Gary Cohen was weirdly prophetic Wednesday when he called for the end to the blight on baseball known as the designated hitter.
His Mets television partner, Ron Darling, sounded surprised at the conversational swerve, but Cohen had something to say. .
This was several hours before Matt Albers, a beefy relief pitcher with the White Sox, proved Cohen’s point with a solid double and some footwork on the bases to score the eventual winning run in the 13th inning. Real baseball.
It’s time, Cohen said in mid-game. Let pitchers be ball players. Cohen asserted that Bartolo Colon’s first career home run, at nearly 43, was probably the best single event of this season – a portly American League-type pitching specialist whacking a homer into the left-field stands.
After ludicrous hitting, fielding and running in his first year with the Mets, Colon has worked hard to bunt, make contact, field his position and even chug to first base a little harder -- to play National League ball, that is. His upgrade was behind Gary Cohen’s riff on junking the DH, a couple of hours before the Albers tour of the bases – just what baseball should encourage.
The Mets lost this game when Albers, a well-traveled pitcher, had to bat because the White Sox had run out of hitters and pitchers. Albers slugged a pitch over Juan Lagares’ head in center field – not easy – and rumbled to second base
Wonder of wonders, Albers then took third spontaneously on a wild pitch by Logan Verrett, who was no doubt shocked by the insult from a lodge member. Then Albers scored on a solid fly ball, for the eventual winning run in a 2-1 victory over the Mets.
Baseball the way it used to be, before the DH gimmick began in 1973 -- pitchers reverting to the actual athletes they were when they played high-school baseball and probably hit quite well, in addition to playing other sports.
Hitting pitchers have a long, if somewhat minority, history in baseball. My own childhood was enriched by watching Don Newcombe slug homers – 11 for the Brooklyn Dodgers, four afterward. These days Madison Bumgarner slugs homers – 12 in eight seasons, so far.
Also, National League ball is interesting, with its pinch-hitters for pitchers and other lineup finagling by managers, plus players asked to handle multiple positions.
Since 1973, the American League has been using the DH, and so has most of baseball, screwing up the the World Series and interleague play between teams built for different sports.
It’s true, the DH kept gallant old or injured hitters like Tommy Davis in the game, and made life easier for stars who could still play defense adequately like Edgar Martinez in Seattle.
Cohen made the point that the charismatic Boston star, David Ortiz is just about the last of the great career DHs. The position is now a safe haven for aging sluggers (Alex Rodriguez) or journeymen who cannot field or run very well, or regulars who need a rest. As long as Big Papí of Boston is about to retire, Cohen said, let’s retire the DH with him.
Darling more or less laughed out loud. What about the union, he asked, referring to the relatively high salaries earned by veteran DHs. Not so much anymore, Cohen asserted.
Cohen had obviously thought about his position. Let each team add two more spots on the roster, from 25 to 27, he said. That’s 30 more jobs in the majors. That should make the union happy.
Darling sounded dubious. Wouldn’t that just produce more fringe pitchers and reserves? Maybe, but it would also produce pinch-runners or defensive specialists who cannot exist these days in the two-dimensional American League.
With the emphasis on pitch counts and six-inning starters, teams overload on pitchers and often have only four or five reserves, one of them a catcher.
Hours later, Albers was a lumbering advertisement for the dormant athleticism of pitchers.
I totally agree with Cohen. Albers and Colon prove the latent athleticism of pitchers. Time to ban the DH.
* * *
In case you missed Gary Cohen’s call of Colon’s shot:
6/2/2016 02:20:13 pm
Manna from Heaven; couldn't agree more. Enjoyed the extra-special old-style writing, too. (I wonder if millennials understand "lodge brother"?) It's all true. I get a ton more enjoyment watching any of the Mets' interesting pitchers at bat than A-Rod's rusty gate swings at balls in the dirt. I think you've got the makings of a Presidential platform here, George. I know for a fact that you've got a ton less "negatives" than two others running.
