The National League game as we know it could very well be extinct.
Major League Baseball is scheduled to open July 23 or 24. When it returns, the NL will have a designated hitter. In fact, we may have a DH for 2021 and beyond, too.
Pitchers hitting, managers pinch-hitting for starters in close games, sacrifice bunting and double switching -- all that may largely be gone from the game.
And as a die-hard fan of the NL style of play, I'll be honest: I hate it.
Rather than mourn the loss of the National League game, though, let's instead look back at some of the most impressive/entertaining offensive feats achieved by pitchers at the plate.
1. The impossible has happened!
Bartolo Colon quickly became one of the most beloved New York Mets in recent memory. On the mound, he was a consistent performer in the middle of New York's starting five, but it was his offense — or lack thereof — that really endeared him to the fans. Colon often flailed at his counterparts' offerings and sometimes would flat out tell the catcher he didn't want to hit that day and for the pitcher to just throw three down the middle.
But Big Sexy was feeling spy in 2016. In an early May contest in San Diego, Colon unbelievably went yard to left against James Shields. At 42, he become the oldest player to hit his first career bomb.
2. Lorenzen's emotional blast
Michael Lorenzen was an important cog in the Reds' bullpen in 2016, but his season is remembered mostly for one moment that had nothing to do with pitching.
Returning from the bereavement list following the death of his father, Lorenzen was called upon in the seventh against the Dodgers at Great American Ballpark. After completing the inning, the Reds wanted him to handle the eighth as well, so they let him hit. Lorenzen took the first pitch Pedro Baez threw him deep to right-center for his first career long ball. It was a magical moment for him, his family and Cincinnati.
3. Doing it all
Madison Bumgarner is probably the most accomplished postseason pitcher of all time, but he's far from a one-trick pony. The former Giants ace has crushed 19 long balls during his career, but in 2014 he really made them count. Against the Rockies and Diamondbacks that season, Bumgarner connected for grand slams. He crushed four bombs and drove in 15 in 2014.
4. Crowning the King
Longtime Mariners star Felix Hernandez was never much of a threat with a bat in his hands during interleague play, but in 2008 he connected on a blast he'll never forget. In a game with the Mets in Shea Stadium's final season of existence, Hernandez crushed an opposite-field grand slam against his countryman, Johan Santana. The blast was the first long ball by a pitcher in Seattle history.
5. Talk about having a Little League game
The phrase "Little League game" essentially refers to a player single- handily winning his team a game by dominating on the mound and at bat. The feat is rarely accomplished above the youth ranks, which makes Rick Wise's performance in June 1971 even more incredible. The Phillies' right-hander no-hit the Reds and crushed two homers -- the only major leaguer to accomplish that pitching/hitting feat.
6. Going streaking
Speaking of Phillies pitchers swinging the bat, two years after Wise made headlines with his above-mentioned day, another Philadelphia starter was in the news for his offense. During a 7-2 win over the Expos, Ken Brett launched a home run in his fourth consecutive start. The journeyman touched them all only six other times during his long career, but hey, when you're hot you're hot.
Above, enjoy Brett swatting a double into the corner at Fenway when he played for the Red Sox.
7. 'Every pitcher likes to hit'
Those words were coined by Tony Cloninger, following the veteran's unbelievably productive day at Candlestick Park as a member of the Braves in July 1966. During his team's 17-3 drubbing of the Giants, Cloninger became the only pitcher to swat two grand slams in a game. He also added a ninth RBI later, and the performance still stands as Atlanta's RBI record for a game.
8. Let's all go home
Longtime Giants ace Juan Marichal, a Hall of Famer, is among the best pitchers (above) in big league history. But he wasn't a great hitter, batting .165. For one day late in 1966, though, he flipped that script.
In the middle of a heated pennant race, Marichal's Giants played Pittsburgh in a must-win game. In the bottom of the ninth, with the score tied at 5, Marichal homered to win the game. He wasn't surprised.
"We have a hitting game between starting pitchers and relievers every time we play at home at night," he jubilantly explained to reporters afterward.
9. Taking a legend deep on the big stage
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw's postseason struggles have been well documented. In Game 1 of the 2018 NLCS in Milwaukee, he hit a new low. Brewers righty Brandon Woodruff was working out of the bullpen during the postseason and entered the game in the top of the third inning. While that frame was unspectacular, the bottom half was quite the opposite. Woodruff blasted a Kershaw fastball for a homer -- the third reliever to go yard in the postseason. The Brewers won, 6-5.
10. Rookie sensation
As a rookie in 2007, Arizona righty Micah Owings often struggled on the mound, but his at-bats were must-see TV. During a home game with the Braves in mid-August, he briefly became the biggest story in the sport. He went 4-for-5 with two homers and six RBI during the Diamondbacks' 12-6 win. His 11 total bases were the most by a pitcher in 50 years.
"He's got as much power as anybody we've got on our team," D-backs manager Bob Melvin explained afterward.
11. Eat your words!
The only entry on this list for something other than a home run belongs to Dae-Sung Koo, who briefly pitched for the Mets in 2005. Mr. Koo, as he asked to be called, became the talk of New York during the Mets/Yankees "Subway Series" that May.
His at-bat against future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson seemed to be the biggest mismatch in history. Koo had only one big league plate appearance to date, in which he stood as far from the dish as possible and never even pretended to pose a threat.
As Johnson delivered a pitch, FOX's Tim McCarver described it as perhaps the biggest give-up at-bat in MLB history.
Until it wasn't.
Koo somehow drove a double to the center field wall, but his adventure on the basepaths was just getting started. Jose Reyes then pushed a bunt that forced Yankees catcher Jorge Posada to vacate the plate to make the play. Sensing an opportunity, Mr. Koo rounded third and scored, colliding with Posada in the process. He became a Mets legend, but he also injured his shoulder.
And these guys simply stink...
While the point of this exercise was to highlight some of the positive offensive performances from pitchers, there is a reason we'll have a DH in the NL this season, and perhaps for good. Here are some of the worst-hitting pitchers of all time:
1. Al Leiter: 45-for-530, an .085 average with 220 strikeouts. But he did double (above) in the 1993 World Series when he played for the Blue Jays!
2. Ron Herbel: Bouncing around the NL with several teams, he had only only SIX hits in 206 at-bats (.029 average).
3. Ben Sheets: Before injuries derailed his career, the righty had a chance to be a consistent force on the mound. At the plate, not so much. In 10 seasons, mostly with the Brewers, he went 34-for-412 — a .076 average.
4. Doug Davis: The soft-tossing lefty was downright awful at the dish. In 466 big league plate appearances, he contributed only six extra-base hits, struck out 175 times and finished with a sub-.200 OPS.
5. Brian Moehler: Across 12 MLB seasons, he batted .045 and struck out 93 times in 202 at-bats.
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