It is that time of the year when fans are starting to chat about who will get to the World Series. Who cares?, I ask. Why do you say so?, they ask back. Because the World Series is not, in fact, baseball.
Here is the cold hard fact: baseball was developed over a long time, and the symmetry of pitching finesse and batting challenge has become the center of the game. The end of the line-up is associated with easier outs and is stocked (or at least it used to be) with exceptional fielders who were not as good at hitting. So, the symmetry was maintained: teams had to score from the top and hope to scratch something at the bottom. This kept the games close; it made the game interesting for those who like the cat and mouse game of pitching and hitting. (Which is what the game is about.)
Pitchers made their livelihood on knowing they could get batters 7-9 out.
Then along came the nut-cases like Charlie Finley and Bill Veeck, who were into filling stadiums and wearing wild uniforms and turning a well-balanced game into vaudeville or some Barnum and Bailey circus. So, they came up with the silly idea that pitchers wouldn’t have to bat, that there could be designated hitters (like pastors who only preach, or dads who only make money, or kids who just sit around — you see the analogies are evocative). (They also had designated runners — you could run once for someone without taking that someone out of the game. That was a bust and they abandoned it.)
Well, having designated hitters ended pitchers hitting and that meant pitchers could throw at batters without worrying about getting hit themselves. (Don’t forget this for it was central to the game.) Then we had players who couldn’t field or throw a lick but who could hit, especially if they injected, long bombs even when the situation called for hitting behind a runner. And fans like home runs, just as they like John Grisham novels. (He did write about baseball, I think, but I’ve never read a word of him.)
Then we got Barry Bonds coming up to the plate with armor on so he could stand close enough and pull outside pitches into the water outside the stadium — but he has nothing to do with the American League, so I’m digressing now.
Back to the DH: it ruined the game and made the American League a game of hitters, where pitchers couldn’t take a break on the mound, where runs were too easily gained (scores sometimes sound like football – which would be another digression).
So, what has it become? Hitball. Not baseball.
Here’s what we have to do:
First, stop calling American League baseball. It is Hitball.
Second, don’t go to their games. Especially the Yankee games.
Third, attend only National League games.
Fourth, and most importantly, see the National League Playoff Series as the real and only World Series.
Fifth, read a newspaper in front of your face when the World Series (the exhibition one) begins. Watch only when they are in a National League park, and laugh at the American League pitchers when they try to hit.
I could say more, but this was way more than I planned. Got to go to class.