Major League Baseball is holding owner’s meetings this week, and a number of items are on the agenda. On Thursday, the subject of the designated hitter role came into question, and the possibility of putting the DH into play into the National League. As you might expect, it’s raised a few eyebrows.
Several factors are discussed regarding the DH spot. Now that interleague-play is practically year-long, and NL pitchers are practically horrifying at the plate (.133 batting average), it’s easy to see how taking the pitcher out of the batting lineup is being talked about. The big question is when would the rule change come into play? It could happen as soon as the 2017 season. But before you start objecting, know that the collective bargaining agreement is also up next offseason, so the NL may not even get the rule until after the CBA bargaining.
Coral Gables, Florida is the site of this week’s meetings. Commissioner Rob Manfred said the idea of the DH coming to the National League is gaining momentum. The current CBA expires on December 31 of this year, and many are saying that the DH could be a big part of the new agreement. David Lennon of Newsday tweeted out that MLB was going to go with the DH route, with more interleague play and concern over pitchers’ health. He also noted that the Player’s Union would likely be on board. Manfred told reporters that he’s aware how important the DH is to the identities of each league, and that the issue will be carefully considered. Here’s what he said to USA Today in an interview.
And the biggest remnant of league identity is the difference between DH and no DH. I think that’s a significant issue, I really do. I think it’s an important issue for us. I’m not saying it’s not possible. But it is a significant issue on the other side of the scale.
The designated hitter was adopted in the American League prior to the 1973 season, and has forever been a conversation that has divided fans across the league. As it stands, the DH is only used at American League home games. A lot of fans are up in the air about this, as many fans don’t like the idea of taking the pitcher out of the lineup. Typically, you’ll see the pitcher used in a bunt situation to advance a runner into scoring position. There are a few exceptions to the rule, including Madison Bumgarner of the Giants. He has historically hit well, but he doesn’t even begin to put a dent in the abysmal average of the rest of the pitchers in the league. On the flip side, it provides another quality bat as the American League has a few solid sluggers in the DH slot.
So if you hate the DH, you have a couple of options in play. Plan on not watching baseball until the rule changes, or get used to it. Like it or not, the National League will eventually get the DH. It’s just a matter of when.