Why there’s nothing wrong with the DH rules being different between leagues
I would say that now’s not the time to panic — if you’re a big fan of pitchers hitting, I mean — except there’s never a good time to panic. Seriously, what good has that ever done? But if you are a big fan of pitchers hitting, I suppose you might reasonably be concerned when you see something like this:
Manfred also said NL adopting DH is gaining momentum. Expect it to be addressed in upcoming CBA, so could be for '17 season. #mlb
— David Lennon (@DPLennon) January 21, 2016
That sounds pretty serious, right? And I know that a pretty decent percentage of you, mostly the yous who live and die with a National League team, are pretty serious about your pitchers hitting.
Ah, but wait! There’s also this, from another reporter who was presumably in the same room as the first reporter:
If that sounds like there’s momentum to change the DH rule, there’s not. There’s just a willingness to discuss it.
Besides, such a dramatic change would have to include the Major League Baseball Players Association, and with the current labor agreement expiring later this year, it would be the perfect time to discuss a rule change.
Only thing is, there’s a wide gap between discussing such a change and doing it.
So here you’ve literally got one witness saying there is momentum, and another saying there’s not momentum. Which makes it difficult for anyone to know whether panic’s in order (never!) or concern, or maybe something else. I will say that I’ve not actually seen a quote from Manfred that actually included the word "momentum."
Which doesn’t surprise me. Manfred’s not in the habit of revealing his cards before all the bets are down.
The truth is that nobody knows when (or even if) the DDH (dreaded designated hitter) is coming to the National League, for three simple reasons:
1. Only Manfred and his people know the pulse of NL ownership;
2. Only Tony Clark and his people know the pulse of the players;
3. If the owners and the players don’t agree on this, nothing’s happening.
I’m reminded of all the "analysis" of the presidential primaries. So, so many pundits trying so, so hard to figure out not only who’s going to win in Iowa and New Hampshire, but also what those races will mean in the larger context of the actual nominations, and then what those nominations will mean for the political parties in the coming years.
And if you want to know just how futile these exercises are, just go back and see what all these bright, well-educated men and women were saying in January of 2012, and January of 2008, and January of 2004. Again, it’s not that pundits are stupid; they’re actually quite smart (if often blinded, however subconsciously, by their personal prejudices and preferences). The problem is that party politics are far too complex, have far too many moving parts — especially those pesky voters, not to mention all those foreigners who don’t care a fig about our little elections — for anyone to know what the political landscape will look like in a month or two.
Trust me. History is exceptionally clear about this.
Now, this whole DDH situation isn’t nearly so complicated.
But it’s complicated enough to defy predictions, except at least everybody’s got a 50/50 shot at nailing the prediction.
Personally, I’ll be semi-surprised if there’s a change this time around, for the simple reason that I can’t identify the constituency. Don’t most National League fans prefer the status quo, if only because fans generally prefer the status quo? Don’t most National League pitchers actually sort of enjoy hitting? They talk a big game, anyway.
The arguments for dumping the DH are mostly garbage, by the way. The leagues should be the same. Why? Because of interleague play. That’s nonsensical. In fact, I would argue the opposite; it’s interesting that the leagues are distinctive, and this is (I believe) the only remaining distinction. But it’s unfair to the National League teams when they’re using American League rules. Not much sense there, either. Nobody’s yet demonstrated any real issue there. It’s just something people like to say, mostly people trying to figure out why the AL kicks crap out of the NL every season.
The best arguments for the universal DH are probably 1) watching pitchers hit is usually a terrible bore, and 2) if they’re not hitting and running the bases, they’re less likely to get hurt.
The latter is manifestly true, and the former is purely a matter of taste.
I don’t like watching pitchers hit, but I enjoy a difference between the leagues. So I’m torn, and I’ll bet I’m not the only one. Without any clear and compelling reason to change, I don’t really support a change. And I suspect the owners and the players will collectively come to the same conclusion. This time around, anyway.