The universal designated hitter may soon become a permanent part of Major League Baseball.
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the framework of a potential deal discussed by commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark this week included the addition of a universal designated hitter. Of note, the universal DH wouldn’t just be added in 2020, it would also carry over into the 2021 season.
MLB offer includes universal DH for not just 2020, but 2021 too. It also includes on top of 100 pct prorated salary for 60 games, a $25M postseason pool.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) June 17, 2020
That’s a notable development. With a universal DH likely to become a reality this season, and with the current collective bargaining agreement expiring on Dec. 1, 2021, it seems the door is now open for the DH becoming permanent in the National League.
In other words, we may have already seen our last official pitcher plate appearance.
We may have witnessed the final pitcher AB in MLB history in Game 5 of the World Series: Top 7th, Gerrit Cole struck out vs Sean Doolittle. https://t.co/BtHGSoHrUE
— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) June 18, 2020
That’s one honor Sean Doolittle probably wasn’t expecting.
While debates over a universal DH always seem to be split among fans, the game is clearly ready to move in that direction. As someone who has admittedly been resistant to this change in the past, I’ve grown to accept the only real argument was about preserving MLB’s connection to its roots. With apologies to Madison Bumgarner fans, it’s time to move on.
How the universal DH changes baseball
There are basic things, such as giving more at-bats to actual hitters and taking batting practice off the pitcher’s plate.
Then there are big picture things that might not be obvious.
A universal DH not only changes how a lineup is constructed, it changes how a team is built. American League teams can afford to carry a bat or two on their bench whose strengths are geared toward hitting. In the National League, the bench has traditionally carried more versatile players to help counter the frequency of double switches and other in-game moves.
With every team playing within the same framework, some of that versatility may go away in favor of guys who can provide instant thump.
Of course, it also removes the unexpected thrills that go along with watching a pitcher — say Bartolo Colon, for example — hitting a home run. That element always gave MLB a layer of unpredictability that doesn’t exist in other sports. Though it happens so infrequently, we probably won’t miss it as much as we think.
The caveat here, as with everything else that has gone into these discussions, is that no deal is complete. But with optimism growing and both sides seemingly in agreement that the universal DH has a place, baseball as we know it is about to change.
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