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A Truly Universal Designated Hitter

A Truly Universal Designated Hitter

There has been much talk lately about adopting a “universal designated hitter” in Major League baseball. The problem is that pitchers can’t hit, and fans deserve a professional hitter in every at bat in today’s time-challenged game.

As a baseball traditionalist I’ve always been against the designated hitter. I thought it diminished strategy, made life too easy for managers, and robbed pitchers of the joys of swinging a bat.

That’s the big fun in playing baseball—swinging a bat. But what’s fun got to do with anything these days? We’re all much too busy for fun; life isn’t a game for amateurs.

No, I’m afraid the universal designated hitter is an idea whose time has come. But why stop at baseball? There are countless tasks in life that we do as well as a pitcher hits.

Let’s face it, folks. Most of us are good at one thing—the thing they pay us for. When it comes to most other tasks, we muddle through, at best.

We absolutely rule stocking shelves at Pottery Barn, 8 to 5 daily. We’re the beloved tech support guy at the office, saving the know nothings from digital disasters. But we fall apart when the cat drags a rat into the house. We humiliate ourselves stumbling over French words on the menu. Our socks don’t match. We need help.

Maybe your social media game is weak. Your Instagrams are blurry, your Facebooks aren’t liked, your Tweets are trite. Maybe, like me, you’re barely there. Do not despair. Hire a designated social media pro and watch him knock it out of the park. Who knows, with professional help you might get that cutie to swipe right.

We already have designated drivers, but why should only drunks have that privilege? Half the cars I see on the streets could use a designated driver, and that doesn’t even count the Uber hordes.

The designated driver is a wonderful thing. But what if you use a designated driver too often and wind up a blackout drunk? What if your friends stage an intervention and cart you off to rehab? Nobody has time for that in our hypercompetitive world. You can’t spare three months from your job; those human resources compliance reports aren’t going to file themselves.

And if you went to rehab, you’d probably fail. Most people do, the first few times. But most people aren’t professionals. You need a designated rehab specialist.

He or she will come out looking great, with a fine tan, hell, they might even lose you a few pounds. And you can keep on doing do what you do best—drink.

The universal designated hitter can save our threatened American democracy. Each election, fewer and fewer citizens can be bothered to vote. And who can blame them? Voting is a bother. The ballot is overstuffed with propositions, school board candidates, mayors, supervisors, judges, representatives, you name it. Who can keep track of it all?

Not nearly enough voters, that’s who. So we stay home, which allows a few fanatics to elect some unspeakable idiot to office, and we are where we are now.

Certified designated voter professionals will be good citizens for us. They’d know every candidate for every office in the land. And they wouldn’t dare cast our votes for an idiot, charlatan or con man. They’d be disbarred.

The relief a universal designated hitter program would bring to us all is incalculable. Do I even need to mention jury duty? Jury duty is such a heinous obligation that most people move heaven and earth to avoid it. As a result, our “presumed innocent” defendants are judged by a jury of their peers who aren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.

The designated juror program can end this farce. Who wouldn’t want to be judged by eager, informed, conscientious jurors? The guilty?

The universal DH would be great for the economy. If you’re a tech zillionaire, you probably stink at most other life tasks. Why not put your money to good use? Get a designated friend to handle those awkward “face to face” personal encounters. A designated bon vivant will make you a hit at any dinner party. Plus, the designated professional will spare you the social opprobrium of hiring underpaid task rabbits to do your dirty work. Say goodbye to liberal guilt. Hire a pro!

Let’s make the universal DH truly universal. No more swing and a miss in the game of life. Designated batter up!





When Sigmund Freud launched modern psychology by naming the hidden recesses of the human mind, the unconscious, superego, id, and the rest, he forgot a part—perhaps the most mysterious part of all—The Soundtrack.

If the exhaustive survey I conducted is true (I asked my wife) then most of us have a song running around in our heads most of the time. This ever-changing score, programmed for us by our brains, provides the musical accompaniment to our lives.

We don’t chose the selection playing on our soundtrack, but it affects us profoundly.

Let the right tune be looping through your head and life is happy thing, your mood as buoyant as a child’s. But let the wrong song get stuck in your mind and all is dark.

Your own brain will torture you. An obnoxious melody, harder to shake than a stalker, makes your life a joyless heap of ashes. You have Soundtrack Madness.

For as long as it lasts, and it will seem like forever, you’ll struggle helplessly with an invader as hostile as any virus. You will curse the day you ever heard of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. “Young girl, get out of my miiind….” indeed. And take this piece of crap song with you.

Soundtrack Madness can strike without warning. Maybe you were at the office Christmas party when some goon croaked out “New York, New York” on the karaoke machine for fifteen excruciating minutes, and now you’ve got it so bad it feels like your combover is on fire.

“Dom dom doobie dom. Start spreading the noooz, I’m leaving todaaay,” the infection takes hold. It haunts you on the drive home. It’s still there when you cut yourself shaving the next morning.

“I want to wake up, in the city, that never sleeeps….” Over and over. Your brain is melting. What can you do?

Well, we here at Caught off Base can help. But like a bad case of the hiccups, the cure won’t work until the disease is ripe.

In the meantime, let’s learn something about the enemy.

What are the characteristics of song with high Soundtrack Madness potential? The first hint is any song that is so catchy you remember it the first time you hear it. Let one of those pieces of pop Velcro enter your ears and soon enough it will be repeating on you like a microwave burrito. If you like it the first time you hear it, you’ll hate it by the fifth.

Even a decent song can turn toxic if it is forced on you too often. Surely a vengeful God reserves the ninth circle of hell for the monsters who use our cultural patrimony to sell Toyotas. Twenty to life in the Empire State Building listening to the elevator version of Eleanor Rigby would be too good for those SOBs.

The first person to describe Soundtrack Madness was (as in so many things) Mark Twain. He wrote a piece 130 years ago where his hero gets a workman’s jingle stuck in his brain, and the only cure was to infect someone else with it.

Fortunately, modern medicine has made great strides since then. We have more humane treatment options than dreamed of back in the 19th century.

The cure for Soundtrack Madness now is replacement therapy, or Musical Transplant. All one need do is put another, more palatable song into one’s head, and the cure is effected. But there is a catch.

The new song has to be even stickier than the first. Only the most infectious of ditties will do the job. Cole Porter can’t help you here. Think Freddie Boom-Boom Cannon.

That’s the cure for the horrible sickness that’s boring into your synapses like a dentist’s drill. But for the treatment to take the pain has to be nearly intolerable.

Are you there yet? Are you hearing that awful song until your eyes cross?

“If I can—doom doom—make it there, I’ll make it—doom doom—anywhere. It’s up to you. Noo. Yawk. No-ooo Yawwwk!”

OK, you’re ready. Get ready to tell it goodbye. All together now, let’s sing….

“Na na na na,

Na na na na,

Hey hey-ey,

Gooo-ood Byyyye.”

Once again, “Na na na na….”

Repeat until cured. You’re quite welcome.