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It’s time for MLB to make a decision one way or the other on the universal DH

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The offseason’s progressing and teams need to make choices.

“Maybe I can DH next year,” thinks Kyle
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The universal designated hitter was used in the abbreviated 2020 season.

The world didn’t end!

But seriously, we still don’t know whether the DH will remain in the National League for 2021. Whether you are in favor of this or not, it’s time for MLB to negotiate the universal DH with the MLB Players Association because teams are at a point where they need to make some personnel decisions, particularly with the non-tender deadline just two days away.

Here’s a summary of the issue from Jim Bowden at The Athletic:

If Commissioner Rob Manfred were to ask all 30 team owners to vote on a universal designated hitter for 2021 and beyond, he would get the necessary 25 votes, according to sources familiar with each organization’s thinking. If Tony Clark, head of the players union, were to ask his players to vote on the same issue, it’s assumed a strong majority would be in favor of the universal DH.

So what’s the hang-up? It’s simple: The clubs feel that if they are going to agree to the universal DH, they want something in return, whether it’s an agreement for expanded playoffs or any other trade-off that makes sense.

You know how well those sorts of things usually go between players and owners. A long, drawn-out negotiation is the reason we had only 60 games in the 2020 season instead of 82, or 100, or 110, all numbers that were on the table before talks stalled last spring.

Here’s just one example of a team that’s kind of in limbo regarding one specific player because this hasn’t been decided yet:

The present situation has put former Braves outfielder/designated hitter Marcell Ozuna in a precarious position. The Braves want him back and badly need to sign a bat, but don’t want to commit to him if the DH rule isn’t in effect because of their concerns about his throwing shoulder and questions about how effective he’d be if he had to play left field every day.

Ozuna had an outstanding year for the Braves as their (mostly) fulltime DH in 2020. He served in that role in 39 games and overall hit .338/.431/.636 (77-for-228) with 18 home runs, leading the National League in homers. He finished sixth in NL MVP voting.

The Cubs have a decision to make regarding Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber didn’t serve as the Cubs’ primary DH in 2020, despite many thinking he might. He’s a prime non-tender candidate, and the deadline is Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT. If the universal DH were to be approved before then, perhaps the Cubs would tender Schwarber a contract, thinking that the DH would provide some extra at-bats for him. If not? I’m guessing the Cubs would set him free.

Bowden’s article concludes:

Both sides want the universal DH. So instead of making it about a negotiation, how about just going ahead and implementing it immediately? It doesn’t have to be tied to the other rule changes, or expanded playoffs, or revenue-sharing issues. Just separate this one issue, and let the free agents and clubs all operate under the same rules for the first time since the DH was implemented in the American League back on Jan. 11, 1973.

It’s been almost 48 years. Let’s finally land on one rule for teams in both leagues and adopt the universal DH now.

He’s right. There’s no reason owners can’t simply do this now, and leave other rule changes open to negotiation. At the very least, the two sides ought to fast-track talks and get the universal DH done.

Poll

The universal designated hitter...

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    ... should be implemented immediately for 2021 and beyond without player/owner negotiations
    (137 votes)
  • 11%
    ... should be implemented for 2021 and beyond, but only after player/owner negotiations
    (30 votes)
  • 4%
    ... should be implemented, but only as part of collective-bargaining talks after 2021
    (12 votes)
  • 28%
    ... should not be implemented at all
    (71 votes)
  • 0%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (1 vote)
251 votes total Vote Now