Is the designated hitter coming to a National League park near you?
This past weekend at a Cardinals fan event in St. Louis, general manager John Mozeliak said there is “more momentum” among MLB GMs and owners for putting the DH in the NL than there has been in previous years. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Derrick Goold, Mozeliak shared that conclusion based on conversations with fellow executives and their bosses. In the past, the topic never went anywhere when discussed among NL baseball people. But that’s apparently not happening anymore.
“I do feel like there were times I could look all of you in the face and say it’s a non-starter, it’s not being discussed at the owner level or GM,” Mozeliak told reporters. “But over the past year it has. I’m not suggesting you’re going to see a change but I definitely think the momentum (has changed).”
As Goold reports, MLB players union chief Tony Clark expressed similar sentiments last March when touring spring training camps.
“Would I be interested in having talks about the DH in the National League?” Clark said to Goold at Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Fla. “I’ll offer you this, interestingly enough, that topic has come up independent of us bringing it up. 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.”
Yes, sometimes MLB can move quickly on a decision, as happened two years ago when umpires were told to strictly enforce the “secure possession” of a catch, only to disallow the out if a ball was dropped while the fielder was transferring it from his glove to throwing hand. Managers were using instant replay to exploit the rule. The calls were ridiculous, failing a simple eyeball test and going against everything baseball fans knew about one of the game’s most fundamental plays. Fortunately, MLB came to its senses, conceded to common sense and clarified how the catch-transfer rule should be interpreted.
Obviously, deciding to change the DH rule in the NL is a far more complicated process, one that requires a significant amount of negotiation between the players and owners. The presumption is that the players would be in favor of the rule, which would create at least another 15 jobs for its workforce, allowing many careers to be extended and more money to be earned.
However, Clark said last March that such an assumption shouldn’t be made. Perhaps a sizable portion of the players have a purist view of the game. Or NL pitchers like the fact that they only have to regularly face eight hitters in a lineup, and the inclusion of a DH would suddenly make their jobs more difficult. The lack of a DH in the NL might also allow pitchers to extend their careers. (And it’s probably not a coincidence that four of the seven pitchers that signed the largest free agent deals this offseason went to NL clubs.) Some pitchers actually enjoy hitting. A few of them, such as Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke and Mike Leake, are even good at it. But those are the exceptions.