Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association are kicking ideas back-and-forth at each other right now for the 2019 season. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic notes more than a few of the proposed ideas between the two parties. One of the ones of note is that the players are pushing for a universal designated hitter beginning in the 2019 season.
Since the 1973 season the designated hitter has existed in the American League. The National League has never used it other than in the World Series road games, and in interleague road games during the regular season.
It’s incredibly strange that the two leagues have different rules. To the point that the two games are played very differently. Rosters are built very differently. Teams can even approach free agency differently. All because one league has a designated hitter and the other simply does not.
As I write this to fans of a team that plays in the National League, I’m sure there will be some pushback on the idea of a designated hitter in the National League. There must be some excitement gotten from intentionally walking someone to face Aaron Harang that I never understood. Or maybe watching a pitcher lay down a bunt, or trying to lay down a bunt that gets your engine revving. Maybe the double-switch to put in a lesser hitter into the lineup because you want a pitching change does it for you. Perhaps you like the “let’s think six moves ahead” kind of thing. If that’s you, well, you confuse me, because this particular writer simply doesn’t get it.
Several things on the table are to “speed up the game”. We’ve seen things in the past like an introduction of a “pitch clock”. That would give pitchers 20 seconds between pitches or a ball would be awarded to the hitter. There’s a lot of ideas that have been kicked around over the past few years. There hasn’t been many that have taken hold, though. While Major League Baseball is trying to talk things out with the players association, it isn’t necessary. Rob Manfred does have the power to make the changes without them.
Put yourself in the shoes of the Baseball Czar. You get to change a rule or two that is currently on the books, but it’s got to be realistic. That means you can’t get rid of the designated hitter in the American League. Sorry. What changes are you planning to make? And why are you making that move? What is the benefit?