I didn’t really know how else to put this, because this morning when I saw the article that originated a flurry of follow-stories, I really didn’t think it was a big deal. But then there were a billion write-ups today that made it seem like the National League would flat-out not have a designated hitter in 2021, so I feel like I have to clarify.
Here was the original report from Ken Rosenthal this morning, which wasn’t even the key focus in his morning article: “MLB instructed clubs in a memo last week to proceed under the assumption the DH will not be used in the NL this year, though few will complain if the league and union reach agreement to the contrary.”
A lot of folks took that to mean a decision had been made on the DH front, but it’s actually a total nothingburger (though Rosenthal was right to note that MLB had send the memo). It’s just a shoulder shrug.
At present, there is not special agreement for the 2021 season – you already know this. So, at present, the 2021 season is dictated by the existing CBA – you already know this. The existing CBA doesn’t include the DH in the NL – you already know this.
So MLB’s memo was nothing more than a heads up to teams that nothing has been decided yet, so if you want to proceed with your offseason right now, you have to proceed as though it’s status quo. Because obviously. The sides have to negotiate a special deal if they’re going to have the DH in the NL in 2021 or expanded playoffs or a different start date or a shorter season … all that stuff. Again, you already know this.
Nothing that came out today makes it any more or less likely that, eventually, the sides will agree to have a DH in 2021. Teams and players just have to proceed with the uncertainty for now, because the DH thing isn’t going to be decided until the whole plan is decided, and that ain’t coming ASAP, since owners and players will want as much time as possible to continue evaluating the state of the pandemic.
In the end, it is still more likely that not – in my best guess – that a DH will be part of whatever deal is eventually struck for the 2021 season. It’s just gonna take a while, and you assume a little risk if you proceed as though it’s a certainty.