Pecos League managers differ on return to National League rules
By Karen Boehler
Pecos League writer
The Pecos League is going back to the basics this year, with two changes that bring to mind the days of more traditional baseball.
One — the more controversial of the two — actually brings the league back to where it was during the first half of its opening season: a return to National League rules, with no designated hitter, meaning pitchers have to bat.
It’s been 40 years since the DH was introduced in the American League, and today, as Alpine manager Ryan Stevens points out, virtually no one except the National League plays without the DH.
"You're going to be hard pressed to find anybody who does that, up until the major leagues in the National League,” he said.
Still, Pecos League commissioner Andrew Dunn said he decided to removed the DH for one simple reason.
“We went back to the National League rules because we never should have gone away from it,” he said. “It’s because the players at this level, especially the pitchers, who are our hottest commodities, want it.”
Although some managers may beg to differ, Dunn said 85 percent of the players at the Pecos League level want to hit.
“These pitchers are excited because they want to hit,” he said. “Whether they can hit or not is another story. A lot of them actually won’t be able to, but you have your Chris Nyman (White Sands). Your Seth Marchants (Carlsbad and Roswell). They wind up hitting as well or better than they’re pitching.”
Dunn called Nyman “one of best hitters in the league and said Marchant was “a better hitter than pitcher.”
But if that’s not enough, Dunn said, the high scoring in the Pecos League — which accelerated after the DH was introduced halfway through the 2011 season — is another reason for the change.
“The runs are at such a high pace, we’ve got to control scoring,” he said.
Managers in the league have mixed feelings about the change. Stevens makes no bones about the fact he does not like playing under NL rules.
"It changes the way you manage pitching staff,” he said. “I personally don't like watching pitchers swing a baseball bat when they haven't trained all along, and you've got guys on the bench that can swing it a lot better than that."
Others, like Santa Fe manager Bill Moore, are in the middle.
"I don't know that it's going to do very much of anything,” he said. “The thing I like about the designated hitter is it gives you one more guy who's in the lineup every day. Keeps the bench a little happier. But everybody else is going to be doing the same thing, so I don't think it really matters very much."
Raton’s Keith Essary comes down on the positive side of the return-to-form.
“I actually do like no DH,” he said. “Obviously, it’s good to have it for the home runs and the fans and everything else, but I like it, because in my opinion, it makes a coach coach. He’s got to know where to put that pitcher in the lineup. You’ve got to know what he can do with a bat. You’ve got to know where to put him in the lineup and when he comes up, you’ve got to know what he can do and can’t do. If he can’t hit, and you’ve got a guy who needs to be moved over and all he can do is bunt, then let’s bunt him.”
And Las Vegas manager Casey Dill — who managed the hardest-hitting team in the league in 2012, the Las Cruces Vaqueros — sounds like he likes the change as well.
“It completely changes everything,” he said. “I’m trying to figure out how I’m supposed to coach third base and try to think about all the double switches and the pinch runners and the pinch hitters and getting the bullpen ready because we have to pinch hit for the pitcher ... you know what I mean? All these things that managers in the league are going to do. Managers in the league are really going to be challenged this year.
“I’m looking forward to it because it’ll give me more things to do during the game. In that aspect it’ll be good. A lot more games this year will be won or lost by managers, because there will be times when a manager wants to pitch hit for a pitcher at the end of the game, and maybe he doesn’t have his guy in the bullpen ready. There’s going to be little things throughout the season that some guys are going to do that’s either going to win their team the ball game or lose the ball game.”
Obviously, there’s a bunch of different opinions, and the fans have yet to weigh in on the change. But with an average elevation of more than 5,700 feet across the Pecos League — which sends balls flying no matter who hits them — it’s more than likely those who like to see the long ball won’t be disappointed, while those who prefer to see managers manage will also get to see that part of the game.
Only time — and the 2013 season — will tell.
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