New York Mets manager Luis Rojas is holding out hope that his club and the other 14 in the National League will have the designated hitter in 2021 — though he’s coming to terms that it probably won’t be happening.
“It would definitely help, I think, with everything going on and keeping everyone healthy,” Rojas said on Wednesday. “The less action the pitcher has the offensive end, the safer we will be.”
Opening Day is just three weeks away and after a shortened 2020 campaign that saw the universal DH give the NL a taste of what it’s been missing since the 1970s, MLB and the players’ association likely won’t amend this year’s parameters to bring it back for the final year of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Once the CBA expires at the end of the season, the universal DH is expected to be passed.
For now, though, Rojas and the rest of the National League have to prepare their pitchers for one more year of hitting — which at this point is putting them in danger considering how little time they spend working in the batter’s box.
Each team so far has used the DH in spring training.
“We’re getting ready for the pitcher to hit,” Rojas said. “We may see that a little later in camp, but we’ll do the job that we need to do to get the guys in a position to swing the bat… We’ll be ready to play the National League rule game with pitchers hitting and those strategies.”
During the 2019 season, the last time pitchers were allowed to bat, the Mets were the only National League team in the majors to have their hurlers post a cumulative batting average of over .160.
That’s not saying much, especially considering just how beneficial the DH would be for the Mets this season. It would allow Pete Alonso to move to the designated-hitter role while Dominic Smith — the better defensive first baseman — would be able to move back to his natural position rather than carve out playing time in left field.
Brandon Nimmo, who is a natural left fielder now tabbed to be the Mets’ Opening Day center fielder, could then move back to his better defensive spot.
However, the uncertainty of the status of the DH prompted the Mets to pass on getting a bona fide center fielder; missing out on George Springer before passing on Jackie Bradley Jr., who signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.
“Right now, I have to say there’s no chance but that’s just how I have to approach it,” Rojas said. “I’m just relaying a message that we’ve been relaying since the offseason. If it works that way, okay, but we’re ready if we don’t.”
The demise of pitchers’ prowesses at the plate has also had a sizable impact on the game and the disparity in entertainment value between the American and National Leagues.
Since the DH debuted in the American League in 1973, the junior circuit has had a better-combined batting average than the NL in every season.