No pitcher AND no DH for the pitcher.

As I Tweeted Craig on Sunday, this is arguably the dumbest thing I've seen him write at HBT.

Other things he gets wrong?

The DH was a gimmick. It wasn't done to protect hitters, but to boost offense, after lowering the mound from 15 to 10 inches didn't do enough of that for AL satisfaction. Maybe the American League should have looked at other reasons it was lagging the NL on attendance.

Next, he claims we shouldn't argue for a DH for the shortstop, or other position players, because that's a slippery slope fallacy.

Wrong. Wrong.Wrong.

It's not a slippery slope. Nor is it a twist on a sorities. Rather, it takes the "best batters batting" to its logical conclusion. I think Craig, trained as a lawyer, knows that, too, and that's why he spends so much time trying to knock it down.

As far as practical reasons to have DHs for position players? Erm, I can name Mark Belanger, the 1970s Orioles SS, he of the career .228 BA and .580 OPS, as counterargument No. 1. Pete Kozma, for whom I created the Kozma Line idea, replacing the classic Mendoza Line, is No. 2. Mario Mendoza of said line is No. 3.

That said, on Monday, Craig decided to double down on the stupidity. He went fishing for background on why the NL doesn't have the designated hitter, and the columnist he found got it wrong, according to Wikipedia. (Craig thought so much of this he linked two it twice within a quite brief blog post.)

Craig, via David Moulton, tries to blame the Phillies for the screwup, saying that GM Bill Giles didn't know how owner Ruly Carpenter wanted him to vote, if the DH was going to face a one-year delay before implementation.

First, should we even believe that? It sounds like a "just so" story, kind of like a moderately-liberal Democratic Catholic politician saying "I personally oppose abortion, but ... "

Second, what Moulton gets wrong is not that the owners favored the issue 6-4, not counting the abstaining Phillies, and the co-abstaining follow-the-leader Pirates. Rather, the vote was 4-5-3, with only four in favor and three abstainers, including the Astros. It would have taken all three abstainers voting yes for it to pass. (Wiki doesn't say why the Stros sat out.)

Third, Moulton doesn't mention what Wikipedia says, that Cards' GM John Claiborne was the biggest pusher of the DH, and was fired a week after the vote. (Gussie Busch should have fired him a week before.)

No wonder Craig stopped practicing law. We could start with the fact that, as one commenter notes, Craig claims it's not about Wainwright and Scherzer, then makes the first part of the post about Wainwright and Scherzer.

Finally, per the recent hotheadedness of Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, the National League at least has the possibility of keeping his hotheadedness in check if he has to bat.


As for AL or DH fans claiming there's actually more strategy in the junior circuit? Horse hockey.

First, the idea that a rotationally filled DH spot, as more and more teams are doing, rather than one primary DH player, is "strategy," ain't. To quote that great baseball owner, George W. Bush, it's "strategery."

Second, the only in-game strategy it promotes is allowing more in-inning pitching changes, on the one hand, and thus more in-inning batting changes on the other. "Change" is also not necessarily "strategy."

Third, if the AL actually wanted at least a bit of strategy with DH's, it would allow changing a DH to be part of a double switch. (No, you can't do that, in reality.)


savatom said...

I think you meant Herb Washington instead of Claudell if you're referring to Charlie Finley's "designated runner" experiment.

-- Tom in Yuma

Gadfly said...

Ahh, yes, I think you're right.

At least I didn't put Ron Washington, right?

Nathan Justice said...

Craig is the biggest tool. He just writes articles to troll people. He also thinks he is a legit journalist until someone calls him on his hack pieces and then he says he is just a simple blogger. The guy is an insufferable tool.

Gadfly said...

Nathan, no argument here on Craig.