Back before 1973, baseball was united in its belief that pitchers should hit and managers should really manage and a bench should mean something, but then in 1973 the Americal League decided that there should be a designated hitter and the National League stayed with its tradition. 35 years later we still have two distinct versions of baseball being played in the major leagues.
Being a fan of mostly National League teams, I tend to be quite biased on this subject. Being a pitcher also that could hit some also makes me side with the Senior Circuit. And when I see a perfomance like I did tonight by the ace pitcher of the Chicago Cubs, Carlos Zambrano, who went 4 for 5 with 2 RBI's to raise his season average to .343, it makes me want more than ever to see this stupid rule done away with.
I am aware of the few designated hitters like David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, who cant field with their hands of stone, but this is outweighed by the actual strategy that having the pitcher spot in the batting order adds to National League games. The 6th, 7th and 8th innings especially of a low scoring close game where the starting pitcher is going well but his spot in the order is coming up adds another dimension to the decision making process of the manager.
So now when you have a pitcher like Big Z, that gives Cubs skipper, Lou Piniella even more options. He can let him hit for himself late in a ball game or like tonight he can even if he wants to take him out of the game let him bat thereby saving another bench player for later in the game. Because Zambrano is also a switch hitter it gives Lou extra options on the days he isnt pitching to act as a pinch hitter. Zambrano after tonights game is a career .229 hitter with 13 home runs tied for the all time team lead for home runs by a pitcher with Ferguson Jenkins in 450 LESS at bats. Zambrano is hitting .343 for the season.
Micah Owings of the Arizona Diamondbacks is another stellar hitting pitcher. More and more in the NL, the pitchers are learning to help themselves by practicing their hitting. At the very least, they should be able to get the bunt down and move the runners along.
When you have to factor the pitcher's positon and utilize the double switch to strategically move the pitchers spot further away from the current batter it makes the game more interesting to me.
Besides which if pitchers never hit - would we have ever found out about the best hitting pitcher in baseball history. Rick Ankiel was a youngster with a wild arm but a good bat and he has turned himself into a legitimate position player but he cant hold a candle to one George Herman "Babe" Ruth.
Ruth went 94-46 appearing in 163 games as a pitcher, starting 148, completing 107 with 17 shutouts. In 1221 2/3 innings he allowed a meager 974 hits, 309 earned runs an amazing 10 home runs allowed- even factoring the dead ball era this is unbelievable, I say this because during those years as a part-time player HE HIT 49 home runs by himself. Ruth could have been in the Hall of Fame on pitching alone with his tiny 2.28 Career ERA which was 0.87 in the post-season.
Ruth began to split time in the 1917 season as an outfielder and pitcher decreasing each year until 1920 was the first year he was in the outfield fulltime. The 1919 season was a fun one to look back on for Ruth - He pitched in 17 games with a 9-5 record and a 2.95 ERA and then he found time to get into another 113 games as an outfielder and in the combined games had a .322 average and an incomprehensible 29 home runs - I say this because the next 3 on the list had 30 combined.
What if they had a DH rule in the AL at the time would Ruth have been a pitcher and never hit or a hitter or never pitched. We will never know and that adds to the mystique. Managers like Lou Piniella and Bob Melvin of Arizona know they have special weapons in Zambrano and Owings. Look for them to make a difference in their games both at the dish and out on the mound.
And maybe someday we will see a starting pitcher in the NL play in the outfield or at some other position just to get their bat in the lineup and we should tip our cap to Mr Ruth. Its only fitting that a "good hitting pitcher" like Ruth has the most famous home run hit at Wrigley in the 1932 World Series off Charlie Root.... a called shot. Maybe Big Z can crush one in a World Series game at Wrigley sometime in his illustrious career.