Wainwright goes down swinging: Done for season
Photo: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright was lost for the season on Saturday night, but not because of a throwing injury, because of a batting injury. The 33 year-old Wainwright tore his Achilles while popping out during the 5th inning in Milwaukee. This injury will leave the 1st place Cardinals without a true ace just 17 games into the 2015 season.
Season ending injuries are not new to Wainwright, he missed the 2011 World Series Championship year for the Cardinals, when he went down in Spring Training and required season-ending Tommy John surgery. At that time, the Cardinals still had veteran ace Chris Carpenter and a young up-and-comer named Lance Lynn who went 2-0 in the postseason that year. They also had a stud named Albert Pujols who went off in the post season including a 5-5, 3 home run night in the World Series. The Cardinals are not built like that this year, so losing Wainwright hurts.
This leads me to my bigger issue with this story. Could this devastating blow to the Cardinals rotation and hopes for a 2015 World Series Championship have been avoided? The DH rule in baseball has been debated for years and may be one of the most absurd things in any professional sports league. To me, this is the equivalent of the AFC in the NFL not using kickoffs and everyone gets the ball at the 25 while the NFC still uses the kickoff. Or in the NBA, the Western Conference uses the college three-point line while the Eastern Conference uses the longer NBA three. There is an absolute ignorance of structural balance and fairness in Major League Baseball with the 42 year-old DH rule.
Logo Courtesy: MLB
I realize this injury could have happened on the mound or even chasing his kids around in the backyard. It didn’t. It happened while he was batting, something his colleagues in the other league do not even do. Of course there is increased risk of injury by having pitchers come to the plate and bat, but this is a new wrinkle in this old debate as far as I am concerned. They are professional athletes, so I have no sympathy for them when it comes to increased risk of injury. My issue with the DH rule is and always will primarily be…it is unfair statistically and historically. The American League teams will always appear to have better batting numbers and higher batting averages than National League teams. The stats prove that to be true. The DH rule was approved by all 24 Major League Baseball teams on January 11th, 1973. The American League has had a higher batting average than the National League every year since 1973. What? That’s incredible and by no means a coincidence.
The second main issue I have with the DH rule in baseball is that the American League gets all the veteran hitters that are in their last few years of baseball. The Cardinals have also been compromised by this theory in the past as well. I am convinced this was a reason Pujols went west to sign a 10-year deal with the Angels. He knew once he hit about 37 years of age he could play another 3-4 years as a DH if he managed to stay healthy. Carlos Beltran also left St. Louis for the American League and the New York Yankees. He turned 37 around the time he started his Yankees stint in April of 2014. The list of veteran power hitters that either went to the American League or stayed in the American League in the twilight years of their MLB career is long. Some that come to mind since I have been following baseball are Rubin Sierra, Dave Winfield, Cecil Fielder, Frank Thomas and Andre Dawson. That’s a short list of the guys I know that have been impact players since my childhood that were locked into the American League for the sole role of being a DH. If the Cubs would have been in the American League, The Hawk would have retired a Cubbie. Numbers aside, this just isn’t fair to fans of National League teams.
No matter how you feel about the DH rule, this is a legitimate time to debate whether or not it should exist at all. In this Detroit Free Press article posted earlier today, Terry Francona, the Manager of the Cleveland Indians says, “Pitchers have been hitting for what, 100-something years? I don’t think you should change the rule because a guy got hurt in an instance.” Well, yes and no Terry. Only half of all pitchers (National League pitchers) in professional baseball have been hitting, and only every 5-6 games or so in the last 40 years. Adam Wainwright played in 32 games last year and had only 72 plate appearances. That’s just over 2 at bats per game played. So the risk of injury should not be the focus of a DH rule debate, but it should be a side note. I agree that we should not change the rule based purely on risk of injury, but there are a number of other really good reasons for baseball to finally address and change this rule. I honestly like and dislike the DH rule for different reasons. The American League DH rule style of play is obviously more entertaining but baseball purists would argue there is more strategy involved in the National League style of play. You can eliminate it, or add it to the National League. Either way I’m good. But in my opinion, baseball needs to get over themselves, adapt, and change this fundamentally wrong structure of their sport.
Please leave us your feedback on this article and let us know what you think about the DH rule debate.
Brandon covers the MLB & St. Louis Cardinals for MyFantasySportsTalk.Com, you can follow him on Twitter @New_Breid
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You can follow Brandon on Twitter @New_Breid