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The Buck Stops Here: National League should face reality, implement designated hitter

Jacob deGrom was batting .261 after going hitless in three at-bats Wednesday night in a win over the Cardinals, making him the only pitcher this season who had a batting average higher than .250 with at least 25 at-bats. For deGrom to be the best-hitting pitcher should not be a total shock.

The Mets' ace played third base and shortstop at Stetson University and didn't begin pitching until his junior year. He was mainly recruited for his bat after hitting better than .500 over three years in high school, so he was hardly lost the first time he stepped to the plate in the National League.

Madison Bumgarner is a very good hitter, for a pitcher, which is to say he has a career .184 average with 16 homers and 16 doubles. Mad Bum hit two homers on opening day this season, a first for a pitcher in major league history, and has two grand slams  on his resume. Adam Wainright is batting .220 this year with 10 RBIs.

You're always going to find a few exceptions, but it doesn't change the overall point: Pitchers stink when it comes to hitting. For the most part, they're praying for a walk, flailing away with little chance of making contact or bunting in what amounts to a hopeless exercise. Their ineffectiveness hurts the No. 8 hitter, too, because he sees fewer good pitches.

How is that fun?

The designated hitter was implemented in the American League in 1973 while the National League retained traditional rules, forcing pitchers to bat. For 44 years and counting, batting averages have been better in the AL than the NL – no surprise there – while the two leagues played under separate rules.

Now, don't get me wrong. I actually like the idea of pitchers batting because it encourages more thinking. NL managers make batting decisions based on pitching effectiveness on a nightly basis. If the starting pitcher is throwing a good game and is an effective hitter, it could keep him in games longer.

NL pitchers have an easier time on the mound, however, because they're not facing designated hitters that are often found in the middle of batting orders. Rather than compete against full lineups, NL starters get a reprieve because they can pitch around the eighth-place hitter and face the pitcher in the ninth spot.

From a batting perspective, NL managers know they're giving away a few outs every game. Any offensive production coming from a pitcher is a bonus. They're adept at making double switches. AL managers have a 25 percent chance, or better in many cases, of their guy getting a hit no matter his place in the order.

I would gladly present statistics showing how poorly pitchers are hitting across the National League, but that's a heavy lift. MLB.com tracks exit speeds of balls leaving bats but does not show cumulative numbers for pitchers batting averages. They're kept individually. For the purposes of saving time and energy, accept that they're poor.

So which way is better?

While the NL may be more tactical, the AL is more practical for Major League Baseball attracting the next generation of fans. Younger people generally don't embrace old-school thinking. They have spent years embracing the Home Run Derby, which is why you don't see bunting contests during All-Star festivities.

Four of the top six and eight of the top 15 pitchers with the best strikeouts-to-walk ratios in baseball history are currently in the big leagues. Six are pitching in the NL. Pitchers are too good at pitching, and nowhere near good enough at hitting, for the National League to continue with outdated thinking.

So how about we get with the times and implement the DH in the National League before a persistent problem gets worse?

Redskins' decision backfires

Washington's decision to announce it offered $53 million in guaranteed money to Kirk Cousins was little more than an appeal to average fans. After all, that's a ton of money for two years of work. Did they not know Cousins would command much more in the open market?

No wonder it backfired. Cousins knew he was better off working under the NFL franchise tag for the second straight season than accepting the offer. He made nearly $20 million last season and is set to pocket another $24 million this year. If he becomes a free agent, he could get paid some $30 million per season.

He's not worth that much in my book, but that's what happens when there's a shortage of players at the most important position on the field. Whether anyone agrees or not, that's the market. Cousins will convince someone to sign him to franchise-QB money if he has another good year in 2017.

Last season, he completed 67 percent of his passes for 4,917 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He has solid stats and experience, making him an easy sell if Washington doesn't want him. If he's slapped with the tag again next season, he'll make more than $75 million in three seasons.

Certain players are angered by the franchise tag, but not Cousins. He turning the designation into a lucrative career.

What are the chances?

Last month, I wrote a column about Williamsville North junior Luke Terry playing baseball at such a high level that many people failed to notice he was born without his left hand. Terry played center field last season but has been a pitcher for years and expects to be on the mound next season.

Longtime friend Jeff Woodrich alerted me earlier this week to a middle-school ballplayer from Tennessee who played catcher with one arm. At 19 months, his left arm was amputated after he contracted E. coli. Now 14, the soon-to-be freshman threw out the first pitch in a game last month in Atlanta.

His name: Luke Terry.

Seriously.

Melo Madness

Welcome to the club if you're suffering from Carmelo Anthony fatigue, but there's no end in sight unless he's traded to Houston.

Just so we're straight: Melo had a no-trade clause included in his deal with the Knicks because he wanted to stay with the Knicks. And the Knicks agreed to include the clause because the Knicks wanted him to stay with the Knicks.

Then Phil Jackson climbed aboard and alienated his star player. Anthony then agreed to waive the clause for a contender, such as the Rockets or Cavaliers. Then the Knicks fired Jackson, removing Anthony's primary nemesis.

Then the Knicks suggested they would continue pursuing a trade involving Anthony before hiring new GM Scott Perry and hitting the brakes. Then they hinted that they wanted to keep him. Then Melo suggested he didn't want to play for them.

Along came talk of him going to Portland, then more talk that he wouldn't waive the no-trade clause for Portland, then more talk that he's not going anywhere. All this for an overpaid scorer who plays little defense and hasn't won anything in the NBA.

Has it dawned on anyone that Anthony isn't worth his $26.2 million salary? The Knicks paid him because he was a big name on a lousy team. Put him in a smaller market on a team looking for a difference-maker, and it doesn't add up.

Unless that somehow changes, the saga will continue.

Quotable

Dustin Johnson, asked what he would call the treacherous, par-4, 499-yard sixth hole at Royal Birkdale, site of the Open Championship, if given the opportunity: "Probably words I couldn't use in a press conference."

Stats Inc.

44 – Consecutive wins by the Dodgers in games in which they've gained a lead, breaking a record held by the Cubs since 1906.

4 – Bogey-free rounds for Jordan Spieth in his past 10 major championships after he shot 65 Thursday in the British Open.

44 – Jersey number worn by Hank Aaron, who hit the 755th and final home run of his career on July 20, 1976.

Extra Points

With three homers Wednesday night, Nolan Arenado became a member of an exclusive club that hit three homers in a game, hit for the cycle and had a walkoff homer in the same season. Jimmie Foxx (1923), Joe DiMaggio (1937), Ted Williams (1946) and George Brett (1979) were the others.

MSN.com ran a poll this week asking, "When do you start getting excited for the NFL season?" After 555,590 responses: 48 percent said "when the season starts," 13 percent said "when rookies report" and 11 percent said "not until playoffs/Super Bowl." The remaining 28 percent picked, "I never do … I don't like the NFL."

According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Phillies had a 4-9 record through Wednesday in games decided by a walkoff. Just think, if they won all 13 games in that situation … they still be would be in last place in the NL East, 15½ games behind the first-place Nationals.

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