Universal DH expected to be approved if a 2020 season is played

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It’s been over a month since people first began reporting that Major League Baseball would seek to make the DH universal if a 2020 season was played. Now it seems very close to reality: the proposal Major League Baseball communicated to the players yesterday had a universal DH in it. And, Jon Heyman reported a little bit ago, “it is expected to be easily approved by players, who long favored idea.”

Adding the DH to the National League has long been in the interests of the MLBPA given that an extra position player salary is worth more than an extra relief pitcher’s salary, especially given that DHs are more likely to be veterans. That general proposition has changed a bit in recent years as even most American League teams no longer have a Dave Ortiz/Edgar Martinez-style dedicated DH, but the difference is still likely to inure to the financial benefit of players.

Beyond that, a DH in an odd season like this one is likely to be if they can pull it off provides a lot more flexibility for teams, allowing them to carry and play more position players than they otherwise would be able to do. If there are fewer off-days in a compressed schedule, teams will like to be able to give position players a day off from defense without losing their bats in the lineup as well.

Unlike a lot of things a 2020 season might bring us, however, there is a very good chance that a universal DH would outlive pandemic baseball.

As it was, the primary argument in favor of limiting the DH to one league was (a) tradition; and (b) preserving the differences between the leagues. Once those arguments are gone, there is not likely to be a ton of motivation to return to it given that, objectively speaking pitchers are terrible at hitting and given that teams don’t even want them to try to get better at it. It is not prioritized at all, even by National League teams. Indeed, even pitchers who have made the bigs and are in lineups are often told not to put forth much effort at the plate lest they exert themselves too much or get injured.

Pitchers batting is a vestige of the 19th century. At best — they even talked about adding a DH in the 19th century because pitchers batting was such a drag. If I had to guess, the last pitcher batting in a regular season or postseason game was Gerrit Cole, who struck out swinging in the top of the seventh inning in Game 5 of last year’s World Series.