MLB is introducing a universal DH and an expanded postseason. Purists will wince, but sound reasons are backing both. Once in, though, they stay in.
MLB, a sport that has been bludgeoned by the coronavirus, as well as a period of in-fighting between owners and players that’s taken the wind out of most of us, is introducing two new rule changes.
More Teams In The MLB Playoffs
The MLB playoffs will be expanded for at least this year and 2021. Six additional teams will qualify, bring the total to sixteen of the thirty teams.
For the most part, MLB is hitting a home run on this one, with owners, players, and fans joining in support of more teams in more cities having the opportunity to “get in”.
More than fifty percent of all teams qualifying for the playoffs is not ideal.
But the increase does fit nicely into MLB’s desire to add two more teams to the league, making a total of 32. Nashville, Austin, Las Vegas, and others have been mentioned before.
The logistics of the MLB 2020 postseason have yet to be detailed. All we know is that MLB intends for the season to be complete by the end of October, a capitulation to CDC specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci, who insists there will be a spike in the virus come fall.
The postseason is MLB’s biggest moneymaker. All of the major networks are on board, and fan interest (read ratings and ad revenue) zoom. It’s a rare win-win for everyone.
The Universal Designated Hitter
The universal DH is not without its detractors. Long-time National League fans have argued long and hard against the DH coming to their league.
Their main opposition, though, is not a negative. Instead, they make the strong point that having the pitcher bat adds an element of strategy that is lacking in the American League.
National League managers use pinch-hitters and make double-switches to avoid sending a weak-hitting pitcher to the plate in critical situations.
Rarely used in the American League, a pitcher’s sacrifice bunt strategy to move runner(s) up is also employed.
All of that goes out the winder, though, when owners and players consider one determining factor as the reason why the universal DH is here.
What sense does it make, for instance, to have Clayton Kershaw or Gerrit Cole, each of whom draws a cool one-million dollars for every start, risk getting hit by a pitch, burn a hamstring rounding first, or dislocating a shoulder on an ill-advised slide into second?
There’s too much money in the game today, especially for pitching, for team owners to risk injuries that can be avoided.
MLB Feeds The Stray Cat
Once in, the expanded playoff format and the universal designated hitter stays in the game. There will be no retracing of steps.
It can be likened to the stray cat who shows up at your door with saddened eyes and a pleading look. Oh, here, kitty. Have a bit of food.
A nice gesture, but when the cat appears the following day, do you shoo her away or feed her again.
And the process goes on until you’ve given the cat a name and she’s snuck into the family.
MLB wants both rule changes to be permanent. The players’ union (MLBPA) sees fifteen added jobs to its National League teams and lengthy careers for players who might otherwise face retirement (think Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Bautista, Mark Trumbo, Lucas Duda, et al.)
Try it; you’ll like it. Well, we’ll see.
Old-Timers like myself are dwindling in numbers while polling numbers also show a rising and reduced interest in MLB among younger fans.
That can’t be allowed if baseball is going to continue to thrive as a significant sport and form of entertainment in America.