St. Louis Cardinals: Is the DH coming to the National League?
By Matt Graves
Both the MLB and the MLBPA have stated their demands and goals for changes in the starting as soon as 2019. How does that effect the St. Louis Cardinals?
Back in mid-January, the MLB submitted a proposal to the MLBPA arguing for multiple rule changes prior to the 2019 season. last week, the MLBPA responded with some changes of their own. There were multiple things involved in the proposal but today I am only going to focus on one that presents an opportunity for the St. Louis Cardinals to reduce some ‘roster crunch’ in the short term. The Designated Hitter.
Interestingly enough the biggest demand made by the Players Association was the universal DH. While I’m sure there are many pitchers who are in the National League who would miss hitting a lot, from an overall players’ perspective, the current makeup restricts the attractiveness of older players who can still hit to NL teams because they often lose defensive skills first.
While this makes sense from the players’ side, a fan’s view of the issue is widely varied. My guess would be that the majority of fans who support an AL team want the universal DH, while most fans of NL teams would be opposed to it. Personally, I flip month to month. The DH takes a bit of the situational managerial skill out of the game, but really how often does a pitcher’s hitting skill help the team more than it hurts it?
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That is a generalization as the Cardinals and many other teams have pitchers who can swing the bat well, for a pitcher. Which brings me to the point, qualifying a pitchers bat skills with, ‘for a pitcher,’ exposes the problem with pitchers hitting. Most of them aren’t great at it. How exciting is it really to watch a pitcher go up there and flail around a little then walk back to the dugout (not that I would do any better)?
I am not dumb to the fact that a pitcher’s lack of bat skill is part of what is the ‘game within the game.’ The decision of weighing when to pull a pitcher for a chance at scoring is a very important job that the manager has to handle but allowing pitchers to bat just seems to be unnecessary to me. I love the rule right now, but I definitely see the draw of adding the DH to the NL.
That draw specifically comes from a conundrum that the St. Louis Cardinals are currently in. Jose Martinez is a man without a true starting position. Last year, Martinez was arguably the best hitter on this team but spent the year playing first base and right field and was no doubt a liability with the glove.
Jose Martinez would be the perfect DH for the Cardinals. From the beginning of the offseason, it has been written about many times that Martinez fits way better on an American League team just because he is such a good DH candidate. While it is short sighted, selfish, and not intelligent to want the DH in the NL because it gives the Cardinals an out on Jose Martinez’s situation, he is under club control until 2023, so they would have a consistent option should the DH come.
While the universal DH was in the counteroffer by the Players Association, it likely wouldn’t be put into effect this year if at all. A change of this magnitude needs to be made before the month of Spring Training so teams can plan their rosters appropriately. With this little time before the start of the season, NL teams would be at a huge disadvantage going into 2019.
Asking for the DH this year likely will serve as an anchoring technique to jump start the process of changing the rule, something the Players Association has wanted for a very long time. It makes it more approachable when the league and the Players Association look to make the changes next year.
There is also an argument to say that if the DH is instituted for 2020, there is not really an excuse that the Cardinals could come up with to not sign a big bat. One of the issues with signing Bryce Harper is that by the end of an 8-10 year deal, Harper would be a defensive liability. With the DH, any slugger who becomes too bad in the field can DH.
Again, unsurprisingly, most people who are fans of NL teams will be vehemently against the DH in the National League. I understand that. I don’t have a problem with how things are. That being said, the possibilities of a more high powered offense as well as the lineup combinations are a little bit enticing though. The results of the negotiations will be out soon enough. Unfortunately, fans don’t have a say in whether or not the DH comes.