When Frank Thomas was a candidate for the Hall of Fame, some commentators opined that the fact that he had spent a large part of his career as a Designated Hitter, as opposed to a position player, was to be held against him. Implicit in their thinking was that Ted Williams deserved Hall of Fame credit for jogging out to left field for his career, while ignoring the damage that the Splendid Splinter did while he was out there. In any event, the notion that Frank should suffer for being a DH caused Hawk Harrelson, for a period of time, to unceasingly utter one of his usual confounding, and utterly meaningless, pronouncements: "the DH is a position!" Hawk decided that the way to deal with Frank naysayers was not to address the fact that, you know, for most of his career Frank did not need to catch or throw a baseball, but, man, did his offense make up for it! Rather, Hawk would attach a vague at best, and inaccurate at worst, label to Frank's status on the field as if that completely rebutted the criticism raised by Frank detractors. It really was remarkably stupid. But hey, even if you like Hawk, it's not because you think he's smart.
Now Frank has made the Hall of Fame, deservedly, and that particular inanity of Hawk's has ceased to be relevant, even to him. But Hawk's repetitive utterances reminded me of a thought that I had had since 1973 when the DH was instituted in the American League. Why does a team lose the DH during a game if he takes the field? After all, if Robin Ventura wants to play De Aza in left field in the odd innings and right field in the even innings, with Viciedo switching positions with him, he can do so. Why can't he have De Aza play left in the odd innings and DH in the even innings, flipping with Adam Dunn? I can't think of a good reason.
As I said, the DH was initiated in 1973. That was 41 years ago and I remember when it happened. I'm old. Keep that in mind when I say that I think I remember the reason for the "lose the DH if he takes the field" rule. My recollection is that major league baseball disingenuously wanted to give the impression that they were making a less dramatic change to the game. "Sure, we'll let you have a DH, but dammit, it's going to be limited to very specific circumstances, and if you don't comply, you lose the benefit of the DH!" Of course, anyone who thought about the rule change knew that it was a dramatic change in the game, and also knew that the DH would only infrequently be lost during the course of a game.
But really, does that aspect of the rule make any sense? My De Aza and Dunn flipping positions example obviously wouldn't ever occur in an anywhere near meaningful game, but there are circumstances during the course of a game when a DH would become a better defensive option than a player on the bench. What if you have a lineup that includes Abreu at first, Dunn as DH and De Aza in left. A left-handed pitcher comes in to face De Aza in a key situation, and Robin decides to pinch hit with Konerko. If in the next inning Dunn moves in to left field, the White Sox lose the DH. But should they? Why can't Dunn move to left and Konerko stay in the game as the DH? I can't think of a logical reason. After all, one of the rationales for the DH is that we want to see better hitters than the pitcher. Shouldn't we want to see better fielders also. (You have to ignore my Dunn example for this last point to make sense.)
Back to Hawk. If my proposed change to the DH rule were implemented, it wouldn't make the DH a "position", but it would come modestly, very modestly, closer. And for those who like the National League rules (I include myself), it would incorporate some element of NL type strategy into the American League game, without really losing any meaningful AL type strategy. Also, if Major League Baseball wanted to incorporate the DH into National League games, making this rule change at the same time might take some of the sting out of it for the National League. "Hey, both leagues are changing!"
I can't see a downside, but I, like most of us I suppose, do have a tendency to fall in love with my own arcane ideas. Any downsides that anyone can see?