SERMON FROM AN ANGEL
For Paul Deese, general manager of the Salt Lake Angels of the Pacific Coast League, the designated hitter rule is not change enough.
"What we need most," he says, "is a substitution rule that gives us the high degree of excellence on offense and defense that one finds in college and professional football. When a fan spends part of his entertainment dollar to see professional sports, he expects excellence everywhere.
"When an athlete is acquired for college or pro football he is secured to play offense or defense and usually a particular position. A baseball athlete, in addition to playing defense, must hit, run bases, bunt and so on.
"Many baseball players with major-league ability in one phase of the game never make it to the top. They might be excellent hitters but can't catch or throw well. Or maybe they are terrific on defense but can't hit well.
"How many baseball athletes do we have like Maury Wills, who made Walter O'Malley a bundle just on base stealing, who never see the top because they can't hit well or are not strong on defense?"
What Deese would like to see is a baseball platoon system "where we would have the best men on defense, the best at bat and the best running the bases.
"Managers often use their best defensive men in the lineup even though they sacrifice offense," says Deese. "That is one reason why a .280 hitter is considered good today where, in the old days, he'd have been shipped out."
Don't expect anything to be done about this immediately, if ever. The sport's traditionalists, who were horrified when the designated hitter rule went into effect in the American League, feel that was desecration enough. Besides, the league record books might run out of asterisks.