World Series: Universal DH? Managers, players feel strongly both ways
ATLANTA — A poll of baseball fans generally yields a mixed bag when it comes to opinions — and quite strong ones — as it relates to the universal designated hitter.
Turns out the opinions of those on the field and in the dugout are just as strong, and just as mixed.
"I'm in favor of leaving it the way it is," said Astros manager Dusty Baker, who previously managed exclusively in the National League with the Giants, Cubs, Reds and Nationals. "Let the DH stand in the American League and in the National League play the National League style of ball because they're both interesting in [their own way]."
Atlanta manager Brian Snitker, who has been part of the organization since the late 1970s, when he was a catcher in its minor league system, said he used to think along the same lines.
That is, until the COVID-19-shortened 60-game season in 2020, when the DH was used universally. That's expected to become a part of the next collective bargaining agreement (the current one expires Dec. 1, and there’s no telling when a new one will be agreed upon).
"Prior to experiencing it last year, I was kind of like the old guard, I was not for it. I am for it now," Snitker said.
Snitker then reeled off the names of a few pitchers considered adequate hitters.
"Because I see for every Max Fried and Adam Wainwright and Madison Bumgarner, there's 15 guys who can't hit," he said. "Again, they don't grow up hitting. They grow up pitching, and they're not hitting. Most of the time, those guys were some of your better athletes. And when they didn't pitch, they played shortstop and they batted. They don't do that a lot now.
"I enjoyed the games in Houston where I could let all the guys play, and I liked it last year too. I didn't know if I would, but I ended up liking it."
Not surprisingly, there also is little consensus among the players.
"I think there should be a DH in both leagues. I think that's the way to keep moving the game forward," Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said. "People come to the ballpark to see a great game, but also they love to see home runs. Pitchers are not hitting many of them. So I think the DH should be universal."
Correa added: "To me, that's not real baseball. I want to see real hitters out there who will make it a little tougher for the pitchers also."
Atlanta reliever Jesse Chavez sees it differently.
"It's kind of iffy for us pitchers [but] we're used to it," he said. "It adds another aspect of the game we have to pay attention to, and your body has to be ready to contribute to that as far as starting goes. My personal opinion, I think it should stay the same. I think it's beneficial for the game because it adds two different aspects. It's a chess game out there. It's not checkers."
But by pretty much all accounts, checkers it will be in the near future, likely starting in 2022. And if there were no hits by pitchers in Sunday night’s Game 5, Houston’s Zack Greinke will be the answer to the trivia question of the last pitcher slotted into the batting order to get a hit in a World Series game.
Which is just fine for Framber Valdez, Sunday’s starter for the Astros.
"Just for me personally, I think it can be a little bit difficult as a pitcher to have two different concentrations," he said. "You have a totally different mindset at the plate and focused on the job you're doing there, and [when you] have to reset and go back out to the mound, it can be a little bit tiring and difficult to have your mind in two places at once. So I personally feel comfortable if they extend the DH to both leagues."