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The National League could have the DH by 2021

... according to one report. Another says “Not so fast.”

Hey, look! Here’s a great candidate for Cubs DH
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

This topic is one that’s been contentious here at BCB in recent years. Most times I’ve written about it, the poll seems to split about 60-40 in favor of the designated hitter in the National League.

I have pretty much decided not to write about this again unless there’s news about it. And now, there’s news:

On the other hand:

As you know, I’ve been a proponent of the designated hitter for some time. I’m tired of watching guys like Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana flail away at the plate. Granted, there are some pitchers (Bartolo Colon!) who are fun to watch hitting, and I will give Jon Lester a lot of credit for improving at the plate.

But in general, pitchers can’t hit. Many of them can’t bunt anymore, either. If you are a proponent of pitchers hitting, you might just say “They should work on it,” but when I spoke with former Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster last year, he told me why that’s not a good idea:

“You have to remember, you’re hitting [in games] once every fifth day. And then on top of it, your real work is your pitching, so I’m going to throw bullpens and watch video. It’s not that you don’t have time, but to throw all your energy into hitting, too — mentally, you need a break. So you go through all your pitching routines, and working out, plus, you have to be careful. You don’t want to be asked, ‘Why’s his back getting sore?’ and have to say, ‘Well, I was taking 150 swings a day in the cage.’”

Lastly, there’s the risk of pitchers getting injured doing something that is not the principal part of their game. Former Brewers pitcher Jimmy Nelson is a perfect example — he hurt his shoulder diving back to first base after hitting a single at Wrigley Field in September 2017. Since then he’s pitched in just 10 MLB games, and not well, and now is on a minor-league deal in Dodgers camp.

I will grant those of you opposed to the DH that some elements of strategy will be lost when (not if) it’s instituted league-wide. To me, the trade-off is worth it.

Lastly, it has been unfair to have two sets of rules since interleague play began, especially now when it’s year-round. What if an A.L. contender plays in an N.L. park in September, during the heat of a pennant race, and due to the schedule their pitchers haven’t batted in a game since (say) June? How is that fair? We don’t have two real “leagues” anymore; there have been no league presidents or staffs since 1999 and the umpiring staffs were merged in 2000. The structure of MLB is now like the NFL: One league, two conferences.

It’s time. Get it done, whether ‘21 or ‘22. The Cubs have a perfect DH candidate in Kyle Schwarber, too.


The designated hitter in the National League...

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Great! Bring it on!
    (457 votes)
  • 39%
    Never! Keep the rules the way they are
    (294 votes)
751 votes total Vote Now