Listen up Major League Baseball — the time has come to do this — now

Now that I have your attention, I suppose you want to know just what I’m talking about. Could it be that I’m referring to using the designated hitter in BOTH leagues? Perhaps I’m about to suggest that Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Actually, the headline does not refer to either of these issues. Something else has me riled up, but you’ll have to wait a little. The two aforementioned situations also interest me, so I will deal with them first.

Did you ever wonder why the designated hitter is used in virtually every baseball league in existence except the National League? Well, me too. I also can’t understand why MLB allows different rules for both leagues. It’s probably time for both the Al and NL to be the same. Whether that means ditching the DH or adding it to the senior circuit is certainly open to discussion.

As usual, I have an opinion. Baseball purists would suggest that letting pitchers bat is as it should be. Watching a pitcher swing the lumber can be interesting, exciting or more often than not — extremely boring. It certainly allows the manager more opportunities to use strategies such as double switches.

Proponents of the designated hitter say more offense is always a good thing. They also suggest some players get a longer career with the DH. Recently elected Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez is a prime example.

I really don’t care what baseball does, but I do believe each league should be the same. Since the DH is not likely to ever go away, maybe it’s time to allow its use in the National League.

Let’s talk Charlie Hustle, shall we? Pete Rose is the all-time hits leader in major league baseball. There is no question that his on field performance warrants his admission to the Hall of Fame. There is however, a fly in the ointment.

The Baseball Hall of Fame has a rule that a person that is banned from baseball is not eligible for enshrinement. If you are a baseball fan, you are aware that Rose was banned for betting on baseball while he was a manager.

Again there are two schools of thought when it comes to Pete Rose and his quest to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Many believe his playing performance is the only thing that should be considered and having more hits than anyone to play the game is all you need to know.

People also point out that there are many players in the Hall who were not necessarily the best people off the diamond.

Pete Rose however, made the biggest mistake he could. Betting on the game is considered the one thing you can never do. The prohibition is found on signs in every baseball clubhouse in every professional league. The integrity of the game is at stake and betting on baseball will get you banned.

I happen to agree with the rule that denies eligibility if banned from the sport. As a result I would suggest that Pete Rose does NOT belong in the Hall of Fame. Drop the rule and you can let the voters decide if he should get in. If they elect him I would agree with that decision.

If I appear to be straddling the fence, maybe it’s because I am. There is no straddling anything when it comes to the reason for this column’s headline. It is time for all big league stadiums to extend the netting.

For years the only spectators that did not have to worry about getting hit with a foul ball were those that sat directly behind the plate. Now many parks have extended the protective netting to the end of the dugouts. That’s not good enough. Taking the netting all the way to the foul poles is a great idea.

We have all seen the videos of fans getting hit with a line drive. It is sickening and affects the players who hit the ball as well as all those sitting near the unlucky fan. Albert Almora, Jr., of the Chicago Cubs, hit a little girl in Houston and was visibly shaken. Francisco Lindor, of the Indians, hit a boy this week and said he decided not to pull the ball when he stepped back into the box.

Some people suggest that the fault lies with the fans themselves because they do not pay attention. I have been to games where spectators have spent most of the evening on their cell phones seemingly not wanting to be distracted by the game itself.

Many also argue that looking through that netting will be difficult. I suggest that both those arguments are trivial. Let’s start with the fans lack of attention.

The attention span for an adult is twenty minutes, for a child it’s much less than that. Baseball has a lot of down time, so you can’t expect people to be paying attention every minute. Of course, even if you are, you may not pick up the baseball or even be able to get out of the way if you do.

As for the netting blocking a good view of the game … how did those fans sitting behind the plate deal with it all these years?

The ball leaving a bat with an exit velocity of over 100 mph can cause a serious injury. Let’s not wait until someone is killed. That’s likely to happen unless a change is made.

It’s time MLB. Make a rule extending the netting for every ballpark. NOW!

Al Stephenson is a columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.

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