Keith Olbermann’s derisive reference to the “designated kraken” reminds The Scrapbook of a classic anti-designated-hitter article by Christopher Caldwell, published in these pages in April 1998. Longtime readers may yet remember it: “A DHuMB Idea at 25.” It’s still a great read, all these years later, whether you care about baseball or not. Indeed, even the pro-DH heretics out there might enjoy the panache with which Caldwell goes after them. Here’s a sample:
“People come to see players produce runs,” says Wade Boggs. It is not peripheral to our argument that Boggs is one of the stupidest men ever to play baseball. The game as Boggs understands it is basically the moronball you see on the evening-highlight films. If a game ends 6-5 on a suicide squeeze in the 17th inning, you’ll still see only the home runs that were hit in the top of the third. Why? Because Home Runs = Excitement. Look at the ad campaign Major League Baseball has been running for the last two seasons, with the succession of home-plate collisions and speed guns and dust flying off a smashed ball. “I love this game,” says a man’s voice at the end of every commercial. Yes—unfortunately, the game he loves is basketball.
The DH appears here to stay. As Seymour Siwoff of the Elias Sports Bureau says, “It’s become part of working conditions.” Even if most DHs stink, their seniority makes their average salaries the second-highest in the game. At $3.46 million per annum, they’re just behind first basemen ($3.57 million), at 250 percent of the average big-league paycheck. Owners have pleaded with the players’ union to let them scrap the DH and offered to add a 26th player to all rosters as recompense. The union isn’t budging.
Does this remind you of anything? It’s featherbedding.