At 40 years and counting, the designated hitter debate continues in baseball.
Inarguably, though, some of the game's greatest batters have been able to extend or enhance their careers with the DH rule in the American League. Here's one take on the top five designated hitters:
5. HAROLD BAINES
Baines had a 22-year all-AL career that began in 1980 with Chicago, and by 1987 the DH was his regular position. Over the final nine seasons of his career, Baines appeared in the outfield in only one game. But he kept on because of his bat, turning in one of his best years at age 40 in 1999 when he became an All-Star for the sixth time. Baines hit .322 with 24 home runs and 81 RBIs in just 345 at-bats that season for Baltimore, which traded him to Cleveland that August.
4. FRANK THOMAS:
Thomas often spoke of the difficulty of being a good DH, given the challenge of staying sharp between at-bats without defense to play in the meantime. But the guy they called the "Big Hurt" was used as a DH more than a first baseman from 1998 through the end of his 19-year career in 2008 and exclusively for his final four seasons due in part to ankle problems. The two-time MVP, another AL lifer who made his mark with Chicago, is a strong candidate for the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2014, with 521 home runs and a .301 career batting average.
3. PAUL MOLITOR:
The first DH to win the World Series MVP award, with Toronto in 1993, was a first-ballot Cooperstown inductee with 3,319 hits and 504 stolen bases over his 21-year career. Molitor was an infielder, mostly at third base, when his body allowed it, but persistent injuries steered him toward the DH role by the end of his tenure with Milwaukee. He won his final of four Silver Slugger awards as a DH with Minnesota in 1996.