<
>

Should pitchers just pitch?

Phil Rogers has had all he can stand ...

    Carlos Zambrano landed on the disabled list Monday after straining his hamstring Sunday bunting for a hit? Will he miss more than two starts? And will his pitching be impacted when he returns?
    If the answer to only one of those three questions is yes, the Cubs will have skated after a dangerous situation, one that in a tight playoff race – which it appears they will be in this season, either with St. Louis for the division title or in the wild-card crowd – could have lasting implications. A Zambrano injury running the bases is not one of the worries they should have.

    --snip--

    I've written this before, and I'll write it again: Pitchers in the highest level of the sport have no business swinging a bat or running the bases, no matter whether they are as capable as Zambrano (.240, 17 career homers) or as incapable as Washington's Daniel Cabrera (.000 career, 19 strikeouts in 21 at-bats).

    Every time a pitcher takes the field, he's an accident waiting to happen. The risks inherent in pitching are huge. It's silly to increase those risks to increase the ones that hitters and baserunners face, especially when so much of a team's payroll and its hope for success is tied into the arms of those pitchers.

    Zambrano, for example, is in the second year of a five-year, $91.5-million deal. He'll earn $17.75 million this season – more than $500,000 per start. It's crazy that Lou Piniella used him in three consecutive games as a pinch hitter, no matter how much he loves to hit or how much Wrigley Field fans love to watch him hit.

    Zambrano is paid to pitch, and in this era of specialization that's all he should do ...

I do not like watching pitchers hit. I never have.
I do like leagues with different rules. I always have.

Rogers makes a compelling argument, but it's falling on deaf ears. As he notes elsewhere, National League fans like their rules. National League owners and executives do, too. They're the ones he needs to convince. Not you or me, but the owners of those teams. And for quite a long time now -- since the 1930s, believe it or not -- National League owners have been voting against getting the pitchers out of their lineups.

If Rogers wants to win this one, he needs to convince the owners, and the only way to convince the owners will be with an economic argument. Is that $91.5-million investment significantly riskier because Zambrano's expected to swing the bat and run the bases as a National League pitcher? I don't have any idea. Do you? Does Rogers?

For this discussion to move forward another inch, we need to know if National League pitchers really are more injury-prone because they have to hit.