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It is time for a universal designated hitter in baseball

Earlier this month, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a proposal regarding players’ concerns about the current state of the game.

Along with service-time and pace of play issues was a call for the universal designated hitter to be introduced to the game for the 2019 season. Among the four major sports’ leagues in the United States, the designated hitter, also known as the DH, is one of, if not the only, rule that is different between in separate conferences or leagues.

The DH was established in the American League in 1973. Players like David Ortiz and newly-elected Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez made a career as primarily designated hitters. It has also helped to extend the careers of players like Frank Thomas and Harold Baines following injuries.

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It is time to implement the universal designated hitter.

With the exclusion of a few rare pitchers who can be serviceable at the plate, most pitchers simply cannot hit and probably do not have interest in batting.

Last season, pitchers hit .115 with a .144 on-base percentage and .149 slugging percentage in 4,524 at-bats. In other words, more often than not, pitchers are an automatic out.

If nothing else, it is rather silly that there are two sets of rules being played by in the same professional game. Take the New York Yankees and New York Mets for example. When the two teams come together during interleague play, and despite playing in the same city, the game will be played either with a DH or without one depending on which stadium the game takes place.

As for the World Series, the set of games that will declare a champion for the season, games one, two, six and seven will have different lineup restrictions than games three, four and five. No matter what side of the debate a person finds themselves on, they must see the need for a universal rule.

Financially, it makes more sense for owners and players a like to push for a universal DH. American League teams have invested lots of money into players like JD Martinez, Giancarlo Stanton and Nelson Cruz, guys who primarily DH or serve as a fourth outfielder on occasions. On the flip side, owners with expensive pitchers probably do not love the idea of their prized asset swinging a bat or much less running the bases. Simply put, it would be easier for the NL to add the DH than for the AL to drop it.

Those in favor of the DH will call on the strategy aspect of the game. While there is certainly more decision-making and “chess playing” in a non-DH game, is it worth it? Even with a DH, baseball still requires a large amount of game plan and thinking.

Would a person like to see the pitcher strike out on three pitches or fail to get a bunt down just for the joy of witnessing a double switch a few innings later? It is simply not a worthy endeavor.

Now, it is not plausible for the rule to be implemented this season or even in the next two or three. National League teams would need a period of time to prepare the roster for a DH. A DH-less roster is constructed much differently than a DH-based roster.

That is understandable, and the universal DH is ultimately much-needed addition to the game in the near future.

Nick Santoriello can be reached at or on Twitter @NickSantoriello.


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