I dislike the DH rule, because I dislike the idea that an important offensive player can be a key player - even contend for the AL MVP - while rarely or never taking the field. Throwing the ball, catching the ball, hitting the ball with a bat and running around the bases are things every baseball player should be prepared - nay, eager to do. Not all equally well, but it’s part of the fundamental job description. Excusing a pitcher from ever having to hit or run, or having a player only bat and run, is to make them half a baseball player.
On the other hand, I recognize the inherent weakness in the game setup when a manager can intentionally pitch around batters to get to the pitcher’s spot in the lineup (e.g., 2 outs and 2 men on base), forcing the other manager to let a weak batter take a key at-bat or to remove a still-effective pitcher from the game. Purity of the game aside, when one hitter in the lineup is consistently in there solely for defense 99% of the time (the pitcher) and is several standard deviations below the rest of the positions in offensive production, that’s not exactly “pure” either.
That said, I still dislike how the rule is specifically aimed at the pitcher, such that allowing the pitcher to bat for himself loses the DH. Sure, MOST of the time, pitchers can’t hit. But what if your pitcher du jour is actually a decent hitter, like Carlos Zambrano, and your lightweight bat defensive guy is like 1997 Rey Ordonez at shortstop? And then there’s the strategic element to managing bats off the bench which isn’t there if you can just throw a guy in there as the DH every game.
Finally I think it’s objectively stupid to have the DH in half the major league teams but not the other half. Especially now that Interleague play is not only here to stay, but will be a constant throughout the schedule. Either it’s a part of baseball now, or it’s not. The problem is, I dislike it but recognize and to some extent agree as to why there’s a perceived need for it.
Taking all that into account, I submit the following change to Major League Baseball, to be implemented for the 2013 season after 30 years of having a Designated Hitter rule in the American League alone: All teams in both leagues will once again play by the same rules. However, there will no longer be a Designated Hitter. Instead, we will allow a Ghost Pinch Hitter once per 9 innings.
This role is just like a regular pinch hitter - he goes up to bat for another player, most likely the pitcher but it could be anybody - but after he’s done hitting and running the bases, he goes back to the bench and the original player remains in the lineup. The Ghost can still be used as a normal pinch hitter or runner later in the game as well. For lineup purposes it’s as if the original player had batted, except that the Ghost batted for him (but the offensive stats count for the Ghost, of course). The exception would be if you sent in a pinch-runner for the Ghost, in which case he’s removed from the game, but the pinch runner wouldn’t be: the “Ghost” nature would get transferred to the pinch-runner, so to speak. This is to balance the use of power-hitting pure pinch hitters like Matt Stairs more than once - you can do it, but now he has to run at least once if he gets on base. (It would also be called, of course, “giving up the Ghost”.)
So if a pitcher’s spot is coming up with the bases empty, fine, let him bat as God intended him to do. But if his spot is coming up and there’s a man on 3rd base and 2 out in the 4th inning and the idea in the other dugout is to intentially walk the #8 hitter to pitch to the pitcher, well, now you can send in your best bat off the bench and still keep that bat on the bench and your pitcher in the game. But not every single time the pitcher comes up - only once per 9 innings, so pick your spot wisely.
You get to use another Ghost in extra innings (unlike “the” DH it wouldn’t have to be the same player you used as a Ghost in the regular innings); and Heaven help you, a third Ghost if you reach the 19th inning - you can use that backup catcher off the bench without fear of being without a catcher.
Whaddya think? Shall we bombard Bud Selig with this idea? Or is this actually something that’s been proposed before in some variant, and been shot down?