There is no NL DH….yet

On Monday, the Major League Baseball Player’s Association rejected Major League Baseball’s proposal for the designated hitter to be part of the National League for 2021.

This was especially troubling for Mets fans. The current roster is loaded with DH candidates. Dom Smith, Pete Alonso, JD Davis and Jose Martinez all could fill that designated hitter roll. 

The deal for the DH relied on the players agreeing to an expanded playoff format, similar to what we saw in 2020.

This is where the players took objection. 

From everything that I’ve gone through, the players see adding the DH as a marginal gain. It’s a benefit for sure, but not a major one. And it’s something the owners want as well. Any gain the players get here, the owners benefit from as well. 

It was the owners who first brought up the possibility of the DH in the National League, at the winter meetings, after the 2019 season. When the players association quickly backed that idea, the owners pulled it, and said the DH was off the table until the new collective bargaining agreement after the 2021 season. 

The DH was only part of the pandemic rules in the shortened 2020 season. 
So both sides want the DH. With expanded playoffs, Major League Baseball, and its teams, make a ton of money from the TV contracts. They actually just signed a new, major deal this past spring, in the middle of the pandemic. The players don’t see any of this money. It goes right into the pockets of the owners. 

Players do get a share of the gate receipts for these playoff games. Extra playoff games mean extra gate revenue. But that’s marginal, compared to the money the owners make with the expanded playoffs. 

One concern the players have with the expanded playoffs is its impact on free agent spending. The players believe teams have less incentive to win the division now. If a team can make the playoffs with 83-85 wins, they are less likely to spend in the offseason, to get to 90-95 wins. Those 10 extra wins cost a lot of money. 

The players also seem to see the extra playoffs as a money grab by the owners. Owners like the Cubs and Red Sox- major market teams, who have done nothing but cut payroll this season. 

You have teams like the Pittsburg Pirates, who have already traded away most of their mlb talent. It is very likely the Pirates have a team payroll around $20 million-or less- this season. 

The players association seems focused on the luxury tax, and even instituting a salary floor, to prevent teams like the Pirates from being completely non competitive. This would also prevent teams from being cheap just to save a few dollars. 

I still believe we will see the DH in the National league in 2021. The union though seems to have learned some lessons from past mistakes. They are negotiating hard, and hopefully an outcome will be decided soon.