Steve Chapman

More than 40 percent of the time, pitchers simply strike out. That figure would be higher if they didn't take so many opportunities to bunt, on the theory that it's the only productive possibility open to them. Not productive in the sense of actually trying to reach base -- only in the sense of advancing a runner while making the inevitable out. But watching someone lay down a sacrifice bunt is a poor use of our cruelly brief time on Earth.

Besides the pitiful spectacle they present, batting pitchers distort the game, at least when the game is between an American League squad and a National League opponent. This year, under the expanded interleague schedule, that is just about every day.

The designated hitter rule does not apply in NL parks, which creates a serious disadvantage for AL teams: Their pitchers are especially terrible in an offensive role because they so rarely fill it. So far this year, NL pitchers are hitting .130, while their AL counterparts are batting just .052.

This may or may not be offset in games played in AL parks, where NL teams suffer for not having a regular DH to call on. But deliberately handicapping one team or the other in every game is not fair play or good sense.

As a National League fan, I dread the sight of a pitcher trudging to the plate. It's no fun for him, and it's no fun for me. We both know it's an empty ritual, perpetuating the fiction that he is a complete player.

If that were true, NL managers wouldn't stay up late plotting double switches to keep relievers from ever sniffing wood. Pitchers wouldn't stay in the majors despite hitting less than Reese Witherspoon's body weight.

Maybe there are pitchers out there who really love to pick up a bat. If so, let them go pound sand. It's no more pointless than trying to hit, and they probably won't hurt themselves.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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