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


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.

As unrest continues, Major League Baseball and its clubs have been mostly silent

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The police killing of George Floyd on May 25 has sparked outrage against police brutality both across the country and around the world. Protests which began in Minneapolis spread to multiple cities over this past weekend. In the saddest of ironies, these protests against the unlawful and excessive use of force has led to police employing even more unlawful and excessive use of force against protesters, most of whom have engaged in peaceful, constitutionally-protected activities. This has all lead to additional deaths, countless injuries, thousands of arrests, and the targeting of journalists by police and government authorities. As of this very moment, that unrest continues.

As Bill noted yesterday, a great many of ballplayers and managers have spoken out against police brutality and in support of those rallying against it. We have heard almost nothing, however, from Major League Baseball and its clubs.

Major League Baseball has issued no official statement in response to the unrest. Only four teams — the Twins, Athletics, Giants, and Blue Jays — have issued statements of their own. The Miami Marlins released a statement from CEO Derek Jeter, but as you can see below, they make a point to say that it’s Jeter’s sentiment, not that of the club. The Dodgers, well, scroll down and we’ll see what they’ve done. It’s kinda awkward. UPDATE: The Mets have just added a statement of their own.

The Twins’ statement on Friday was in specific reference to George Floyd’s killing:

The Blue Jays’ statement is the most recent:

The Giants released this yesterday:

As we noted yesterday, the Oakland A’s paired their statement with the announcement of a charitable donation:

Here’s Derek Jeter, tweeted out by the Marlins, who have made no statement on behalf of the club:

The Mets:

Finally the Dodgers:

That’s obviously not about Floyd’s killing or any of the unrest, but I take that as a tacit acknowledgment of it all and the judgment that maybe today is not a good day for a Zoom party. Which, hey, is better than the 24 other teams whose Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, and websites would have you believe that nothing has happened in the country in the past week.

Contrast that with the NBA which, as of late this morning anyway, has seen 23 of its 30 franchises release a statement on their Twitter feed related to George Floyd’s killing

Not that the five baseball teams who have said something are deserving of full laurels here. Notable in their statements — even in the Twins’ statement which specifically references Floyd — is the complete absence of any reference to law enforcement or police brutality. For that matter, only five of the NBA teams who spoke out specifically mentioned that. One of them is the Washington Wizards. Here’s how easy it is to say such a thing:


Given that the very impetus of the events upon which the teams and leagues are attempting to speak out is the behavior of law enforcement and police brutality, its rather amazing that so few mention it. Indeed, it’s impossible to see these statements as anything other than organizations trying extraordinarily hard not to mention that.

Many of you are probably asking right now (a) why it should matter if professional sports teams or leagues speak out; and (b) if they do, why it should matter if they specifically mention police brutality. Let’s talk about that, shall we?

A broad answer to that is that sports teams and leagues are citizens like the rest of us and are comprised of citizens like the rest of us. They’re important members of the communities in which they play and their leadership and example are important to a great many people. They routinely release statements about things such as natural disasters, global pandemics, notable deaths, and any manner of other of non-sports event which impacts their communities. How massive public uprisings that are clearly affecting many of their own players is mostly given a miss is beyond me.

A more specific answer: the leagues and teams are never hesitant, for one moment, to comment on social progress, including racial progress, when it occurs and when they are a part of it. They are likewise quick to embrace and promote law enforcement when it suits their interests and puts law enforcement in a good light. Most teams host law enforcement appreciation nights, for example. Is it not fair to ask a baseball team that appreciates law enforcement for the good things it does to at least comment on the bad things it does? Is it not fair to ask why they are being so silent in this regard when the behavior of law enforcement is not anything to be appreciated?

One hopes that Major League Baseball’s silence on this matter is one of simple but understandable timidity to weigh in on a matter of such gravity. That the league and its teams are taking their time to craft just the right statements and that, when they got them down perfectly, they’ll be released.

One hopes, in contrast, that their failure to do so as of yet is not a function of their belief that these matters do not affect them, their players, their employees, their fans, and the communities which support them.