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Baseball must unify DH rule before more pitchers get hurt

And so the clown show that masquerades as Major League Baseball rolls on, all the Dartmouth grads awash in their launch angles and BABIPs, everyone else busily conjuring ways to speed up games, as if six extra minutes at the ballpark is more arduous than coal mining.

Meanwhile, a true pox on the game goes blissfully ignored, maybe because there's no differential equation that measures common sense.

It happened again Friday night at Citi Field, another pitcher injured while running the bases. Masahiro Tanaka, the right-hander the Yankees pay $155 million to pitch, hurt both his hamstrings sprinting home to score on a sacrifice fly.

Once again with feeling: Baseball allows the National League to wrap itself in the fraudulent flag of purity. Except American League pitchers, not used to hitting and running, are left at a severe disadvantage during Interleague games in National League ballparks.

So now Tanaka joins Chien-Ming Wang, Steven Wright, Adam Wainwright, Carlos Zambrano, Jacob deGrom and Mark Prior, among others, as prominent pitchers injured while running the bases or hitting.

Wang's career all but ended running the bases in 2008. Wright hurt his pitching shoulder diving back to second base in 2016. deGrom hyperextended his pitching shoulder on a swing-and-miss earlier this season. On the band plays.

The Players' Association, per Peter Botte's column in Saturday's Daily News, remains in favor of implementing an expanded role of the DH to both leagues because it would translate into several more jobs. "But there hasn't been much indication recently from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred towards the NL finally making the switch," Botte wrote.

Note to the commish: Why would you imperil seasons and careers simply for the sake of tradition, especially when the designated hitter offers no competitive advantage for either side? I mean, when did allowing the pitcher to hit become more sacrosanct than the Beatitudes?

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven ... blessed are those who mourn,  for they will be comforted ... blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth ... and blessed are the pitchers who hit, for they shall be comforted while on the disabled list."

And so we summoned our guy Pete Walker, the Waterford resident/pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays, for a more expert opinion.

"American League teams give away at bats just to keep their pitchers safe," Walker said Saturday from Toronto, where the Jays played Baltimore. "Hitting and running the bases puts American League pitchers at risk. National League pitchers prepare for it on a regular basis."

And National League pitchers still get hurt doing it, too.

Pitchers have structured preparation routines that simply don't involve full-out sprints from third to home. Walker agreed it is an unnatural act. Once again: Sprinting 90 feet might sound rather pro forma for a professional athlete. Bob Feller probably did that and killed grizzly bears with his loose-leaf notebook walking to school in 12 feet of snow, too.

This isn't 1950 anymore.

This is about business and bottom lines. Pitchers are commodities paid to ... wait for it ... pitch. Hitters are paid to hit. I pay $15 for a Heineken at Yankee Stadium (no, really) to watch Tanaka pitch and Aaron Judge hit. I would not care to watch Judge pitch and Tanaka hit.


Then there's this: Entering the weekend, pitchers were hitting a collective .113 this season. This would also suggest unsatisfactory exit velos and launch angles, too, which we all know is of far greater importance than anything so silly as a batting average.

If MLB wants to allow National League teams to keep their moth-eaten, no-DH rule for National League games, then by all means. Free country. They can all bathe in the that's-what-it's-all-about revelry of Bartolo Colon's home run a few years back, as if that's the rule, not the exception.

But MLB really ought to address the DH for Interleague games, where pitchers put themselves at risk, where teams are giving away at bats for the sake of keeping their pitchers healthy. Think about that. You get 27 outs and you give some away because it's more prudent to do so.

Giving away outs is antithetical to the rhythms of baseball.

How many more Wrights, Tanakas and Wangs do we need to see before MLB gets off its ascot and fixes it? The Players' Association is behind it. Common sense demands it.

What, exactly, are they waiting for?

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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