I question things. Seems to be part of my nature. A lot of people find that annoying, even alarming.

For instance, I’ve never understood why people sing the national anthem at sporting events. Why do we feel the need to savor a moment of national pride before athletic contests? I’ve got nothing against moments of national pride. In fact, I experience many, usually privately, or when my country?#34;here’s a notion?#34;actually does something to be proud of. But baseball games? If you need to sing something, why not “Take Me Out to the Ballgame?” That would make sense.

When I ask the question, people roll their eyes or act like I’m advocating the overthrow of the free world. It never occurs to anyone that the question warrants an answer. The national anthem is taken for granted?#34;a sort of musical loyalty oath.

And how about the National League baseball fan’s undying devotion to letting pitchers take their turn at bat, as if the designated hitter were a desecration of the country’s founding principles.

When they finish their soapbox harangue about tradition and the marvelous element of managerial strategy introduced by batting pitchers, I always ask the question that stops them cold:

Why don’t National League pitchers take batting practice?

I’ve got nothing against pitchers batting, but if they’re going to the plate, they ought to work on their hitting as much as the rest of the players?#34;maybe more. In baseball’s lead-headed world of conventional thinking, however, pitchers shouldn’t do anything other than pitch because it might hurt their pitching. No one, of course, has ever tested this theory since Babe Ruth switched to right field, but it’s accepted as gospel truth.

It’s the same with left-handers batting against left-handed pitchers. Baseball assumes they can’t do it, so lefties get fewer chances to bat against lefties. That’s called self-fulfilling prophecy. If they want to get better at hitting lefties, why not take more batting practice against left-handed pitchers?

Some pitchers, meanwhile, may actually take a few swings in the cage to warm up, but they’re certainly not sitting down with the batting coach, going over film, working on their swings, etc. Heck, judging by their pathetic attempts at the plate, most don’t even practice bunting.

What are these guys doing on the four days between starts? Resting their arms? Think how much better they’d be if they spent some time actually working on their hitting. Imagine a team with good-hitting pitchers across the board. You’d have nine actual batters in the lineup instead of eight. Over the length of a season, imagine the strategic possibilities, not to mention the advantages. If your pitchers averaged even .230, your team will score a lot more runs. You want to rest your pitchers? Allow designated runners when they get on base. Talk about interesting strategy.

The craziest thing is that most pitchers were once pretty good hitters. But the conventional mindset extends all the way down to the high school level where pitchers become “specialists,” so eventually their hitting skills deteriorate.

When I bring this up, I get blank stares, and it’s obvious the question has never occurred to them. Of course, most of these National League purists (who love the national anthem before games because it’s “traditional”) are Cub fans. And the Cubs actually have some decent hitting pitchers (or would if they were ever all healthy). Let’s say Maddux, Zambrano, Prior and Wood?#34;all of whom have hitting ability?#34;actually worked on their hitting and averaged .250. Maybe it would finally put these lovable losers over the top, and Chicago could get the monkey off its back once and for all.

Speaking of which, why do we refer to losing as “having a monkey on our backs?”

Question everything.

Take nothing for granted.

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