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Sports columns

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Associated Press
Designated hitters, such as Boston’s David Ortiz, left, have not ruined the World Series, despite the seemingly yearly worry that the disparity gives AL teams an advantage.

DH disparity not ruining World Series

Was it really so terrible? Has it ever been that bad? Each autumn, we hear that the designated-hitter disparity will ruin the World Series and the rules should be changed immediately, lest we all run for cover as the world is about to end.

All too often, it’s a noisy commotion over nothing. I’m still trying to figure out how this allegedly awkward situation has wrecked the St. Louis Cardinals-Boston Red Sox competition – or any other World Series, for that matter.

The Red Sox were supposed to be in big trouble heading into St. Louis, having to bench either David Ortiz or Mike Napoli because the non-DH landscape would leave one of them without a position. They handled it just fine. Ortiz did some grumbling, but he found his first baseman’s glove, went out to play some authentic baseball and helped the Sox win two of the three games.

By the way, that argument about “a different set of rules” never carried much water. “Different” would be two outs in an inning, or a three-ball walk. Lineups get pitifully skewered when someone isn’t allowed to hit, but it’s not as if people are suddenly running the bases backward.

National League teams should be perfectly capable of adjusting to a DH world, and there’s no better example than the San Francisco Giants.

Supposedly at a disadvantage in American League parks, where the opposing teams appeared to be stacked with more good hitters, the Giants won the 2010 World Series in Texas and followed up with last year’s masterpiece in Detroit.

I’m among the many fans who have this crazy notion about baseball: If you play the game, you bring your glove and your bat, and you use them both. That’s it – end of debate. It’s nine against nine, weaknesses exposed, strengths magnified. There are no “specialists.” If you’re nauseated by the sight of a weak-hitting pitcher, go watch an international ballet; you’ll feel much better.

Along those lines, I can’t understand the argument that “the union would never eliminate those high-paying DH jobs,” when the union could initiate the argument for 27-man rosters (instead of 25), adding two more jobs per team and restoring bench depth in the age of crowded pitching staffs.

Still, these arguments toss me into the trash bin of irrelevance. The DH isn’t going away. The game’s only path to salvation is to sustain traditional rules in the National League, so everyone’s tastes are satisfied. And thank goodness for such esteemed pundits as Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, who wrote, “The greatest games of this era continue to take place under the rules of the sport as it was meant to be.”

Verducci wrote that after the wild, fantastically complex Game 3 in St. Louis on Saturday night: “So convoluted went the plot, with all of its games within the game ... that after nine innings of madness and 35 players – including 12 pitchers, five different third basemen and five pinch-hitters – one truth came shining through: N.L. rules.”

There’s a case worth resting.

Bruce Jen kins is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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