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The DH Is Either Coming To The National League Or It Isn't, According To Two Executives

The baseball leaders of the Cubs and Cardinals had very different things to say on this issue over the weekend.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I promised quite some time ago that I wouldn't write again about the topic of the DH and the National League unless there were new developments.

And now there is a development, so here's a place for you to discuss. At the Cubs Convention, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein was asked about the possibility of the DH coming to the N.L. Here's what he said:

"We have so many hitters coming, who wouldn't mind a DH and an extra lineup spot to get another bat in there?" Epstein said on a panel during the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Saturday. "But it's above our paygrade. It's really an issue for the commissioner and the owners.

"I just think we can't count on it. There are no indications the DH is coming anytime soon. So we're planning on building with the National League rules for years to come, emphasizing defense and versatility to be able to adjust."

Theo is correct. The owners, not the GMs, must vote on this issue in order to approve it. Baseball executives such as Epstein don't have an official say about it, although you'd think that if Theo had strong feelings on this topic (and reading between the lines, the first sentence of his answer might hint that he would like the DH, as he had in Boston), he'd certainly express them to Tom Ricketts. And maybe he has -- we don't know what's gone on regarding discussions of this issue in the Cubs executive suite.

You'll note Theo said: "There are no indications the DH is coming anytime soon."

Or are there?

Since there's no President of Baseball Operations (or similar title) for the Cardinals, John Mozeliak is essentially Theo's equal, the head of the baseball side in St. Louis. If he says there's "more momentum" for the DH in the N.L., this must be the subject of discussions somewhere.

I've made no secret here of my support for the DH in the National League. This came after a very long time of my not wanting it, but over the years my dislike for seeing pitchers unable to hit and/or bunt, along with the seemingly increasing number of injuries to pitchers batting or running the bases, has landed me squarely on the side of the DH.

In the wake of batting injuries suffered in 2015 by Max Scherzer (who didn't miss much time) and Adam Wainwright (who did), Craig Calcaterra wrote this long article last April supporting the DH in the N.L. I agree with his position and reasoning completely. I did want to highlight this passage in particular, having to do with the argument regarding the concern some have about losing the "strategy" involved in having pitchers bat:

So, if the DH isn’t some crazy fad, if it actually works and if it’s not the road to damnation, what’s the argument for keeping the NL rule? At least one not based merely on tradition? That it allows for pinch hitting and double switching. The old NL strategy thing. Intrigue. Cunning, etc. As if those are riveting events at the heart of baseball. And as if there isn’t pinch hitting in the AL. But sure, we’ll give the NL rule people that. It’s their aesthetic choice — heck, it’s my aesthetic choice as an NL guy — but it that’s all it is. An aesthetic choice, on equal footing with the aesthetic choices of people who don’t like to see .109 hitters flail ridiculously and ineffectively. Who, while they enjoy laughing at Bartolo Colon taking a swing at a pitch as much as the next guy, maybe think that the sideshow element of that spectacle isn’t worth it.

In the past, I've said that the "strategy" argument doesn't really sway me, and in general, it doesn't. But I acknowledge, as Craig did, the fact that a lot of you do like having it. But I also agree that it's an "aesthetic choice" and not something that's intrinsic to the game.

Some of you won't ever be convinced, and that's fine. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. But beyond the fact that the Cubs could be helped immeasurably over the next few seasons by having the ability to make Kyle Schwarber a full-time DH, it makes great sense also given the fact that there's now discussion about the length of the schedule and fatigue among players and what to do about those things.

We could wind up with larger rosters (say, a 28-man roster where you'd have three "inactives" for every game), and having the DH in the N.L. might give some teams that don't have a Schwarber-type hitter a chance to "rest" some of their position players from time to time by giving them some games at DH instead of in the field.

As Craig wrote, the DH is no longer a "gimmick":

It’s been longer since the advent of the DH to today than it was between Babe Ruth’s called shot and the advent of the DH. My friend Chris Jaffe points out that the first DH game is closer in time to the last four Cubs NL pennants than it is to the present. It’s older than the lifespans of Arky Vaughan, Edgar Allan Poe, Glenn Miller, Malcolm X, Amelia Earhart, Che Guevera and Stonewall Jackson. The DH began eleven days before Federal Express issued its first package. Based on how long it’s been around, to call the DH a "gimmick" today, in 2015 is the same as calling commercial broadcast TV a "gimmick" in 1987. The thing is established at this point.

And thus, I think it's time for both leagues -- especially with year-round interleague play -- to play by the same set of rules. Baseball owners will be meeting this week in Florida, as Crane Kenney mentioned at the Cubs Convention. Perhaps the "momentum" that John Mozeliak mentioned to Derrick Goold will carry through, and the DH will at last become baseball-wide.