St. Louis Cardinals: No DH in the NL for 2021 would mean big trouble

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 07: Dexter Fowler #25 of the St. Louis Cardinals and Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 7, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 07: Dexter Fowler #25 of the St. Louis Cardinals and Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 7, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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The DH was a huge help to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2020. If it doesn’t come back in 2021, the team is in hot water when it comes to certain players.

Before the return of the 2020 season, the most attractive thing (for me) about the prospect of the Designated Hitter in the National League was the creativity it allowed for the St. Louis Cardinals’ lineup.

Namely, the DH allowed Cardinal manager Mike Shildt to get one of Matt Carpenter or Dexter Fowler out of the field while keeping them in the lineup.

Now, neither Carp nor Fowler had great years offensively, but on their large contracts, the team has been clear that they are still going to start. As both players have declined defensively, the lack of the DH meant the team was forced (through their own doing) to continue to play both in the field.

The DH also freed up a spot to get Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman playing time. When Carlson came up, the team was clear that he would get regular at-bats. True to their word, Carlson started consistently, but this was mostly without consequence with the DH in play.

I don’t think that Shildt would’ve regularly play Edman over Carpenter at third base in 2020 without the DH, but again, the flexibility was there to shake things up.

As the negotiations revolving around the 2020 season startup ran their course, the DH was viewed a lot like Pandora’s Box in the NL. Once it was here, it wasn’t going anywhere. Now, after 58 St. Louis Cardinals games with a DH, I agree. Despite initial concerns, I really liked it. At no point did I hear anyone arguing that they would prefer to see a pitcher hitting over the 9th batter.

As of right now, there is not going to be a DH in the NL next season.

Right when attention was pulled away from the MLB side of things being scumbags, potentially holding the DH over the heads of the players as a bargaining chip is about to bring it right back.

The MLB and the MLBPA will have to negotiate a new CBA after the 2021 season, but having the DH during 2021 could end up being a valuable bargaining chip. The DH is 30 more jobs for players around the league and helps older players stay in the game.

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Generally, it was viewed that the DH would be an easy choice for the two sides to agree on for 2021, much like the expanded playoffs were expected for 2020. That may not be the case anymore.

The DH and 2021 will surely be a storyline over the winter, but if the MLB truly uses it as a bargaining chip, it’ll just be the next item in the long line of the MLB shooting itself in the foot.

I would venture to say that most fans in the NL want the DH to stick around moving forward, especially when considering the implications for the Cardinals.

If the Cardinals lose the DH, Fowler and Carpenter won’t have anywhere to hide. The team is going to either have to play them, or they are going to have to break form and sit the higher salaries.

I don’t think there is a world where not having the DH cuts into Dylan Carlson’s playing time, but it’s easiest to not leave these types of things up to chance.

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I’d like to think that the MLB would do the right thing for its sport and find a way to put the DH in the NL for 2021 and beyond, but time and time again they prove they are incapable of helping themselves out. If there is no DH in 2021, the Cardinals are going to have to face some tough decisions.

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