Sunday night, as the Indians jogged out to their positions in the middle of the fifth inning in Game Seven, I looked at my scorecard and realized that Florida starter Al Leiter was scheduled to hit third in the inning.
"Do they hit for Leiter here?" I asked the person sitting next to me in the press box.
The Marlins were trailing, 2-0. This was the deciding game of the World Series. Jaret Wright was pitching brilliantly for Cleveland and every scoring opportunity seemed precious.
If Florida got someone on base, would manager Jim Leyland allow Leiter to hit? Would he have him bunt? Or would he go to one of his hitters on the bench and go all out for runs while he had a chance?
At that moment, a sudden realization came to me. It violated everything I once stood for. It was a blatant contradiction of arguments I'd made countless times in the past.
But it was true. I had changed my mind. I no longer was a proponent of the designated hitter. While contemplating possible strategies in the National League park, I realized the game was better without the DH.
It's hard to pinpoint a single reason why. I understand all the arguments for the DH: How it spares you having to watch pitchers flail away with the bat; how it spices up the offense; how it keeps aging, distinguished hitters like Paul Molitor in the game.
But after watching the Series closely and objectively, I'm convinced the bad aspects of the DH outweigh the good. It's not a matter of sappy tradition or purism. It's simply not best for the game.
As you're no doubt aware, baseball underwent a searing public analysis during the Series. All of the game's flaws and foibles were examined in careful detail by a disapproving national press.
That's not such a bad thing. It's a compliment to baseball that the people who watch and comment on it hold it to a high standard. Most of them love the sport and want the quality of play in the World Series to be worthy of the event.
So more than ever, I was conscious of what makes an entertaining baseball game. When played well, it contains elements of the physical and the intellectual.
Having the pitcher hit makes the game more interesting. It adds to the strategy, keeps managers and fans more alert, and makes the contest more compelling, more full of possibility.
It also makes the game faster, which is a big consideration. You can't moan about the length of the games in the AL parks and not admit that the DH helps the games to drag on longer. Without the pitcher hitting, it's obviously harder to collect 27 outs and move the game along.
Also, on a very basic level, doing away with the DH lowers the scores. Statistics show that the average scores are roughly half a run lower in NL games. If there is less scoring, simple arithmetic tells you there's a better chance for the one-run games that are so thrilling to watch.
The DH isn't evil. It has its place. If you're playing softball on weekends with a keg on the sidelines, a designated hitter is a wonderful idea.
But at baseball's higher levels, the DH exists for the wrong reasons. It was put in to increase offense, but high-scoring games aren't necessarily a good thing. A 3-2 game can be a thing of beauty. But there are too many 10-6 games nowadays, games that tend to be uninteresting and interminable.
As for keeping veteran hitters in the sport, it's an overrated notion, a way for the players' union to hold on to high-paying jobs.
I'm sorry, if a good hitter is a liability in the field, he shouldn't be playing in the big leagues. What's so fun about watching a slob like Cecil Fielder wave at curveballs well beyond his prime?
Let the pitchers hit. It makes for a better, quicker game. By the way, Leiter batted with two out in the fifth Sunday. He walked on four pitches.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but it was great baseball.