Baseball has its problems: A reluctance to use instant replay. Arrogant umpires and their customized strike zones. An All-Star exhibition game that actually affects the World Series champion.
But of all our national pastime's woes, the most ridiculous is that the American and National Leagues play by different rules. They play a different game, almost a different sport.
Why? The designated hitter. Or, in the case of the AL, the lack thereof.
When the Texas Rangers begin the World Series in San Francisco Wednesday night, they'll play under rules they experienced in only nine of 162 games during the regular season. Pitchers will bat. I know, what a concept.
I happen to think it's asinine that the AL uses a designated hitter and doesn't force pitchers to hit, but regardless of your preference you have to admit the discrepancy is appalling. The NL - evidenced by the Giants' six one-run playoff wins - is all about strategy and tight, low-scoring games. The AL - evidenced by the Rangers scoring less than five runs only once in 11 post-season games - is more about raking the ball and running the bases.
The Rangers are 5-1 on the road in the playoffs and they were a baseball-leading 14-4 in Interleague play this season. Better yet, in games at NL parks they were a sparkling 8-1. But they won't be facing the likes of the Brewers, Astros, Marlins and Pirates.
And they won't be playing a familiar game in San Francisco.
For example, Giants Game 1 and 2 starters - Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain - have 133 combined at-bats this season; the Rangers' Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson only seven. For the most part pitchers in NL games are required to bunt or hit grounders to the right side of the infield in an effort to move runners up a base. The Rangers have one decent hitter in Colby Lewis but his first start will be Game 3 at Rangers Ballpark where AL rules will apply and he'll never handle a bat.
Games 1 and 2 and perhaps 6 and 7 of the World Series will look foreign to most of us. Playing for one run. Sacrifice bunts. Double-switches (God help gut-driven Ron Washington). Low scoring.
I don't understand why pitchers - on one of their four off-days in between starts - can't learn to be at least mediocre hitters. But mostly I can't comprehend how baseball can hold a World Series between teams that play by different rules.
Imagine the NBA's Western Conference prohibiting centers from scoring, Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference allowing forwards to use their hands or the NFL's NFC instituting a rule where kickers were forced to play on offense while the AFC mandated punters being one of its team's 11 regular defenders.
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