The Phils had just tied the game 3-3. They had runners on 1st and 3rd with one out, following a Tony Gwynn Jr. RBI single. Kyle Kendrick, who had thrown just three innings so far, came up to bat for the second time in the game at a critical juncture.
A big hit here by the 9-hole hitter would give the Phillies the lead and keep the line moving. Heck, a well-placed ground ball or fly ball to the outfield would have done the same thing, and brought Jimmy Rollins to the plate with two outs.
Unfortunately, a bad thing happened. Kendrick, who went into last night's game a career .129 batter (36 hits in 280 at-bats), hit a ground ball back to Miami starter Nathan Eovaldi, who turned it into a rally-killing, inning-ending double play.
Face palms abounded.
After the game, manager Ryne Sandberg was asked why he allowed Kendrick to swing at all, given that it was the pitcher hitting.
Ryne Sandberg said he ordered Kyle Kendrick to swing in the fourth because he was looking for contact or a sac fly. Rare to hear that.— Matt Gelb (@magelb) May 22, 2014
Ryno was looking for Kendrick to get a sac fly in that second AB. Kyle, later: "I'm not a hitter. That's not my job."— Chris Branch (@ChrisBranchTNJ) May 22, 2014
"I'm not a hitter. That's not my job."
Kendrick isn't wrong. He's not expected to produce at the plate. He's expected to pitch.
You can make the obvious joke that Kendrick didn't even do his real job last night, and you can argue that Sandberg's strategy to have Kendrick swing and not take the automatic "just standin' there" strikeout was dumb, and you'd be correct on both counts.
But I've reached my end point with all this nonsense. Letting pitchers hit just wastes at bats. Not only that, it renders the 8-hole hitter almost as useless, because most opposing pitchers won't give the 8-hole batter anything to hit, knowing the pitcher is on deck.
It's just pointless and fruitless to send a hitter to the plate who has no business hitting. It's a waste of everyone's time.
I grew up on the National League style of play, and I've always enjoyed the strategy involved in having pitchers hit, such as when to remove a pitcher for a pinch hitter and making double switches. The NL-style of play forces managers to think four and five innings down the line, rather than the one sitting right in front of them. And if the National League embraced the designated hitter, a lot of that strategy would be gone forever.
I also understand that we'd be deprived of moments like these...
I've decided I'm fine with all of that.
Consider that, among all pitchers with at least 10 plate appearances so far this year, there are nine pitchers hitting .250 or better. Every other pitcher is hitting .217 or worse. Yet we keep sending these automatic outs up to the plate to kill rallies and gum up the works.
And as has been mentioned by others, it's ridiculous that two leagues play with such different rules. Either both leagues should feature pitchers hitting, or both leagues should feature the DH. And since the DH isn't leaving the American League anytime soon, it's time for the National League to get on board.
Look, I understand that having pitchers hit is a rich tradition that goes back forever. But I am tired of watching pitchers, whose job is specifically NOT to swing in important situations, spend their at bats either standing like a statue for their automatic out, or feebly trying to produce at the plate when they have no business trying.
It's time to stop letting pitchers hit. Embrace the DH in the National League.
For the sake of the children.
For the sake of Kyle Kendrick.