MLB

MLB: Coming soon to a NL ballpark near you – The DH

Some things like the next earthquake along the San Andreas Fault are inevitable. Mark the Designated Hitter in the National League in the same column.

Writing for MLB.com, Hall of Fame baseball journalist, Tracy Ringolsby, makes the compelling case for the National League possibly ending their resistance to adopt the designated hitter.

The DH is an idea that Connie Mack, a Hall of Fame manager/executive, first proposed in 1906. NL president John Heydler thought he had the NL convinced to adopt the plan in ’29, only to come up short. But the DH is now accepted in every significant league from the high school level through the professional level — except the NL and Japan’s Central League.Tracy Ringolsby

Presently, it would be incorrect to say a “movement” is developing to bring about a change. But at the same time, there are these small tremors taking place signaling an upturn in the talk about the DH in the National League. Recently, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak offered this to Ringolsby, “it’s not being discussed at the owner level or [among GMs], but over the past year, it has [been]. I’m not suggesting you’re going to see a change, but I definitely think the momentum has changed.”

A forum has already been established by commissioner Rob Manfred to implement the change via the Competition Committee he created primarily to execute his obsession with the pace of play. But a rogue force among a contingent of these committee members could, quite easily, present the Commissioner no choice but to present the NL DH to the owners for a vote.

The committee is composed of players, represented by Hall of Famers Robby Alomar and John Smoltz. The managers are Joe Girardi of the Yankees, Buck Showalter of the Orioles, Mike Matheny of the Cardinals and Dave Roberts of the Dodgers. The GMs are the Mets’ Sandy Alderson and Jerry Dipoto of the Mariners, and club presidents Theo Epstein (Cubs), Chris Antonetti (Indians) and David Samson (Marlins).

If change is inevitable, then so is resistance to change. Baseball purists cringe at the idea of seeing one of the last vestiges of “uniqueness” in baseball threatened, and their voice will be loud and clear. But will it be enough to to be heard above the din of baseball practicalism, which suggests there is nothing exciting about watching a pitcher taking three flails at the ball, or worse yet, futilely attempting to lay down a successful bunt when his team needs one to advance a base runner?

Some National League owners will only see the payroll implications of adding a (generally) high paid salary to the roll. The penny-pinching New York Mets and the Wilpons easily fall into this category, while a team like the Chicago Cubs will see the change as an opportunity to finally have a place in the lineup for power hitting, Kyle Schwarber, regardless of the expenditure.

The debate, though, will primarily be at an emotional level as it is even today. The problem with this type of change too is it cannot be achieved incrementally. It’s either a yes or no, and there’s no gradual introduction of, for instance, a twenty-second pitch clock that can later be changed to 25 seconds if need be.

Major League Baseball is forever moving closer to a league of specialists. Teams carry, for example, a left-handed reliever whose only job is to get one lefty hitter out late in the game with men on base. The DH takes on that same approach assuming that there is no need for Tom Brady to play defense given his skills as an offensive giant. And there can be no denying we would not have the pleasure of watching him perform at the age of 40 if he had been forced to play defense.

So too, with soon to be Hall of Famers Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz. Would David Wright and his wounded neck and back still have a career left? Would Ichiro Suzuki already have a job with an NL team?

It’s just a feeling, but there is a sense the tide is changing, and the Designated Hitter will be coming to a National League ballpark near you. And it’s no longer a question of if, but when.

 

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