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Some thoughts about the universal DH, the new reliever rules, and the 40-man roster

Baseball’s changing. How will these changes make the game we all love different?

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Much about baseball now is hypothetical. Will MLB resume in 2020? If so, when, and in what locations? How many players on a roster? Will the Designated Hitter be included in all games? I'm ignoring more articles than usual, and I usually disregard quite a few. Nonetheless, some side stories intrigue me, and I'm grudgingly accepting a Rob Manfred rule change as acceptable.

Much of my baseball time now is spent prepping my Strat-O-Matic SupraLiga. Fifty-two teams, and I'm the Commissioner. If Illinois' team is better than South Dakota or Alabama, the others don't get Compensatory Selections. I do as I decide. One rule SupraLiga is borrowing from MLB is the modified three-batter limit. My games aren't made better by having a lefty coming in to face a righty, and forcing a pinch-hitter or two, just to be lifted after one hitter.

Baseball occasionally tinkers with rules regarding relievers. In one of the 1950 World Series games, though I don't remember which, a team used a strategy no longer permitted. It was time to get the starting pitcher, but the reliever wasn't ready yet. Mound visit. Umpire breaks it up. Manager to the dugout. Catcher returns to the mound. Umpire goes to break it up, and here comes the manager. Completely illegal now, though the Giants came close in the ninth inning of NLDS Game 4 against the Cubs in 2016.

I don't think the lefty-righty-lefty thing is a problem, but if its elimination stops some pointless lineup moves, it's fine. Unlike some of the other moves.

The universal DH will always be a powder keg, but American League teams have a development edge with the extra hitter. Imagine a hulking dude on the scouting trail. US? overseas? Doesn't matter. Dude crushes the ball, but his defense is basically a rumor. American League teams swallow him up. NL sides generally avoid him. Understandably so. As it turns out, the dude might be serviceable in left. Or, maybe not, but he develops 40 homer per year power. An AL team got a bonus. The NL teams didn't stand a chance, because Kyle Hendricks hitting a single is novel.

The most intriguing one to me is the expanded roster. One thing that hasn't changed in my 50-plus years of MLB fandom is the 40-man roster. The number of planets in the Milky Way has changed. The 40-man roster hasn't. With a discussion of a 50-man roster, would the spare pieces be "three hitter minimum" relievers? An extra catcher? How long would the 50 remain in place?

In the end, I doubt it will matter. The two sides might not agree on whether the owners are "essential" or "the reason for the game to be played." The pitchers can keep conditioning until February. As for who the Cubs DH would/should be, this is why having three or four younger guys dominating the Pacific Coast League should be a front-burner issue, not an afterthought. The teams that develop will continue to have that edge on those that don't. Regardless how long pitchers stay in, whether the pitcher hits, or how many 40 is.