Hank Steinbrenner is upset that Chien-Ming Wang was injured running the bases in a game against the Astros, as are other members of the Yankees’ universe. Hank is right to be upset, but blaming the fact that the National League is the only major league that plays baseball according to traditional rules for Wang’s injury is plain wrong. The reason is inter-league play.
The National League Refused the Designated Hitter Rule
The American League decided to change its games when it implemented the designated hitter rule in 1973. The National League opted to continue playing the game as it had been played. Every position player batted. The designated hitter rule was not applied in the World Series until 1976, when it was decided that the designated hitter rule would be used in the World Series in alternate years. Starting in 1986, the designated hitter would be used in World Series games hosted by the American League representative.
Interleague Play Starts
In 1997, the owners’ greed resulted in interleague play, which brings us back to Mr. Steinbrenner. Without interleague play, the only time one of the Yankees’ pitchers would have to bat would be in the World Series. Since 2003, it is a problem that the Yankees have not faced, but one never knows about the future. There is little doubt that the Yankees would be pleased to have their pitchers bat in the World Series.
Problems With Interleague Play
Interleague play has caused many problems. A few seasons ago, the Indians played the Yankees nine times, while their division rival Chicago played the Yankees only six times. Central Division Houston played Texas six times, which is the same number of time they played the Western Division Diamondbacks, Giants, Dodgers, and Rockies. Houston was the only National League Central team to play Texas. In a little more than a week, the Yankees and Mets will play a day-night doubleheader in two different ballparks, an abhorrence caused by a rain out the first time the two teams were scheduled. The teams will play in the afternoon at Yankee Stadium and then play a night game in Flushing.
Both Leagues Must Play Under the Same Rules
Mr. Steinbrenner is correct on one count. Both leagues must play under the same rules. The problem is that he and the other American league moguls have it backwards, because, contrary to Mr. Steinbrenner’s stating “Don’t give me that traditionalist crap,” that “traditionalist crap” might have prevented Wang’s injury. The solution is NOT for the National League to ruin its game. The solution is for the American League to abolish the designated hitter rule. It would require pitchers like Chien-Ming Wang to bat, run the bases, and not feel as if they are in foreign land when they are awaiting their turn at bat. Of course, that is an unrealistic suggestion because fans love offense, offense increases profits, and few teams are as offensive as the one that run by Mr. Steinbrenner and his crew.
Interleague Play Problems