There may not be a ton that Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association can agree on, but commissioner Rob Manfred pointed out one in a meeting with the media Thursday: the universal DH.
As noted by Andy Martino of SNY, Manfred said Thursday that “we have agreed to a universal designated hitter,” which is confirmation of a widely expected development.
During the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the universal DH was temporarily implemented, but then the National League returned to having hitters bat in 2021. The American League has had a DH in place of pitchers hitting since the 1973 season. Moving forward, it appears that both leagues will play by the same rules.
Previously, during either interleague play or the World Series, what rules were used depended on what league the home team was a member of. If the home team was a National League team, there was no DH. If the home team was an American League team, the DH was used by both teams.
Of course, this often created an unfair advantage for American League teams in the World Series. For example, in Game 1 of the 2009 World Series, the New York Yankees used Hideki Matsui — the eventual MVP of the fall classic — as their DH. The Phillies — a National League team that didn’t employ a full-time player to fill that role — used Raúl Ibañez, opening the door for Ben Francisco to start Game 1 in left field.
With all due respect to Francisco, he probably didn’t belong starting a World Series game. The only reason he did was because National League teams didn’t construct their roster with the DH in mind at that time, because for most of them it only came into play a handful of times during the regular season. With both leagues now set to use the same rules, the playing field will be level for all meetings between National League and American League teams.
Two seasons ago, Jay Bruce and Phil Gosselin got the bulk of the at-bats at DH for the Phillies, with Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto and Andrew McCutchen all getting occasional days off their feet but still in the lineup at the spot.
Just because the DH is now slated to come to the senior circuit on a full-time basis doesn’t mean that Dave Dombrowski and the Phillies will rush out to sign Nelson Cruz or a full-time DH. The most likely scenario is that they have a person or two that gets most of the at-bats there — perhaps Brad Miller, who is currently a free agent — but they leave the door open for some of their other big bats to get load management without coming out of the lineup.
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