Thursday, January 28, 2016

What Would a DH in the NL Mean for 2017?

The current collective bargaining agreement that has allowed Major League Baseball to go another four seasons without a work stoppage is set to expire after the 2016 MLB season. While there are no indications that a work stoppage or strike is imminent and while all signs point to continued labor peace between the players and the league in 2017 and beyond that doesn’t mean this set of negotiations is going to be a walk in the park for either side. The biggest ticket items over the last two CBA’s were steroids and with testing stronger than it’s ever been, and whether it’s working or not saved for an entirely different blog post, the new big ticket items will be luxury tax thresholds, profit sharing and whether the designated hitter position would come to the National League as soon as the 2017 season when the new CBA takes effect.

What would it mean if the National League got the DH position? Well almost immediately offense would go up around the NL which would bring more casual fans to the ballpark and in front of their televisions which has been one of Commissioner Rob Manfred’s ultimate goals in his year-plus as being the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. This is just my opinion but I don’t feel that I’m that far off base but National League baseball has a slower tempo to American League Baseball and at times it can be extremely boring. Sure the suicide squeeze by the 8th hitter in the lineup in the bottom of the 8th inning is one of the most exciting plays in baseball but we’re talking about the casual fan and trying to attract people who are not currently watching the game, not the hardcore fans that know this can happen. By the time the bottom of the 8th come along those fans have changed the channel or gone to bed. Having an automatic out in the 9th spot four or five times a night and sometimes in the 8th spot as well as you sacrifice defense and fundamentals for offense can be boring, predictable and is not a good selling point when trying to sell newcomers to the game.

Secondly this would allow National League teams and their fans to enjoy having one player play for the team for their entire career. While this doesn’t happen nearly as much as it used to or as much as it should it would increase slightly with the DH in the National League. Too many times have we seen players who have lost a step in the National League be forced to come to the American League because of the DH position. This would also open the potential pool of teams vying for a DH candidate from 15 teams to 30 teams which would in turn extend players careers who still have the ability to hit but lose out to a simple numbers game, see Raul Ibanez and Jason Giambi as recent examples of this.

I know I am may be a bit bias since I am an American League fan and a fan of the New York Yankees but I think the DH is good for baseball and is good for everyone involved. No one watched the NFL team that flirts with 0-16 and no one watches the NBA team that is flopping in order to gain the possible first draft pick overall, why should they watch a pitcher who (and this is generalizing all pitchers, I understand that some pitchers actually can hit consistently) is 85-90% of the time going to strikeout or make an out? If I wasn’t a fan of MLB and I started watching a National League team while trying to get into the sport I would likely get frustrated pretty quickly as a novice fan. “Why are they taking so-and-so out with only 80 pitches in the 6th inning? He’s only down by one run” or “Why are they leaving in so-and-so to bat when the team is down by only one run and there is a base runner in scoring position, we could have scored there if you pinch hit so-and-so!” It’s frustrating, it’s not helping the sport in my opinion and it’s a progressive thing to do. The hardcore “never change what isn’t broken” fans won’t agree with this but the sport doesn’t have to try and lure those fans in, they are already here. What the sport needs, assuming Manfred really wants to grow the sport and the brand, is more offense, less pitchers hitting and the DH position in the National League. 

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