WASHINGTON — The National and American Leagues may forever be at odds over their disagreement about designated hitter rules.
(Hopefully, at some point during this week’s All-Star festivities, Madison Bumgarner and Max Scherzer can work out their differences on the issue.)
Fans, too, are segmented, with fans of American League teams lobbying endlessly for the DH to be applied across all of baseball, while fans of NL teams believe requiring pitchers to hit adds an element of strategy — and therefore suspense — to the game.
Reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper was recently asked not about the DH, but another polarizing topic in baseball, defensive shifts, during an interview Monday with Colin Cowherd on Fox Sports, one day before both leagues are set to square off in the mid-summer classic with home field advantage in the World Series — another hot debate — at stake.
“I think they should eliminate defensive shifts in baseball,” Cowherd said to Harper. “How do you feel about that?”
“I think a lot of guys would agree with you,” Harper said. “I don’t think it’ll ever happen, but I think we should outlaw the DH as well. That’s just me. But I like the National League version of the game.”
“But I mean, you’ve got to hit ’em where they’re not and I haven’t been doing that,” he continued. “I’ve been hitting them right at ’em. That’s just part of how the game works. Sometimes you’ve got to tip your cap and that’s just how the game is.
“But, hopefully, you can get going and try to not hit ’em where they are, and they’ve been playing there for years, and years, and years, so I guess that’s just part of the game. But I’m with you on it.”
Harper mirrors the sentiment of his organization’s general manager/president of baseball operations.
“I hate the DH. I always have hated the DH,” Mike Rizzo told 106.7 The Fan in April 2015. “I would hate to see the DH in the National League and I love the National League brand of baseball.”
Harper also spoke on the outcome of the All-Star Game deciding which league maintains home field advantage for the given year’s World Series, baseball’s attempt at rationalizing why players should care about an otherwise meaningless exhibition game.
“Oh, it’s huge. This is a huge game,” Harper said. “I mean every single year, you try to play in this game, you want to win that game because you want that home field advantage. Definitely, if your team’s a contender, I mean that’s huge.”
“Going into a postseason, going into a World Series, and you have home field advantage, I mean there’s nothing better than that,” he said. “Playing at home, playing in your environment. So you have to take this game seriously. You have to understand that this isn’t just some all-star game.
“You’re grateful to be here, you’re happy to be here; you want to enjoy it the best you can with your friends and family and everybody around, but when that game turns on and those lights are on, you have to know that you’ve got to win this game and you have to hopefully get that home field advantage for your team and your organization.”
On how life has changed after being on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a teenager:
“I was very grateful for that, very blessed, but, you know, I think it just took off. And I think everybody looks back and that’s when it all started. That’s when the media storm, all the fire really got going, and it caught fire and the rest is history. It’s something that I enjoy. People have jobs, people have what they do and you should enjoy what you do. Listening to you talk on The Herd and stuff, you enjoy what you do. I mean I love your show. It’s a lot of fun to see people enjoy what they do, and I enjoy what I do.”
Talking about prepping his hair before games led Harper to explain some of teammate Jayson Werth’s hair habits, along with some more of his own.
“I play with a guy named Jayson Werth, as you know, and he’s got his hair, he’s got his huge beard,” Harper said. “When we go out to dinner and stuff after games, he puts it up into like a top knot and I think a lot of guys are starting to do stuff that is different.
“And I think the game of baseball, I think it’s great. I think guys are starting to really show their personalities, really show what they’re like and I love that. I try to do my hair the best I can each day, I mean every time I go out on the field. But I think a lot of people, they’re always like, ‘How do you take your hat off, and take your helmet off, and your hair is still there? It doesn’t move.’ But I mean, I don’t know, I spend like two minutes, I think, doing it before the game.”
Harper went on to clarify that he will probably participate in the 2018 Home Run Derby in D.C.