Major league baseball pitchers used to have to bat until the year 1973. Then, the American League (formed in 1901, 25 years after the National League) decided that it would use the Designated Hitter.
For over a hundred years, therefore, pitchers in the National League have batted in games and when pitchers have gotten hurt, 999 times out of a thousand it’s something that’s happened to their pitching arm…or something that’s happened to them on the pitching mound.
Most National League pitchers have sacrifice bunting honed down to a fine art, and only a few bat anywhere near the Mendoza line. But when they’re running the bases…in over a hundred years….they don’t get hurt.
So, the New York Yankees Chien-Ming Wang was running the bases a couple days ago, tore a tendon in his ankle and will be out for about six weeks.
Hank Steinbrenner, co-chairman of the New York Yankees, son of George Steinbreener, has taken umbrage and blames the National League for Wang’s injury.
“Am I (mad) about it? Yes,” Steinbrenner added. “I’ve got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He’s going to be out. I don’t like that, and it’s about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s.”
Here’s a tip, Mr. Steinbrenner. Many fans prefer the National League’s rule of making pitchers bat, as it allows the managers to actually manage the game, and gets some strategy going.
Wang could just as easily have injured himself falling off the mound to field a bunted ball (or worse, gotten stabbed by a broken bat - when is Major League Baseball going to address the issue of the danger of broken bats?
Wang’s injury was just “one of those things,” and while I prefer to watch the designated hitter myself, I understand perfectly why the National League prefers to keep the tradition alive of having a pitcher be a complete player.