The Popcorn Stand: He’s Rob (us of real baseball) Manfred

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The Popcorn Stand is written periodically by Appeal assistant editor Charles Whisnand (actually whenever he wants to write it) and covers Whisnand’s musings in the world of sports (actually whatever he wants to write about). It’s named in honor of Whisnand’s favorite sports columnist, Pulitzer Prize-winning Red Smith, who once dubbed one of his columns the Popcorn Stand.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred seems to be determined to live up to his name and “Rob” us of the last respite of real baseball in the universe by leading the way for the National League to have the designated hitter. It’s been clear ever since Manfred became commissioner his main concern is putting as much offense into the game as possible and his obviously short-sighted way to do it is to force the DH on the National League.

There are two players who best demonstrate why the DH should never be a part of baseball: Roger Clemens and Candy Maldonado. You think Clemens would have been able to intimidate hitters as much as did all those years in the American League if he had to hit?

And then there’s Maldonado, an outstanding slugger, but terrible fielder for the San Francisco Giants in the 1980s. Maldonado was the right fielder who misplayed a flyball (“He lost it in the lights,” Vin Scully famously called) that led to the St. Louis Cardinals’ only run in a 1-0 win over Giants in game six of the National League Championship Series. The Cardinals went on to win that series in seven games.

You think Giants manager Roger Craig would have loved to use Maldonado as DH and not have to put him out in the field? We just don’t think a hitter should be able to pinch hit four or five times in a game.

And don’t get us started on how the DH takes away from the excitement of extra inning games, especially in the playoffs. In his autobiography, Joe Torre, an American League manager for the New York Yankees at the time, beautifully explained why game four of the 1996 World Series in Atlanta was so exciting — because there was no DH.

But you can’t explain this to American League fans and quite frankly we don’t think American League fans care. American League fans don’t understand the nuances of the game like us National League fans. All they see is Lou Piniella making that slow walk out to the field and making the motion for a double change.

That’s all American League fans see. They think who cares if a manager doesn’t have to make a double change in the eighth inning? But as we mentioned above the nuances of the game — without a DH — is why it’s so great.

We blame Frank Howard for the DH. Again, Frank Howard was a feared slugger, but by the end of his career, he couldn’t even handle playing first base.

We witnessed this first hand when we went to see our first Major League Baseball games on our sixth birthday (we say games because it was a doubleheader) between the Oakland Athletics and the Washington Senators in 1971. If the ball wasn’t thrown right at Howard’s chest, he couldn’t catch it. Two years later, the American League had the DH.

Has the DH really made that much of an impact on offense in the American League? The DH certainly hasn’t had as much impact as say — steroids.

If Manfred wants to increase offense in the National League — and all of baseball for that matter — he shouldn’t worry about the DH or doing away with shifts (that’s a whole other matter).

Manfred simply needs to reinstate this one simple rule that’s gone unnoticed: Keep the catchers in the catchers box. Nobody notices catchers always do away with the catchers box much like batters do away with the batters box. That’s because catchers want to set up like a foot or two feet outside or move back and forth several feet from side to side.

Keep the catchers stationary in a catchers box and watch how they won’t be nearly as capable in locating pitches. And watch what happens to the offenses. We think you would see a noticeable difference.


Of course, the DH

Watching ESPN, which we’ve managed to do in the last week or so. (You didn’t think we’d write a column without getting a shot in at ESPN, did you)?


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