Best DHs Ever: The designated hitter became a reality on April 6, 1973, when Ron Bloomberg stepped into the batter’s box for the New York Yankees. Bloomberg walked on a full count, but this at-bat became one of the most critical moments in baseball history.
Since its inception in 1973, the designated hitter has been known to include some of the best hitters in baseball history. Here are my picks for the top five designated hitters of all-time.
5 | Paul Molitor
Paul Molitor played in the big leagues from 1978 to 1998. Molitor did not spend a lot of time in the field during his 21 professional seasons. Molitor was a seven-time All-Star, a World Series MVP, and a four-time Silver Slugger.
Molitor was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004 as a first-ballot selection. Molitor hit .306 in his MLB career. This is a phenomenal average, but the slugger did not just hit for average.
Molitor hit 234 home runs and drove in 1,307 runs in his MLB tenure. He spent most of his career with the Milwaukee Brewers and had short stints with the Twins and the Blue Jays.
4 | Harold BainesHarold Baines of the Chicago White Sox batting, September 1983.
When I think of the designated hitter, the first thing that comes to mind is power. This is why Harold Baines got the nod over Molitor for the fourth spot on my list. Baines was not as efficient in the average column, but he hit over 100 more homers than Molitor.
Baines played 22 seasons with five teams, including the White Sox, Orioles, Athletics, Rangers, and the Indians. Baines became a household name in the majors with the White Sox.
Baines made six All-Star squads and won the Silver Slugger Award once in 1989. Baines averaged .289 with 384 home runs and 1,628 RBIs. Baines was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019 by the “Today’s Game Committee.”
3 | Frank Thomas
Frank Thomas, who was known throughout baseball as “The Big Hurt,” caused a lot of damage to pitchers in the MLB. Thomas debuted with the White Sox in 1990. He played in Chicago until 2005, and he made a significant impact.
Following Chicago, Thomas competed for the Athletics, Blue Jays, and then finished his career with a second stint in Oakland.
Frank Thomas made five All-Star teams and won two AL MVP Awards. He was named the AL Batting Champion in 1997, and he was named a Silver Slugger four times. In 19 years of MLB service, Thomas hit 521 home runs and averaged .301 at the plate.
Thomas was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. The Big Hurt was one of those players who could do it all at the plate, and he was an easy selection for the third spot on my list.
2 | David Ortiz
David Ortiz epitomized the designated hitter position. Ortiz was known for clutch hits throughout his career. When “Big Papi” stepped up to the plate, the Red Sox always had a chance to win.
Ortiz played for the Twins from 1997-2002. He then made the switch to Boston and became a household name in the MLB. Ortiz made ten All-Star teams and helped the Red Sox end the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004.
He led the Red Sox to three World Series Championships, and he won the Silver Slugger Award seven times. Ortiz was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame, and the franchise retired #34 in his honor.
Ortiz is a guarantee to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection. He ended his career in 2016 with 541 home runs, a .286 batting average, and 1,768 RBIs.
1 | Edgar Martinez
David Ortiz had much better stats than Edgar Martinez, but he still held came in at first on my list. Martinez batted .312 with 309 home runs and 1261 RBIs. He spent all 18 of his major league seasons with the Seattle Mariners.
So why did Edgar Martinez land the top spot?
Personally, this was an easy choice. Martinez made the DH spot a reputable position in the game of baseball. His influence catapulted him over Thomas and Ortiz. In the nineties, Martinez dominated in Seattle alongside Ken Griffey Jr.
Martinez was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019 as a tenth ballot selection. He was a seven-time All-Star, a five-time Silver Slugger, and a two-time AL Batting Champion.