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Commentary

Good things to ponder: The universal designated hitter and channel-flipping through the classics

Mike Harrington

With too down time on my hands the last couple of weeks, and with limited concrete news yet on any return-to-play plan for the NHL, there were plenty of chances to sit and ponder the sports world. Both the old days and what might be coming.

Baseball has its plans much more in motion, with an 82-game season looking like the best bet. The brewing tiff between players and owners over salaries for a shortened season is not a good look that they'll hopefully figure out. The 2020 campaign can really be a "lab" kind of season to try lots of things and it seems they're going to be bang-on with one element: The use of a universal designated hitter.

No more DH for AL games, or interleague in AL parks. Full DH all the time. Day, night, NL, AL. That's if there even are leagues this year. Everybody gets one. For someone who grew up on the AL East of the '70s, this an easy sell and is long overdue.

There is no joy to watching pitchers flailing away and watching every manager pitch around No. 8 hitters just to get to No. 9. No joy in watching AL pitchers try to hit during the World Series or AL DHs trying to play the field just so their bat can stay in the lineup. No more worries about pitchers getting injured in the batter's box or on the bases either. It all just makes sense. It's so simple that's it's a wonder it's been this way since 1973, with DH split along league lines.

Don't wax poetic about Bartolo Colon's home run for the Mets in 2016. A wondrous fluke for sure. If teams want to let the likes of Madison Bumgarner go ahead and hit, by all means. There are outliers such as that. For the most part, the game is better served by seeing a real hitter at each spot in the lineup. Kids with golden arms don't even grow up swinging the bat much anymore. There's DHs in high school and college. It's always been foolish suddenly expecting them to hit when they get to the big leagues.

So while I'm looking forward to watching full DH games this summer, I did a lot of channel surfing recently too. It left lots of impressions:

• Still can't believe how the Bills blew that Monday nighter to Dallas in 2007. Sure sounded like ESPN play-by-play man Mike Tirico couldn't believe it either. It's almost impossible to blow an 8-point lead in the final 20 seconds but the Bills did it. Dick Jauron is lucky Ralph Wilson didn't send him packing on Tuesday morning. Imagine what Jerry Jones would have done to poor Wade Phillips if that scenario had been reversed.

• The most bizarre Stanley Cup celebration ever had to be the Flyers' attempt to carry the cup around the Spectrum ice after they beat the Bruins in 1974. Following the 1-0 win in Game 6, scores of young and no-doubt loaded fans hopped the low side glass on the ice at the final buzzer. The NBC footage showed Bill Barber and Dave Schultz both jostling fans out of the way as Bobby Clarke and Bernie Parent tried to skate the cup around the ice. Weird. Didn't remember it at all.

• Yes, I watched some of "Tiger King." No, I don't see why it was such a big deal. Yes, I've watched every minute of "The Last Dance." And it's been amazing. You wonder if ESPN regrets airing two parts a week for five weeks and not going with one part a week for 10.

• The most underrated baseball movie from the '80s/'90s rush of them was "A League of Their Own." Saw it a couple of times recently on MLB Network. And not just because of Tom Hanks' iconic "There's no crying in baseball" rant. Geena Davis was a star but it's hard to overlook Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell. They were hilarious. And the final scene, with a decades-older group of players reuniting to unveil a women's baseball exhibit at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, was wonderfully done.

• Hard not to love "Sabres Classics" on MSG. Hard to fathom how a franchise that was so relevant from 1970-2011 is in such an abyss now. Wish more of the games were Empire or MSG broadcasts rather than CBC or Versus/NBC, but truly enjoyed this week's showing of Game 2 of the 1975 semifinals vs. Montreal in the Aud. The smooth voices of CBC legends Danny Gallivan and Dick Irvin. Great work by the Sabres' social media folks to pump the broadcasts, too.

• The one set of games I wish I could have rewatched recently: The 1987 Canada Cup final between Canada and Russia. They were shown on TSN and the Canadian media certainly waxed poetic about them. And with good reason. Mario Lemieux playing on the same line as Wayne Gretzky? Video game stuff but it really happened.

The last two games of the best-of-three final were both in Hamilton and both were won by Canada, 6-5, the first on a double-overtime goal by Lemieux and the second on the iconic Lemieux goal with 1:26 left in regulation. Gretzky assisted on both.

• My best non-Sabres rewatches: Blackhawks-Kings from the 2010s. The Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014, while the Blackhawks won it in 2013 and 2015. Each team could make the case the other prevented them from a three-peat.

Chicago beat LA in five games in the '13 West final, with Patrick Kane's double-overtime goal clinching the series. LA returned the favor in overtime of Game 7 in 2014 on a goal by Alec Martinez. Both absolutely riveting games to watch again but what lean times both teams have endured since. The Kings have won one playoff game since their '14 Cup triumph while the Hawks have just three postseason wins since '15. No series wins for either one and lots of total playoff misses.

• Is there a dumber annual quest in sports journalism than the almost-breathless jockeying on social media to break game matchups of the NFL schedule being released that night? I just waited until 7:30 p.m. and the schedule came out. And then ignored most of ESPN's three-hour show discussing it. Yes, three hours. Overkill, thy name is the NFL.

• Spent too much time watching webcams and looking up videos of Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Assuming there won't be fans in the stands, the new homes of the Las Vegas Raiders, LA Rams and Chargers and Texas Rangers won't get to open with all the usual fanfare of places with their kinds of massive price tags. And that's a shame.

• Wonder which team in what sport might say it's not going to play a game in New York City or New Jersey due to coronavirus fears. The betting here is that one will. That will get sticky.

• A message to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau: Please get the border open. Can't imagine a summer without going to Toronto, whether it's for baseball or not.

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