Monday, December 21, 2009

Lee Hamilton Fans Nix National League DH

A slim majority of fans responding to a poll taken by Sirrius/XM weekend radio talk show host Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton rejected a call to introduce the designated hitter to the National League despite Major League Baseball's contemplation of doing so.

Though non-scientific, the poll rejected the rule change proposal by a 24-22 margin, results seen by Hamilton as a surprising rebuff after he had argued in favor of the DH on grounds that National League pitchers' combined batting averages last year were a paltry 0.78.

Fans would rather watch a slugger at the plate, Hamilton contended. "Isn't that an interesting question that I just posted today," Hamilton said. "The phone lines just exploded."

The American League introduced the designated hitter in 1971 to boost scoring, which had fallen to a modern low during the end of the 1960s. To undermine the dominance of pitchers at that time, both the American and National Leagues agreed to lower the pitching mound by six inches, with umpires adopting a more and more stringent strike zone over the years.

In nearly four decades, however, the National League continues to make pitchers bat, though collegiate and minor leagues largely have followed the American League lead.

"It's not just about some slugger standing at the plate and hitting a big fly into the seats," said one caller. "If that were the objective, you could just field nine defensive players and let somebody like (Cardinals first baseman) Albert Pujols take all the at-bats."

Other callers lamented the loss of strategy in the American League, emphasizing that baseball was conceived not so much as a game of action like basketball or soccer, but of decision making in which the fans must think along with the field manager.

Hamilton said he proposed the question in conjunction with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's announcement that he would convene a panel to consider revamping playing rules and regulations. Though an official head count was not imediately available, knowledgeable observers have estimated that Hamilton has a following of up to 20,000 listeners or more per hour during his program, which broadcasts Saturday and Sunday afternoons and is replayed during the night.