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Palladino: Losing Last Vestige Of 'Real' Baseball Would Sadden Dinosaurs

By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

The black armband went on in 1973 and hasn't come off since.

The mourning over the death of baseball in American League cities continues in this little corner of the world, and could well expand if the young guns of baseball ownership have their way.

By now, it's no secret that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred will be more than willing to make the designated hitter position a fixture not just in the American League, but in the hitherto pure National League, too. By 2017, he said, the less traditional billionaires who run the game could put aside their texts, tweets, and twerks long enough to negotiate a universal DH into the next collective bargaining agreement.

Then, we can mourn baseball as a whole, for there will be no vestiges left of the grand old game.

Well, we dinosaurs who longed for the old days will just have to "Shake it off!" as the Taylor Swift song implies. She, of course, was talking about handling the heartbreak of one of the veritable thousands of her relationship disasters. But it applies here, too, for saying farewell to the hitting pitcher will be just as painful for the ever-shrinking ranks of baseball purists.

The reason behind the potential move is obvious, of course. Since interleague play -- and please, don't get us started on that -- became a daily occurrence, playing the DH exclusively in American League parks has added not only instability to the National League lineups, but an element of unfairness as AL pitchers, some of whom haven't handled a bat since high school, awkwardly foul off bunts on 95 MPH fastballs.

If only because of that, baseball needs universal rules of play.

Even the most die-hard traditionalist realizes the owners would never get rid of the DH. The kiddies -- the 50-and-under set who grew up with it -- like it too much. Heck, many of them have openly wondered if the NL would ever catch up with the times.

So the DH isn't going anywhere. The only solution is to install it in both leagues.

It'll happen, if not in 2017, then certainly after the next collective bargaining agreement expires.

But that shouldn't keep purists from letting out one last, great groan before they sink under the shiny surface of the tar pit. If it's only for this one last season, let them enjoy the old strategy that will leave the game forever.

Seventh inning, Mets down 2-1, one out with a man on second, and Noah Syndergaard is pitching a two-hitter. And now the decision that will have the bar rooms filled with chatter. Syndergaard is a good enough hitter at .209 with a homer and four RBI to get the guy in, but the odds say any position player on the bench has a better chance.

Pull him or leave him in?

Single change, or double-switch?

It's not sexy strategy. It's old-school, the type of decision every manager in the game had to make before the Yanks sent Ron Blomberg to hit against Boston's Luis Tiant in the pitcher's spot on April 6, 1973.

At least the czars left the National League alone for the fans who thirsted for real baseball. Now, the closing of that oasis seems inevitable.

In will march 15 more old-timers who have just enough bat speed left to hang around the game. The surprise of seeing a Matt Harvey put one over the wall, or Bartolo Colon wildly slapping a hat-flying, RBI double to help win his own game will go the way of the hand-written letter.

It's coming. Can't be helped.


So enjoy this last National League season as its teams play the game the old-fashioned way.

Before the contract people send it to the tar pit with the rest of the dinosaur bones.

Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino

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