It’s the first week of December, Major League Baseball is entering what is usually the busiest time in terms of transactions along the free-agent and trade markets, and the tiny, minuscule detail of whether or not there will be a universal designated hitter is still unknown.
Oh, did I say tiny and minuscule detail? I meant massive.
There are plenty of big issues that the league and the players’ union (MLBPA) need to tackle this offseason, whether it’s health-and-safety protocols for the players and staff amid a potentially still-looming pandemic, divisional alignment, and scheduling to work around said pandemic.
But the question of the universal DH, which would eliminate pitchers batting in the National League, is something that should take precedent above all else right now.
The uncertainty could very well have players and teams alike in a holding pattern until there is some clarity on the situation. After all, the DH role provides added jobs for defensively-challenged or veteran players who can’t take the rigors of playing the field every day while allowing pitchers to focus solely on — you guessed it — pitching.
As much as I used to be a proponent for having pitchers play both sides of the game, the last thing MLB’s product needs is incompetent people at the plate to provide one easy out every couple of innings.
People want excitement. Excitement — as much as I cherish and love a pitcher’s duel — is scoring and offensive affluence. For a league that constantly lags in popularity behind the NFL and NBA, making the DH universal is a step in the right direction.
Most importantly, though, the murkiness of the DH situation is withholding front offices and general managers everywhere from properly constructing their teams. And with free agency potentially nearing its annual frenzy, not knowing such an important factor when it comes to building a roster is an irresponsible omission from the league so far.
National League clubs with a logjam of offensive contributors could stand to hold onto all their options for a year rather than looking to unload them. Other teams preparing for a year without the DH might suddenly have to scramble to find a big bat to properly hold down the role.
At this point, we’re waiting on you, MLB. Time to announce a decision on this so we can get the best part of the offseason rolling.