6/2/2016 08:29:58 pm
Brian, I hear ending the DH is Gary Johnson's main campaign pledge.
6/2/2016 03:04:05 pm
Finally, an appeal to common sense and normality.
6/2/2016 08:33:13 pm
Alan, thanks. Published reports say that Cmsr Manfred wants to make MLB uniform with a DH everywhere.
6/3/2016 04:40:04 am
6/3/2016 02:00:07 pm
Elliott, and it's not just power -- it's ability to bunt and make contact.
6/3/2016 07:02:03 am
In response to Elliot’s post about eschewing the 99.9% likely bunt, how often is the so called “percentage play” actually successful?
6/3/2016 12:23:27 pm
One homer-hitting pitcher haiku deserves another:
6/3/2016 12:25:41 pm
Sorry, I mean limerick.
6/3/2016 02:03:29 pm
Josh, thanks. But the old days are there in NL games. The game is just more interesting. I remember Davey Johnson and Whitey Herzog using relief pitchers in the outfield for their lefty-right machinations in the mid-80's. Post-Blomberg but in the right league.
6/3/2016 03:21:41 pm
George, I agree. I'll add that the mid-80s Mets-Cards rivalry made for excellent baseball. Two sly fox managers, two excellent teams constructed very differently. It seemed the Cards were never without a man on base. I don't remember the pitchers in the outfield but it sounds right, and the Mets certainly had the depth at most positions to make that kind of lineup shuffling work. I'd like to see the current Mets constructed a bit more like those Cards teams, with guys that get on base easily and some speed (Davey Johnson was quoted last week in the Daily News bemoaning the lack of table setters on the current Mets). I worry that pitching and solo homers won't be enough to get back to the WS.
6/4/2016 08:34:53 am
Josh, it's true, the Mets rely too much on the HR. I really like Kansas City because they all make contact and take the extra base.
6/3/2016 08:40:30 pm
Another tidbit of Inside Baseball mentioned by Mike Krukow re: Mad Baum’ home run in the Post Game wrap-up seems so obvious once I heard it. In an expected bunt situation, the pitcher is instructed to through the high, hard one inside in the hope of having the bunter pop it up. Anticipating such a pitch, knowing and trusting his personnel like Bochy does Bumgarner, a scoreless fifth inning after a leadoff walk is the perfect situation to give the ‘Green Light”. Anticipating such a pitch, a good-hitting pitcher with power who has earned his manager’s trust, should be able to crush. Particularly if he is 6’5”-250 lb with Mad Baum’s resume
6/3/2016 08:54:39 pm
So the knowledge tree goes: Kuip to Kruk to Kolk. Kool!!! Very nice post, Elliott.
6/3/2016 10:01:32 pm
Thank you. I do believe you have inspired my muse:
6/4/2016 08:42:32 am
Elliott, thanks for the Post from the Coast. It's hard to get to know other broadcasting styles. I can say that Ron Darling has become a terrific analyst, and not only of pitching. More than when I was working, I pay attention to pitch selection, positioning by the catcher, and motion quirks. Darling is not clinical -- he's conversational, not a high priest of BB. When Keith Hernandez is in attendance, Darling and Gary Cohen defer to him as the Alpha Analyst, but Darling is working at it more. No criticism, just their personas.
6/4/2016 02:38:28 pm
George and the faithful fans of the DO,
6/4/2016 10:36:50 pm
Hansen, that's not the point. The pitcher who does get a hit has helped his team....Lots of them can. Or, manager can produce a run by judicious pinch-hitting and pinch-running and double shifts, etc. Makes the game more interesting than a guy who cannot play defense swinging from his but...GV
6/7/2016 03:28:12 pm
George, I've railed against the DH from Day 1. But getting rid of it has become my second baseball priority after getting rid of instant replay, which has taken much of the spontaneity, excitement, and human element out of the game. Gary Cohen has addressed this nicely also,
6/14/2016 11:21:46 pm
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“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.