We’ve spent a lot of time this offseason wondering whether the universal DH would be adopted for MLB in 2021. Teams were told in December to prepare as if it wouldn’t happen.
And now, apparently, it won’t — but there’s another item players and owners can’t agree on:
MLB offered a universal DH if the union agreed to expanded playoffs. Union rebuffed the deal, which included extra money for players, so at least for now there will be no universal DH.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 25, 2021
Buster Olney has the correct take here:
The union's perspective has been the universal DH should not be tied to expanded playoffs. The MLB proposal included the universal DH and the expanded playoffs; the union turned it down.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 25, 2021
Olney is right. These two things should not be connected, but MLB put out the “carrot” of additional money for players in expanded playoffs but ONLY if they would accept the universal DH. Players correctly believe these two things should not be linked.
Both owners and players want the universal DH, but it shouldn’t be a bargaining chip, not now, anyway. It will likely be used as one during the CBA negotiations next offseason, and won’t that be fun?
There’s another reason for players to not necessarily want expanded playoffs:
Many ways for MLBPA to not see this as beneficial.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) January 25, 2021
1. Reduces value of marginal win. If 85-88 wins is the goal for the playoffs, the value of spending in free agency to get to 90+ wins is diminished. Hurts free agency.
2. Playoff revenue is not split between players and owners. Owners receive playoff TV money. Currently players receive share of gate receipts in postseason. One of reasons owners see expanded playoffs as a big revenue generator.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) January 25, 2021
3. So players logically see expanded playoffs as potentially suppressing free agency. And also they see (current) MLB proposals as giving owners a big win for them (expanded playoffs) for a very marginal win for players (universal DH, which owners want too, just not as much).— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) January 25, 2021
This take is also correct.
Beyond that, expanded playoffs are a “careful what you wish for” situation for owners. Why? Because if 12, or 14, or 16 teams (the latter was the case in 2020) make the postseason, yes, it theoretically gets fans more interested in following a club that otherwise would be left out. On the other hand, if a team’s likely going to make it to the October tournament with the expanded postseason, would they really have to expend more effort in September games? It might make it more difficult for owners to sell tickets for September games, or get fans to watch on TV while the NFL is getting under way.
Don’t assume this is the last word on this subject. There were contentious negotiations last spring to get the 60-game season scheduled and played, and things that were rejected at one point came back on the table later. MLB owners and players have been at odds for the last couple of years, and it’s not likely to get any prettier before the CBA negotiations begin next fall. That leads me to believe there will be a labor stoppage in baseball in 2022.
Sorry I can’t bring you better news this Monday afternoon, but we are where we are in the history of baseball, and it’s not a particularly good place.