It would be interesting to see the results if MLB took a poll of fans asking them if they like the designated hitter or not. The poll could also include an inquiry about fans thoughts on inter league play. Chances are, votes for or against the DH would be rather evenly split, depending on if the people voting support an American League team or if it is a Senior Circuit team they follow. As for me, I loathe inter league play and I loathe having to watch pitchers bat.
The biggest two arguments tossed around against the designated hitter are there is more strategy in the National League and that players should be total players. What a bunch of baloney! Any idiot who knows anything about baseball can make a double switch or pinch hit for a pitcher late in the game, and hitters aren’t asked to pitch (very often); why are pitchers ask to hit? Pitchers hit about as well as hitters pitch, which is not very well. Nothing kills the mood of a baseball game more than having to endure the worthless plate appearances of pitchers 85% of the times they are forced to bat.
On top of this, if MLB is going to force inter league play down our collective throats, it is annoying that the leagues have different rules. It is ridiculous in the World Series and it ridiculous in the regular season during inter league play. It was bad enough when we had to endure these yawn fests in previous seasons but at least they were confined predominately to the month of June. Now we have to cope with them all season long.
So, why this rant? Because in the first 14 games of the Kansas City Royals 2013 season, 5 are played in National league parks. Therefore, the Royals will lose one of their key offensive components in favor of a guy who hasn’t hit since Little League (except, of course, for inter leagues games in previous seasons). The Royals are going to have to decide what major cog they are going to sit during these early games. With 4 scheduled off days in the first 18 days of the season, it is not like anyone will need a day off to rest, so the decision on who to sit will probably come down to match-ups. Regardless, the Royals will have to sit either Billy Butler or Eric Hosmer. The Royals can ill afford to lose either bat when playing teams of the ilk of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves. They shouldn’t have to. The Royals have built their roster because they are an American League team. Their roster is not built to play by the National League’s antiquated rules.
The most obvious solution to this early season dilemma is to consider Eric Hosmer for right field. Keep in mind, this is not the best solution but it is an option. Last season, Kansas City played Hosmer in right field a couple of times and the results were not good. Hoss looked lost and uncomfortable and he played very tentatively. He had not been given much chance to find his comfort zone. The Royals need to make sure that Eric Hosmer gets some time working with the outfielders this spring and he should get 5-10 games in right field while in Arizona. He is a good enough athlete that he should be able to handle that position for a few games.
Billy Butler is the Royals’ best hitter. His bat needs to be in each game. He is not the best defensive first baseman the league has ever seen but he is more than capable of playing the field in inter league play. Eric Hosmer should be one of Kansas City’s better hitters this season and the Royals have to figure out a way to get him in the line-up without benching Billy Butler. Jeff Francoeur is one of the weakest links on this team and if it wasn’t for his cannon arm, he would have very little to offer defensively. Everyone knows about his weaknesses and inconsistencies at the plate. He would be the better choice to bench when the Royals visit National League parks. At the very least, a Hosmer/Francoeur platoon during the inter league games makes the most sense.
Before deciding to do this though, the Royals do have to weigh the possible consequences of moving Hosmer to right field for these games defensively. The Royals right side defense is not considered strong anyway. Butler is not as good as Hosmer at first but Hosmer has not been great there yet either. Hosmer would not be as good in the field as Francoeur, despite Frenchy’s deterioration in right. The regular starters at first and right field are not the greatest glove men. The Royals have to decide if adding Butler’s (or Hosmer’s, if platooning at first is the other option) bat is offset by making the defense marginally worse at two positions.
If Kansas City gets Hosmer some work in right field this spring, and he can find his comfort zone out there, the Royals should play Billy Butler at first and platoon Hosmer and Francoeur in right field for these early inter league games in Philadelphia and Atlanta. The Royals will need as much offense as possible to compete against the tough pitching each of those teams run out to the mound each game. Billy Butler is the best Royals hitter; he needs to play every game. Hosmer’s bat needs to be in the line-up, too.