- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 4, 2006

David Ortiz and Jim Thome were named to the American League All-Star team. Travis Hafner and Jason Giambi were snubbed.

Welcome to the golden age of the designated hitter.

Designated hitters used to be players who used to be great but weren’t ready to retire (Reggie Jackson and Carl Yastrzemski at the end of their careers) or players who couldn’t field, not even in left field (Greg Luzinski and Dave Kingman).

But Ortiz, Thome, Hafner and Giambi are among the best hitters in baseball.

In fact, here they are in order of OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) with their AL ranking: 1. Hafner, 1.084. 2. Thome, 1.063. 3. Giambi, 1.062. 8. Ortiz, .971.

When was the last time the league leader in OPS was left off the All-Star team?

Hafner and Ortiz represent a new school of DHs: They have never done anything else, never played 81 games in a season at any field position.

A DH for the Cleveland Indians, Hafner (22 HR, 66 RBI, .631 slugging) already has finished second in OPS in his first two full major league seasons.

A near-mythic figure with the Boston Red Sox, Ortiz (26 HR, 75 RBI, .589 slugging) has finished in the top five in the AL MVP voting for three consecutive seasons and was MVP of the 2004 AL Championship Series — an unprecedented run for a designated hitter.

Acquired by the Chicago White Sox in an offseason trade, Thome (27 HR, 68 RBI, .646 slugging) is a full-time DH for the first time.

Giambi (24 HR, 63 RBI, .626 slugging) has started 44 of his 71 games at first base, but his natural position is DH. He hasn’t played 100 games in a season at first since he joined the New York Yankees in 2002.

There have been other great moments in designated hitter history:

• In 1987, Paul Molitor had a 39-game hitting streak — the seventh longest in baseball history — much of it as a DH.

• In 1995, Mariners DH Edgar Martinez (.479 on-base, .628 slugging) was the best player in the league, but Mo Vaughn robbed him of the MVP award.

• In 1999, Rafael Palmeiro won a Gold Glove as a first baseman while playing 135 games at DH.

The designated hitter rule allowed Molitor, Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield to reach 3,000 hits and become Hall of Famers.

It allowed Palmeiro to reach 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, although that’s not what he will be remembered for.

Thanks to Hall of Famers like Molitor and Winfield and current stars like Ortiz and Thome, designated hitters are viewed simply as baseball players.


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