DH puts a split look on Series

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ATLANTA -- When the World Series resumed here last night, the Yankees' pitchers had to hit. Or at least stand in the batter's box while gripping a bat. Uneasily.

After a season of never even taking batting practice because the American League uses the designated hitter, the Yankees' pitchers, especially their third-game starter, David Cone, were trying to remember how to swing their bats that arrived about two weeks ago.

Such is life with baseball's split personality.

In the World Series, the DH is used in the AL cities, as it was in the first two games at Yankee Stadium, but because the National League doesn't recognize the DH, it is not used in Series games in the NL cities.

It's the silliest situation in sports: two different sets of rules for baseball's showcase event.

It's as if the National Football League allowed its American Conference teams to attempt field goals during the season, but not its National Conference team. In the Super Bowl, field goals could be attempted only if the game were in an AFC city.

If there were two sets of rules for the Super Bowl or the National Basketball Association finals or the Stanley Cup finals, those sports would be a laughingstock. But somehow baseball's split personality in the World Series is more tolerated than protested.

Bobby Cox, the Braves' manager, has had to live with baseball's split personality in four of the last five Series.

"I think the National League team has always had an advantage in the World Series games," Cox said. "Pitchers in the American League don't get to hit all season, don't even get to bunt. I just wish the new labor agreement would do away with the DH."

But the DH has been a sticking point in the lingering labor negotiations. If the AL were to eliminate the DH, the players' association argues, the DHs on 14 teams would be out of a job.

Cox's reference to the AL pitchers not even bunting during the season loomed as a possible factor last night. Tom Glavine, the Braves' starter, had 15 sacrifice bunts during the recent season while batting .289 with 22 hits, including four doubles.

In the decisive seventh game of the league championship series with the Cardinals last Thursday night, Glavine had a bases-loaded triple in the Braves' six-run first inning of their 15-0 rout. In the division series against the Dodgers, he had a double.

Of the other Braves pitchers, Danny Neagle, their fourth-game starter, had a .174 average with 16 sacrifices; John Smoltz had 15 sacrifices with one homer; Steve Avery had two homers.

Most AL managers support the idea of the DH because it eases their decision-making: no need to remove a pitcher for a pinch hitter. But the Yankees' manager, Joe Torre, who formerly managed the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, prefers no DH.

"I think there's more strategy without the DH," Torre said.

"You have to pay more attention to what you do as a manager. As a purist, I think the managing part of baseball and just the fun part of baseball is based on strategy."

During the first two games of this World Series, the DH was a nonfactor for both teams.

In the Braves' two victories, their DH was 1-for-8 -- Ryan Klesko was 0-for-4 in the opener, Terry Pendleton 1-for-4 in the second game. Cecil Fielder, the Yankees' DH, was 2-for-8 -- two late-inning singles in the second game.

Beginning with the 1976 Series, the DH was used in alternate World Series through 1985. Since then, the home-park rule has been in effect.

But overall, the DH or lack of one has never seemed to be a decisive factor in the outcome.

In the Yankees' three Series during the alternate-year era, they won once with the DH rule in effect, in 1978, and split when it wasn't in effect, winning in 1977 and losing in 1981.

In the 10 years of alternate DH use, the NL won three times with the DH rule in effect for all games, the AL twice.

Without the DH, the AL won three times, the NL twice.

In the nine Series since the home-park rule began in 1986, the results seem to reflect the usual home-park advantage. Of the 27 games in AL stadiums with the DH, AL teams had an 18-9 record. Of the 25 games in the NL stadiums without the DH, the NL teams had a 17-8 edge.

But going into last night's third game of this World Series, the Yankees had lost both games with their DH.

And now, with baseball's split personality, the Yankees' pitchers had to hit. Or try to.

Pub Date: 10/23/96

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