Prominent ESPN baseball insider Buster Olney believes the designated hitter will come to the National League in "three-to-five" years.
Olney says that pitchers are paid too much for teams to risk them getting injured by batting.
The designated hitter rule has become a staple of the American League, but its use in the National League remains a source of debate among baseball fans.
ESPN MLB reporter Buster Olney believes that the great "will they or won't they" between the National League and the designated hitter rule will finally be resolved soon, due to concerns over pitcher's health.
"Look, it's only a matter of time before the National League rules go away, and both leagues have the Designated Hitter," Olney said in an appearance on ESPN's "Get Up."
Citing a recent injury to New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, Olney said: "So the conversation among executives is very much like it was four or five years ago around home-plate collisions. They don't see putting players at risks, high assets at risks, for outlier plays. Pitchers batting is an outlier play. That's why eventually National League rules will go away, and I think it will be within three-to-five years."
Olney clarified that he was personally a traditionalist and a fan of the National League style of play, but that ultimately this issue comes down to finances — pitchers are paid to pitch, so keeping pitchers healthy is a team's number one priority.
The impetus for Olney's comments on "Get Up" appear to be Yankees reliever Dellin Betances batting in an inter-league game against the Philadelphia Phillies Monday night, much to the baseball world's amusement.
The National League is one of the only in the world where pitchers are still required to hit, while the American League has used Designated Hitters since 1973. Whether or not the National League should add the Designated Hitter has become a major source of debate among baseball fans since then, and the differences between the two leagues a unique quirk of baseball.