The New York Yankees are beginning to see another dimension in Matty Alou, whose lifetime average is .310. They got him from the A's after the Series. Matty could hit anywhere in Ralph Houk's batting order. Felipe Alou, John Callison, Thurman Munson, Ron Swoboda and Ron Blomberg may also be in and out of the Yankee lineup. New York had an excellent hitting roster before the rule was passed and it looks even better now. As for Detroit, it has a veritable thicket of potential DPH men. Consider Kaline, Frank Howard, Norm Cash and Gates Brown for openers.
Since the day the DPH came into being, Minnesota's Frank Quilici, the youngest (33) manager in the majors, has been fantasizing lineups. "I keep a pad and pencil handy at all times," he says. "I was a utility player throughout my big-league career; I know going to bat only once every two or three weeks is no cinch. Now utility players can be used more often. No question, the rule is going to keep a manager on his toes. It is going to be a more stimulating job, because investigation of other teams will have to be done in greater detail. Some people may be apprehensive about the DPH, but everything has to have a beginning."
Minnesota made as many trades at the winter baseball meetings in Hawaii as any other team, but the question about the 1973 Twins continues to be the condition of their three-time batting champion, Oliva. Does he have DPH written all over him? Quilici isn't so sure. " Oliva works out three hours a day, seven days a week trying to get his knee back in shape. If Tony is not ready to play every day in right field, I'll surely use him as a designated hitter at times. But once a player's legs go they don't only go on defense or the base path. They go in hitting, too. I'd really prefer to have both Oliva and Killebrew in the regular lineup.
"I went in to see Calvin Griffith the other day, and he asked me how much thinking I had given to our designated hitter. I put 15 different lineups on his desk. Mr. Griffith laughed. If he only knew how many I'd worked out before I showed him those."
While Quilici and his peers are plotting, the pitchers are giving heavy, often troubled, thought to the strange new bat-less world that lies ahead. The anti-DPH pitchers naturally tend to be those who hit best. Clyde Wright of the California Angels (.217) says defiantly, "I'm taking a bat to spring training. Hitting is a challenge. They'll have to tell me I can't hit." Wright may be less adamant when someone like Frank Robinson, a renowned clutch hitter, turns up to win Clyde's game. Says Jim Palmer, the brilliant Oriole righthander who had seven game-winning hits for himself last season, "Sitting in the dugout, not going to bat, will make me feel like I'm not part of the game." Palmer also says, "On the positive side, I'll be able to pitch longer. I won't go out for a pinch hitter when I might be trailing by one run in the late innings. It will give me a chance to catch up. And there are times in Baltimore, with its humid weather, when hitting and running the bases takes something out of you."
Rollie Fingers, the spectacular reliever who also hit .316 for Oakland, agrees that "half the fun of pitching is being able to hit." Catfish Hunter of the A's is annoyed, too. "It means I'll have to face another good hitter, and what's good about that? But maybe he won't feel he's in the game. The pressure will be on him real strong. If he goes 0 for 4, he's a failure. If, some days, a fine fielder doesn't get a hit he can still feel he's done a job. As for me, I want to bat. I want to be in the whole game."
The most important factual document pertaining to the DPH is kept in a desk drawer in the office of Carl Steinfeldt, the 32-year-old general manager of the Rochester Red Wings of the International League, which experimented with a DPH rule during the 1969 season. On the last three days of the season 5,000 questionnaires were given out to spectators at Rochester. The fans were asked to return them at their own expense, and 3,322 were completed. The verdict was 59% in favor of the DPH, 31% against and 10% on the fence. By Presidential election standards, that is landslide popularity.
Tiger Scout Jack Tighe, one of the most respected men in baseball, managed the Toledo team in the International League in 1969. He says, "I am amazed at many of the objections people have raised about the rule. It doesn't take that much strategy out of the game. When a pitcher comes to bat nowadays, the fans go out to the hot-dog stands. The rule we had in the International League was stiff; no exceptions were made to give any manager a tactical advantage."
That International League season of 1969 provided some interesting statistics, which may or may not be useful guides to the road ahead; the minors aren't the majors. But, as compared with the previous year, the number of shutouts dropped from 103 to 67, complete games rose from 311 to 362, home runs increased by 16, sacrifice hits decreased by 50 and intentional walks by 51. Run production was up 7%.
From the fans' point of view, the suddenness with which the American League adopted the DPH rule has been one of its drawbacks. There was virtually no preliminary public debate and no precedent for such an abrupt and radical move. Joe Cronin, the league president, has been besieged with questions since the original announcement on Jan. 11. From the first the public was told that the DPH could not play a defensive position, but now that part of the rule is undergoing reexamination—and conceivably could be changed. One cited reason for such a change is the case of the second-string catcher. He would never be used by a manager as a DPH because, if the starting catcher were hurt—as often happens—there would be nobody left to catch.