Is the DH coming to the National League?

The 2013 season marks the 40th anniversary of the “one-year trial period” of the designated hitter rule in the American League; a rule which, of course, was never discontinued and one that receives just as much criticism from baseball purist today as it did when it was first implemented back in 1973.

While driving home from Arizona on Monday morning after having spent two full weeks attending spring training, I was listening to MLB Network Radio’s Power Alley. The topic of the day was whether or not it is time to bring the Designated Hitter rule into the National League. Although it was quite apparent that show hosts Mike Stanton and Grant Paulsen were both in favor of the possible change, it wasn’t quite as cut and dry with a number of their callers. What was clear, however, is that true baseball purists and those who are fans of National League teams are, for the most part, opposed to such a change.

It is quite possible that 38-year-old Red Sox slugger David Ortiz would be out of the game  were it not for the DH rule in the AL. (Photo credit - wggb.com)

Even though 37-year-old Red Sox slugger David Ortiz  is arguably the best DH in the game today, it is quite possible that his career would be over were it not for the DH rule in the AL. (Photo credit – wggb.com)

But what do those in the game have to say about both leagues operating under the same set of rules?

In a recent article by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, it appears that the consensus of those closest to the game is that it is only a matter of time before the DH comes to the National league.

“It is just a matter of time until the leagues are forced to play under one set of rules and, let’s face it, the DH is not going away, so that is going to be what everyone uses,” said one veteran general manager.

And then there are the financial and free agent considerations.

“I think the DH rule is completely unfair to NL teams when it comes to free agency,” said yet another GM who has worked in both leagues. “An AL team can give a player an extra year or two that an NL team simply cannot. We are fishing in the same pool for players, but without equal ability to sign them.”

With the Astros moving from the NL to the AL which, in turn, has increased the number of interleague games for each MLB team from 18 to 20 games, American League teams will be forced to increase the number of plate appearances of their pitchers by one additional game. And while this may seem like no big deal, it exponentially increases the risk of injury to pitchers by the one additional game played in the NL team’s ballpark. Keep in mind that almost every level of baseball above the high school level utilizes the designated hitter, including every level of the minor leagues – even those whose parent team is in the National league. In other words, the National League is the only league in professional baseball that does not utilize the designated hitter rule, yet interleague play forces AL pitchers to bat – something that many of them haven’t done since high school.

“Any time you are having any player do something they don’t regularly do, you increase the probability of injury,” said an AL team executive.

“The issue of (AL) pitchers running and hitting and getting hurt is a real one,” said Michael Weiner, executive director of the MLB Players’ Association. “Teams are going to have to be more careful.”

Although it is unlikely that the DH rule will be adopted by the National league in the immediate future, it is hard to ignore the fact that it is inevitable. My guess is that it will take place when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in December of 2016. Then again, it could happen sooner if the MLB and the MLBPA agree to hold a special election on the matter; a very distinct possibility.

What’s your take? Do you want to see the designated hitter rule come to the National League?

 

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7 Responses to “Is the DH coming to the National League?”

  1. KSparkuhl says:

    The “fishing pond” analogy is valid, but I can’t even imagine the rule change taking place. I suppose if it happens I won’t have to like it until the team starts piling up all those extra runs and wins. Unfortunately, I agree with you that it appears the game will ultimately veer in the direction of National League inclusion of the DH. What’s next; cheerleaders and a “halftime” show?

  2. dodgersfan93 says:

    Although I don’t like that it might appear at this moment, I think we will all have to get used to it. I like the fact that in our League, you have to think and strategies, like the game baseball is. DH is like making the game easier. I honestly wanna keep seeing the occasional Pitcher Home run lol.

  3. funkyjam says:

    Eh, I don’t know. Why didn’t the NL adopted it sooner? The NL hasn’t been using the DH for years! Why start now? Who said it first? Why did they say it? Is it for ratings? I guess it most likely has to do with players contracts. Only way I’d be fore DH in the NL is if only the Dodgers can use it, and that’s not happening. So no go. Besides, the Dodgers are gonna be reaching from within once the farm is rejuvenated (not so realistic i know, but with this ownership you’d think anything is possible)

  4. Bluenose Dodger says:

    The purpose of the DH I expect was to increase offensive output in MLB and hence increase attendance. It was designed to increase power numbers (home runs) which is seen to be the magic potion for fans. However it seems PED’s became the elixir (MLB was searching for) that drew in fans with totally awesome power numbers, not the DH.

    The DH has increased the team batting average in AL as compared to the NL. and supposedly improved pitching stats. In 2012 six of the top ten team ERA’s in MLB were in fact NL teams.

    Is it the DH or the team payroll that produces high powered offenses? Of the top ten hitting teams in MLB in 2012 seven were among the ten with the highest team payroll. Five of those were AL teams. Was it the DH that did that or a big payroll that brought in strong offensive position players? Small market teams become even more at a disadvantage when they have to compete for another top hitter to only bat and not play the field. At the same time it limits opportunities for platoon and hence takes away from positions for less skilled players.

    The lack of a DH has kept the game as I prefer it in the NL. That is, with strategy needed to use/conserve pitchers, PH, double switch, bunt, look ahead several innings. I don’t know how the injury rate for NL and AL pitchers compare as a result of NL pitchers hitting and running bases. Perhaps there is a real risk element there.

    The fact that there are more hit batters in the AL suggests the DH shields pitchers from any retaliation as they don’t hit or run the bases. I don’t like players being hit but like it even less when pitchers never have to worry about coming to the plate.

    The DH keeps old power hitters and weak fielders in the game longer at the expense of young players coming along. So often we say a player has to be traded to the AL to play. I suggest the old DH players used to increase fan appeal with power, negates the use of more young players who increase fan appeal with their energy.

    I expect one other advantage of the DH is that power hitters not able to play the field due to an injury but able to hit can still bring excitement to the fans. eg. Matt Kemp.

    The ultimate goal of the game is to win. Has the DH been a resounding success in that regard? Since 1973 the AL has won the WS 21 times while the NL has won 18 times with one no WS year. Is that difference significant enough for the NL to institute a DH?

    I would prefer no DH in MLB. I know that the DH will never disappear in the AL. At the same time it seems silly to use two sets of rules in the WS. As much as I don’t like it, I would be willing to have the NL go to the DH so play is standardized in WS and inter-league play.

    • KSparkuhl says:

      I’m at a loss, Harold. I didn’t think you’d vote that way. Much of the same opinion here; I don’t care for the DH and wish it would just go away… but it won’t. I’m going to miss the NL managerial strategies, if and when the rules are standardized.

  5. KSparkuhl says:

    Ron, you gave us your prognostication for the change, but what’s your personal opinion on the matter? I’d like to hear what you have to say about it.

  6. OldBrooklynFan says:

    If you would’ve asked me this question 40 years or even 10 years ago, I would’ve answered with a definite, “Keep the DH out of the NL”. I was strictly against it, mostly because I don’t like change.
    Now, at this point I’m undecided.
    I’m use to NL baseball, mainly because I’m use to seeing the game played that way. Most of the games I watch are NL games. It’s played the way I played it in my younger days.
    That said, although it takes away familiar elements of the game, I think the DH has it’s merits and it wouldn’t make me quite as unhappy as it might have, if they do decide to make the NL also use the DH.

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