It begins with a GM casually mentioning that the DH campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why is it so popular, the little girl asks? And then it moves from casual mention to actual news when it gets closer to Collective Bargaining Agreement time. Then there are 1,000 different articles and think pieces and haiku about the DH as the debate rages among anyone who isn't actually involved in the decision. Then the decision is made, and there's nothing you can do about it.
Then you get used to it.
That's how it will happen. Trust me, I'm not looking forward to the DH, either. I'm a huge supporter of pitchers hitting for the same reason most people are: I'm used to it. If you're a proponent of designated hitters, you're probably extremely partial to them for the same reason most people are: You're used to it. And eventually, no matter what happens, you'll get used to the DH in both leagues, or you'll get used to pitchers hitting in both leagues.
Except it's going to be the universal DH that we'll need to get used to. The MLBPA wants an additional 15 salaried hitters, and the league wants more offense and an additional CBA bargaining chip. Your kids will be more used to it than you, and they'll argue vociferously on behalf of whatever becomes the status quo. Hopefully they'll be on the side you're on now, lest you ruin another Thanksgiving.
That's my lesson from decades of caring about this stuff, of forming strong, weapons-grade opinions about the particulars of baseball. When I was younger, I could have written 4,933 fiery words about the DH and the death of the American dream. It would have been a sweaty live performance in a small club, and it would have defined me. Now I'm fat and those songs are being used for Target ads, and I'll tell you, you'll get used to it. Baseball fans get used to everything, including the DH in the first place, which was a weird plan from Mars in the 70s that lasted long after the White Sox's shorts were gone.
Let's consider all of the things we've grown accustomed to since the Selig Era started and rank them on a used-to-it scale from 1-to-10, in which "1" means the changes still wake us up at night, and "10" means we don't remember anything different by now.
Used-to-it ranking: 10
Four new teams since 1993, and all of them have appeared in a World Series at least once. Two of them have won it. One of them has a Hall of Famer already (Randy Johnson), and we're all quite used to these teams, even though most of them started out wearing a whole lot of purple. The Florida teams aren't the healthiest of the 30 franchises around baseball, but that has to do with owner-related lunacy in one case and the unfortunate planning of an already existing ballpark in another.
In a much broader scale, people thought the baseball apocalypse was coming when MLB moved away from the original 16 teams in the 60s. Talent was going to be diluted beyond recognition, and the hitters were going to feast on the watered-down pitching. It was going to make the sport worse, much worse, and then, say, we all got used to it.
Well, they all did. I was born into it, and it sure made sense to me. I had the 1983 Fleer Rod Carew where he was wearing a headband and taking batting practice, and that was the Angels, alright. I had no idea that two decades earlier, people were arguing that they shouldn't exist. Probably because everyone was used to it.
Used-to-it ranking: 8
The Royals and Mets have played regular season games before. I don't remember a single one, and you don't either, not unless you looked them up before the 2015 World Series. The argument that interleague play would ruin the mystery of the World Series is invalid. If anything, it proved just how many forgettable games every baseball season has in the first place.
That doesn't mean interleague play still isn't annoying at times, especially now that there's at least one interleague series going at all times. There will always be an interleague game on Opening Day, which is just odd. This year we get Mets and Royals, but that will be the last time we'll look forward to the interleague matchup on Opening Day for at least a decade.
But we're used to it. The rage against it -- and, oh, there was rage -- is now limited to an occasional eye roll.
Used-to-it ranking: 9
There was something lost, don't get me wrong. There used to be a special pride about winning the division, and before that, a special, special pride that came with winning the pennant. When I was a kid, I used to wonder about Bobby Thomson's Shot Heard Around the World because it came right before the Giants lost the World Series. How could everyone be so happy just to win a pennant? It sounds like a stupid question, but kids can be really stupid. Back then, winning a pennant wasn't a necessary step to something better. It was the goal.
That's gone, and in its place, we have a lot more people caring about baseball in September. The snowflake quality of each pennant and division title has been diminished, but more people care. There's more hope, more excitement. It's not the NBA or NHL, where half the teams make the postseason, under-.500 clubs included, yet it's still more inclusive. It's the right balance.
Second Wild Card
Used-to-it ranking: 9
Because once we got used to the Wild Card, the biggest quibble became how the Wild Card teams were penalized by not having an extra home game in the LDS and LCS. It seemed unfair to treat them like a normal No. 4 seed against teams that really did accomplish special things in the regular season.
The fix was, remarkably, to add a postseason team. Let them fight to the death. It's the worst and the best at the same time, a completely manufactured elimination game that sends a team home after a long, long season of postseason dreams. It seems cruel until you wonder how excited the Giants from the 60s would have been to get that one-game chance every year.
A third of the teams in baseball now make the postseason in some capacity every year. It's been like this for a couple of years, and we're all used to it. There are people who want to go back to the days before divisions, when each league would produce a pennant winner that went straight to the World Series, but they're clearly the I-don't-even-own-a-TV subset of baseball fans.
Astros in the AL
Used-to-it ranking: 10 (most of us)
Used-to-it ranking: 4 (Astros fans)
Sure, I still scramble to pick up Astros players in my NL-only fantasy league every year, and will until I die, but it sure didn't take long for me to get used to the idea that the Astros are over there now. It still takes me aback whenever I'm doing a historical search and the Brewers pop up in the American League results. Seems like so long ago.
Astros fans are still cheesed off, for the most part, and I don't blame them. They're used to it, but begrudgingly. It's possible, if not likely, that the universal DH will help those wounds heal faster. Each generation will get more and more used to it.
The way Astros fans feel is probably the best comparison for the DH. It will be a much slower process of acceptance. The grumbling will last for much longer than it did for the Wild Card or expansion, but it will subside a lot quicker than you'll expect. You'll get used to it.
My argument against the DH remains the same:
If you don't know what it's like to feel the joy of a pitcher hitting a dinger or unexpected RBI, you don't know what it's like to feel joy. And it makes me sick that it will go away.
It makes me sick that it will go away.
IT MAKES ME SICK THAT IT WILL GO AWAY.
But we'll get used to it. And in the place of Koo Dae-Sung's magic, we'll get a 300-pound DH hitting two inside-the-parkers in the same game, and the celestial soil will still be tilled, just in a much different way.
The DH in both leagues: It's stupid, but we'll get used to it, and then it won't be so stupid after all.