The universal DH is officially here as announced yesterday by Rob Manfred during a dreadful press conference. You can recap the bullshit here from Hubbs as he breaks down all the lies. I followed up with an exhaustive look at why they're changing the rules in the first place. The big point is that MLB is full of shit about everything and I'll stand by that until proven otherwise. Go read for yourself.
But aside from all the serious stuff about how MLB sucks - it's also important to recognize the end of pitchers hitting. For better or worse (better), we'll almost rarely see a pitcher hit for himself. Shohei creates some interesting strategic options but for purposes of this blog, it's basically dead. One of the purest emotions in sports is gone. No more two-out run-scoring groundball singles through the right side of the infield. No more sac bunts. No more thunderous fist pumps from the bleachers as Kyle Hendricks chases the opposing starter with impeccable barrel control.
All of that is gone, and with it goes the rarest of baseball accomplishments. The Pitcher Home Run.
I won't wax too much poetic justice behind a starting pitcher going deep. I'll just say it's the most unlikely event in professional sports that's not completely impossible. Like if the punter had to attempt every 9th pass and he connects on a 70-yard bomb. Or the backup goalie has to play center every 4th shift FULL GEAR and he still scores a one-timer. Whatever ridiculous out of position thing you can think of, that's the starting pitcher getting live plate appearances against his contemporaries. It was awesome and awful at the same time and now it's gone.
In that spirit, let's remember the greatest pitcher home runs of the 21st century. If I left your favorite off, it's because I don't like you and you should take it very personally.
Without further adieu:
Jose Fernandez Clears The Benches (2013)
Brian McCann and Chris Johnson and anybody else on that Braves team can fuck right off. In the grand scheme that was such a harmless reaction. Jose Fernandez watched for a second then waved at the dugout and that's all it took for the Atlanta Braves to cream their shorts. What a bunch of chumps.
Micah Owings Game Tying Pinch Hit Home Run With 2 Outs & Nobody On (2009)
You can't make a list of pitchers home runs and not talk about Micah Owings. Dude was so legit coming out of Tulane with Tommy Manzella back in 2005. One of my all time favorite College World Series teams even though it was a quick exit. Nevertheless this guy absolutely fucking mashed at all levels. In 6 MLB seasons he combined for a .283/.310/.502 over 219 plate appearances. 25 of his 58 career hits went for extra bases. He was so good that in 2013, he officially moved off the mound and into the outfield for The Nationals AAA affiliate. Too many arm problems were hampering his career so he went full time as a position player where he posted a .265/.305/.480 slash for a full season. He was the first major two way guy I can remember in my baseball life and a severely underrated in sports pop culture.
That's Micah Owings and this is his 2009 game tying bomb off NL All Star closer Ryan Franklin. It was only the 2nd home run Franklin would surrender all season en route to a 1.92 ERA. Without irony or humor, this is about as legit as it gets for a pitcher in the regular season.
Mark Buehrle Drops The Bat Head
There's really not much else you have to say here. Mark Buehrle is on my Mt. Rushmore of non Cubs pitchers. Such a sweet dude.
Brandon Woodruff Playoffs
He's my sworn enemy but I actually respect the shit out of him because he does nothing but throw 99mph fastballs and he's this gigantic hillbilly from Mississippi State. He's everything that's right and pure about this sport. Just an oversized monster of a human dominating the highest level with the most straightforward approach. The exact kind of attitude and spirit that allow this donkey to take Kershaw deep in the playoffs. Not some Mickey Mouse fuck face reliever. But Clayton Kershaw. Mr. October himself.
In any event the Brewers can taste my taint. Nice home run though.
Clayton Kershaw Opening Day Shutout & Game Winner
Okay so maybe he sucks in the postseason. Tough luck for the reputation but honestly does it really matter? To Dodgers fans, I sure hope so. For purposes of this blog though, absolutely not. We're here to celebrate him going deep and that very obviously includes the one time he threw a CG shutout against his arch nemesis and then took the 1-0 lead himself in the bottom of the 8th. What a funny decision from Don Mattingly to let Kershaw hit for himself after 8 scoreless and no lead on opening day. 31 more starts to go but let's get every out in this first one. We didn't know it at the time but those were the good old days. Two thousand and thirteen. WOOF.
Jake Arrieta Game 3
This was awesome because it came off Madison Bumgarner towards the peak of his October powers. A remarkable blast from a beast of a starting pitcher. Arrieta looked no different than the cleanup hitter on your mens league team that runs his own construction business. You got a fully raw dogged jersey where chest hair flows majestically mixed with an attitude that can best be described as Not putting up with any of your bullshit.
Tragically, the Cubs would go on to lose this game, rendering it the 3rd most important Cubs pitcher playoff home run of the millennium. I know that's a lot but they're my team so just stay with me.
Travis Wood Game 2
Not really that dramatic but Travis Wood is basically the sweetest player of all time so this one makes the list. Something about 37 just hits different. Probably because he's a regular guy and total hillbilly. But he's our hillbilly and this was an incredible blast in the bottom of the 4th game 3 of the 2016 NLDS. This would be the nail in the coffin the Giants simply couldn't overcome because the Cubs were too dominant. All because Tra vis Wood was good enough to hit for himself, something we'll never have to confront again.
Kerry Wood Game 7
I mean how the fuck am I supposed to come around here talking pitchers home runs without bringing up Kerry Wood in 2003 Game 7. No shit we lost but same time this is just one of those moments you never forget. In one swing we instantly forgot about Steve Bartman. I remember thinking this was justice for the mistakes from the nigh before and instantly forecasting the WS pitching matchups. And then the Cubs lost and it took me 13 more years to get over that moment. One of the all time bad beats is losing to the Marlins at home with Woody on the mound and a lead he gave himself. Fuckin kill me.
But even so, every Cubs fan will agree. This is a legit top 5 moment in just about all of our fandoms. On a pure moment basis, possibly even #2.
And with all that said, it's nothing compared to what follows.
You kiddin me? This is maybe the greatest play in the history of baseball. The most infamous batted ball of little to no significance by far. The statistical probabilities of Bartolo ever hitting a home run would make the Miracle On Ice look like a fuckin locksmith. Years later and we still can't believe it. Even if I'm in one of those moods where you watch this highlight 100 times in a row, you still don't believe it with each replay. The value refuses to dilute itself. Bartolo Colon going big fly will always be the best pitcher home run and I don't care what Shohei does from here on out. He could hit 10 straight home runs to win 10 straight WS and it still wouldn't compare to Bartolo's blast.
And now we're robbed of these moments. Never again. I welcome the Universal DH with open arms but first we have to admit this kinda sucks.
Bright side? At least I get a first round Back In My Day thing to bitch about. Add it to my list:
Carl's Back In My Day List:
1. Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan.
2. Athletes ate steroids
3. Pitchers hit for themselves
4. The Packers were good
Unfortunately times change.