43-years ago today the American League adopted the designated hitter and baseball purists are still complaining about it. The DH is a player on the roster who hits for the pitcher and does not have to play defense.
The rule was initially discussed early on in the 1900’s and though it almost came into play in the 1920’s, it wasn’t until 1973 that the MLB finally pulled the trigger. While many fans and pundits want the rule eliminated altogether, some actually want it expanded to the National League as well.
One thing is for sure, the DH rule has extended the career of several hitters. Once a team can’t hide a weak defensive player in right field, the DH is the spot to go.
On the anniversary of the DH, here are some of the best designated hitters in MLB history.
Martinez is one of the rare athletes who played their entire career for one team. The Mariners slugger excelled at the DH for 12 seasons. Martinez finished his 18-year career with numbers above the magic .300 batting average, .400 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage lines. Even with impressive numbers, he isn’t in Cooperstown, which is crazy.
Fielder was one of the most feared hitters in the league in the 1990’s. Before the steroids era, Fielder hit 51 and 44 homeruns in back-to-back seasons. This sounds like nothing compared to the gaudy numbers that baseball saw years later, but in the late 80’s and early 90’s, numbers like that were impressive. Fielder often switched back and forth between first base and DH throughout his 13-year run.
Not only did Baines have the ill afro, he also played the most games at DH in league history at 1962. He currently ranks 33rd all-time on the RBI list with 1628.
Big Papi spent most of his storied career as a DH. Perhaps the greatest Red Sox player ever, Ortiz holds the record for most homeruns at the position with 236. Ortiz announced his retirement on his 40th birthday to much fanfare. He is a sure first ballot hall of fame selection.
Before he was doing Nugenix commercials, the Big Hurt was putting a hurting on baseballs. Thomas became a superstar playing first base for the White Sox and after a couple injury plagued seasons, he rejuvenated his career at the DH position. Thomas numbers in all power categories are out of this world. He’s definitely one of the best hitters to ever step to the plate.