D(h) Day is Likely Coming in 2017

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There is a day coming in baseball that many National League fans likely will not be happy to see. In 2016, when the current Major League Baseball Collevtive Barganing Agreement comes to an end, there will likely once again be some big changes coming that will once again change the way the game is played.

The last CBA saw playoffs get expanded to have two Wild Card teams, stricter testing and punishments for Performance Enhancing Drugs, changes to the way free agency works and more painful to fans of the Chicago Cubs, changes to the way you can draft players. While those were big changes, outside of the second wildcard most of those changes mainly impacted the off the field world of Major League Baseball. The way the game is played on the field thought might very well be changed when the time comes to once again negotiate a new CBA.

While this is completely all speculative, I believe there is a very real chance that the designated hitter adopted by the National League, perhaps as soon as 2017 when a new CBA is agreed upon.

I know what you are thinking, all you baseball purists. You do not like the designated hitter because that “position” changes the way the game is supposed to be played. I fully understand where you are coming from. There is nothing more I love than the strategy that is needed when you have your pitcher hitting. With your ace twirling a gem, you are down 1-0 late in the game; with two outs and runners in scoring position your pitcher comes up to bat. What do you do? Take out your pitcher for a pinch hitter or allow him to swing away hoping for the best, but trusting with an inning or two left your offense will be able to get that one or two runs needed to win.

However, I hate that the pitcher is usually an automatic out and seemingly always comes up in the middle of a rally or men in scoring position with two outs. There is nothing I hate more than seeing someone who is usually the worst hitter in a lineup coming up with your first real scoring chance in the game. I also hate seeing my pitcher run the bases, and as many Cub fans might agree after seeing Mark Prior collide with Marcus Giles while running the bases.

While I will happily keep things as they are, the DH in the American League and the pitchers hitting in the National League, I do not see that lasting much longer; which I would not be opposed to.

Whether you have taken notice or not, baseball has slowly been conditioning you to accepting the Designated Hitter over the past several years. With interleague play, all teams have been forced to have a DH when they play in an American League park. No big deal, most teams have a good bat sitting on the bench for late inning pinch hitting assignments.

Then came the year round interleague play after the Houston Astros were moved to the American League West giving both leagues 15 teams. No real change, still the same interleague rules applied as before. However, now with both leagues being relatively equal, playing each other all through the season, you would imagine that Major League Baseball would want to have some kind of uniformity between the two leagues with both playing under the same rules.

While Major League Baseball could theoretically just abolish the DH all together, I cannot see the Baseball Players Union allowing that. The Players Union loves the DH, because that gives their best hitters an extended career when their legs might fail them in their old age. They would love nothing more than to see all 30 teams have a spot for a DH, thus extending another players career just a little while longer.

Adding the DH to both leagues would then allow pitchers to practice what they are paid to do, and not have to waste time on something that is not their main task of hitting. Again, just speculative, but I believe Major League Baseball gave us a big clue that the DH was coming to the National League soon, when they decided to change the way the All Star Game was played, and implement the designated hitter for both teams no matter which league’s stadium they were playing in. That should have come as a big red flag to all baseball purists.

While I may very well be reading the tea leaves completely wrong, I would not be surprised at all to see the designated hitter rule extended to both leagues by the year 2017. Thankfully the Cubs have a player or two that are said to be “All Bat and No Glove” like Dan Vogelbach and according to some Kyle Schwarber; some might even put Starlin Castro in that category.

The good news for the Cubs is, if things work as planned, they have more than enough talented bats to fill that need. In fact, if all of things minor league stud prospects work they have one too many bats. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves in that area though, because even though they look like studs right now, these prospects have not done anything yet to be worthy of too much praise, but if they do all work out, I am sure the Cubs would happily welcome the designated hitter into the National League.

UPDATE: As I predicted last July, the MLBPA might well be pushing for the DH to come into the National League.

“It has been a topic, as I’m sure you know, a topic of discussion going back the last two bargaining agreements. Nothing has changed at this point in time. But I am guessing come 2016 that conversation will come up again.”

The Players Union has been bringing it up in both recent contract negotiations, and likely will be again. National League, purist fans will not be a fan of this, something they note in the article. But with there now being season long inter-league play, this could be a very big piece of their argument for why this position should be implemented in both leagues.

Now that there is an interleague series going on at all times, with 15 teams in each league, concerns have been raised about teams having to play outside their usual rules at critical times — right down to the last game of the season.

The Non-DH in National League parks has the ability to ruin an American League team’s pennant chances, depending on when they have to visit the National League.

“That was a concern when we started to talk about evening out the divisions and how that would manifest itself over the course of interleague play,” Clark said. “The idea that you would be in September with a possible division (title) on the line with one team who was not used to having a DH or a team that was used to having a DH not having it and how that could affect the overall outcome.

While a lot of fans would be against this change of rules, players would be very interested in the Designated Hitter coming into the National League. The DH position benefits them very much.

The designated hitter tends to have a higher salary and it is a position that can allow a player to extend his career, but it’s safe to say there wouldn’t be universal sentiment to expanding the DH to both leagues. So, stay tuned.

 

Of course, the Players Union will not even bring this to the tables unless those in the National League feel that this is a good idea.

Clark said said he would have to poll the players before saying if the NL was for or against the idea.

 

Now, just because the players may want this, does not mean that they will get what they want. Stay tuned, things could get VERY interesting.

UPDATE 1/22/2016: I mean, they won’t fast track this because it’s MLB, after all, but the discussion is on the table:

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