CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Enjoy those Bartolo Colon hacks while you still can, because as early as 2017, seeing pitchers at the plate could be just as extinct as the Polo Grounds or Montreal Expos.
Commissioner Rob Manfred acknowledged Thursday that the idea of the National League adopting the DH is gaining momentum among MLB owners. And with the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire on Dec. 1, there remains the very real possibility the DH will finally be voted in as the universal rule in MLB.
“Twenty years ago, when you talked to National League owners about the DH, you’d think you were talking some sort of heretical comment,” Manfred said Thursday at the owners meetings. “But we have a newer group. There’s been turnover. And I think our owners in general have demonstrated a willingness to change the game in ways that we think would be good for the fans, always respecting the history and traditions of the sport.”
Manfred also agreed that the DH in both leagues is probably an idea whose time has come. There is a growing chorus to have all 30 teams use the same format, as well as protect pitchers — MLB’s most expensive commodities — from doing unnecessary damage to themselves with an unfamiliar activity.
“I do think that there’s a certain purity to the idea that everybody plays by the same rules,” Manfred said. “I think the significance of that purity goes up when you have interleague play every day, right? Number two, pitchers who don’t hit on a regular basis probably are more likely to have a problem than pitchers who do. So that’s an issue.”
Manfred did give a nod to his predecessor, Bud Selig, by citing his efforts to mesh the two leagues together. But Selig had been more of a traditionalist in wanting to keep the DH, and there remains an element of that. In this case, however, that hurdle may be ready to be cleared.
“The biggest remnant of league identity is the difference between DH and no DH,” Manfred said. “And I think that’s a significant issue, I really do. I think it’s an important issue for us. We may get over that. I’m not saying it’s not possible. But it is a significant issue on the other side of the scale.”