Yo. That would be an extremely significant and abrupt change, eh?
According to Ken Rosenthal, in conjunction with the ongoing negotiations about various rules changes proposed by MLB, the Players Association has a proposal of their own: make the designated hitter universal to both leagues.
Three-batter requirement for all pitchers, universal DH among proposals that could bring big changes to baseball. Latest for The Athletic: https://t.co/bgAvZWkXly $
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 6, 2019
Jeff Passan later confirmed the report.
It’s not necessarily a surprise that the players would want to bring the DH to the NL, given that it could create an additional “position” for players to be better compensated, and could increase the overall bidding landscape for high-end position players. NL teams could join AL teams in knowing that they can accommodate an additional bat by moving guys around between positions and the DH, and could also have a place to put older – perhaps pricey – guys who still have the bat but can’t quite hack it in the field.
The league may be open to the change, at long last, given that they do seem to be motivated by increasing the action on the field. And given how abysmal NL pitchers are as hitters, in the aggregate, swapping that spot for a probably-above-average bat would not only improve offense, but also action. For every admittedly super fun pitcher-gets-a-big-hit moment in a given season, there are 20 absurdly bad and ugly and pointless at bats. Sorry, pitchers. It’s true. They’re not all Bartolo.
The permanence of making such a change, the loss of a layer of strategy, and the uniqueness of having different rules between leagues in the same sport – I’m legitimately sensitive to these concerns. If you want to raise them as your hard-line reason for opposing the DH in the NL, I won’t call you an idiot. It’s fair. For me, though, the many other considerations push me to favor the DH in the NL, as I long have.
That said, even I would feel like it was a really abrupt change to add a universal DH for a season that begins in under two months.
The DH is not a lock before the CBA expires in 2021, mind you, much less for this season. That just seems like an awfully quick, late-in-the-game change, though it’s not like teams don’t know how to handle the position – they already do it when playing in AL parks. Perhaps the league could acquiesce to this change in stages? Have the DH be in place for all interleague games at first, which can be sold as a player safety thing for American League pitchers. Then, as folks/teams adjust, you make it a universal DH in 2020 or 2021? I’m just spitballing.
*IF* the DH were added for this season, I don’t know that the Cubs would necessarily be disproportionately benefited in the NL Central. Yes, it would allow them to, for example, get Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ’s bats in the lineup every day if they wanted, to rest a guy like Ben Zobrist without losing his bat, and to improve the overall outfield defense on a daily basis. All good stuff. But consider the other NL Central teams:
- Cardinals – They’d have a perfect spot for a big bat in Jose Martinez. They probably benefit the most in the entire NL. (Makes you wonder about their aggressive change in course and decision not to trade him. Did they learn of this proposal and read the tea leaves?)
- Brewers – Suddenly Eric Thames, Jesus Aguilar, and Ryan Braun can all play every day if they want, and it harms the Brewers in the field much less.
- Reds – Matt Kemp sure looks like a perfect DH at this point in his career, doesn’t he?
- Pirates – They’re probably the most like the Cubs, without an obvious guy to move to DH, but I’m sure they can mix and match just like the Cubs with marginal guys.