Chicago Cubs: Why it’s time for the DH in the National League

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The debate over the designated hitter was on again after Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester was injured running the bases in Monday’s victory. After being a purist for so long, I think it’s time for the DH in the NL.

The Chicago Cubs have had a rough start to the season, and it didn’t look much better when pitcher Jon Lester sustained a hamstring injury on Monday.

While it came during a much-needed 10-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, it was how Lester suffered the injury that had fans and manager Joe Maddon talking.

Lester was injured running the bases during the second inning. While he started pitching in the third, it was clear something was wrong and Maddon pulled him from the game. Lester will have an MRI on Tuesday and is expected to miss at least one start.

After the game, Maddon was quick to deflect questioning about how having a DH in the National League would prevent situations like the one that injured Lester. (Via CBS Sports):

"Injuries happen…There’s always a knee-jerk reaction, and they’re probably going to want DHs in the National League now because of that. It happens. Stuff happens. It’s knee-jerk. Stop being knee-jerk. I do not think Jonny getting hurt today is the proper platform to start stumping for the DH in the National League."

Maddon is right, this particular injury may not be the right reason to push for a DH in the NL. But it’s just the latest in a long line of examples of pitchers getting injured while doing something that isn’t the primary reason they’re getting paid.

The Cubs didn’t sign first baseman Anthony Rizzo to a seven-year contract when he was 23-years-old because they thought he would be great as a reliever in a pinch. It doesn’t make sense for guys like Lester to get injured running the bases.

I understand the allure of having the two leagues in the MLB differ from each other. It’s been a nice little accent on baseball, one of its many charms if you will.

But there really is no longer a need to cling to every traditional that baseball has to offer just because it’s something that’s been in place for a long time. With instant replay and pitching clocks finding their way into the game, tradition obviously isn’t what it used to be.

If you’re a fan of an NL team, start to think back on every time your favorite team had men on base and badly needed to score runs, and then you see that the pitcher is due up next.

The reaction of fans in that situation is almost always a groan or a feeling of negativity. There’s never much of an expectation that a pitcher will drive the ball and “Help his own cause” as fans like to say.

When it does happen, we get great moments. But to me, it’s no longer worth it to tolerate pitcher injuries and scoring rallies being killed for a funny clip to show on highlight reels.

The change of the DH coming to the NL won’t be happening for a few years anyway, according to multiple MLB owners. However, the feeling around the league is that the change is inevitable. Purists must accept that and realize it will be good for the game in the long run.

I didn’t always feel this way; I remember being a proponent of pitchers hitting for a long time. Seeing pitcher injuries pile up over the years made me open to the change.

Last season, when Cubs reliever Pedro Strop was injured running to first I realized that there was no reason his season should be cut short because of baserunning.

It was a key injury that doomed an already-struggling bullpen. Strop appeared in relief in the NL Wild Card game but admitted he pitched through “Severe pain” and lied about how he felt.

That pulled hamstring made a huge impact on the Cubs late-season collapse. I finally realized just how ridiculous it was that the bullpen and thus the team fell apart because of a pitcher trying to leg out an infield single.

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Like it or not, it’s time for a change.