With Rob Manfred having completed his first season as the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, the league looks to be gaining more popularity and is becoming more progressive by the day. Manfred has made it clear that he is keeping an open mind regarding the notion of the National League adopting the designated hitter. Many believe that there could be a change with the next collective bargaining agreement that could make both leagues abide by the same rules.
The designated hitter was adopted by the American League in 1973. The rule allows any player to bat for the pitcher in the lineup, and is now commonplace in most baseball leagues for all ages and levels. Only in the National League of the MLB do pitchers usually have to hit. This is really the only example of one conference having an advantage over the other in any major professional sport. The designated hitter not only makes in-game decisions easier on AL teams, but it gives them an advantage on the free agent market as well.
Take this into consideration. The Braves traded Evan Gattis to the Houston Astros last offseason because he was a poor defender both behind the plate and in the outfield. The Astros found use for the powerful grizzly bear by plugging him into the DH role and allowing him solely to hit. Gattis was a cost-controlled player under contract for four more seasons as well as a fan favorite. Unfortunately, due to a lopsided rule, the Braves had to cut their losses and try to maximize his value in areas that could better benefit the team. The Braves could have desperately used a slugger of Gattis’ caliber in the middle of the lineup last year, but he simply was too faulty a defender. Pedro Alvarez is an example of a guy who is still on the market because only half of the teams in the league can really benefit from his services. This is because Alvarez has no true position. However, the Braves could desperately use a 20+ home run guy in the middle of their lineup.
Having the DH rule in place also allows American League teams more leeway in the free agency market when it comes to older players. If a team wants to sign a great offensive player who is already in his 30’s to a long-term deal, they always have the option of plugging them in the DH spot in their later years. We have seen this in recent years with players such as Alex Rodriguez.
Come World Series time, American League teams usually have a player of high caliber plugged in at the DH spot for home games whereas National League teams have to pluck the first man off their bench. Such an advantage at a competition of such magnitude is unacceptable.
Quite frankly, watching pitchers at the plate is a waste of time. They’re practically an automatic out. Ever since the power numbers have deflated, so have the MLB’s TV ratings. The league needs more offense to spark the interests of the fans. The “Era of the Pitcher” is surely prevalent in today’s game. Pitchers are dominating the game, and adding one more slugger to every National League lineup would certainly make the game not only more interesting, but it would offer a much more level playing field.
The change would also make manager’s lives easier, as they wouldn’t have to worry about shedding through more arms on a given night just because the pitcher’s spot is due up.
Many will argue that the league-wide implementation destroys the integrity of the game. Honestly, I could do without the DH. However, both leagues need to follow the same sets of rules. With interleague play expanding, a rule change is practically inevitable. Rob Manfred has to decide, however, whether both leagues should adopt the DH, or if they should get rid of the position as a whole.