Thursday, December 17, 2009

DH Designated for Assignment?

Phil Rodgers is on the case of Bud Selig's new competition committee:

Is the designated hitter rule finally on its way out with Major League Baseball?

To be fair, it's premature to ask such a potentially provocative question. But thanks to Commissioner Bud Selig's decision to turn recommendations for on-field matters over to a newly created version of the NFL's Competition Committee, the DH rule could face its first real threat since the American League accepted it permanently for the 1976 season, after a three-year experiment that began as a way to create run scoring and increase attendance.

So, why now? What could possibly be driving the removal of the DH now? Read on:

La Russa, like the other three managers on the committee ( Joe Torre, Jim Leyland and Mike Scioscia) has seen the DH rule play a major role in World Series play involving his teams. It is used in the AL park and not the NL, creating two different styles of games in determining championships.

Forced to build deeper rosters because of the DH rule, the AL has had an upper hand against the NL in recent years -- a trend borne out in results from the All-Star Game, the World Series and in interleague play. AL teams have been bigger spenders than their NL counterparts.

Oh ho! Bigger spenders? Amazing!

The reality of the DH is that it gives longer careers to marginal players. And what happens to a player's salary as their career extends? They get paid more.

DH's are high paid, one dimensional players - exactly the kind of player that teams really don't want to pay. With attendance high and juiced players scoring plenty of runs, the need for the DH as a augmentation to the offense has been basically removed.

The league wants the DH to go away, not because Tony LaRussa now no longer sees it as a benefit to the game. They want it to go away to save American League teams a lot of money.

How do they get the union to agree to this? The last thing the MLBPA wants is to see salaries go down Here's one idea. Go to a 26 man roster with a 1-man inactive slot. From the MLBPA's position, the league is going to take away 14 high paying jobs, but they will be replaced with 30 brand new jobs. Those 30 minor leaguers who are union members but stuck in AAA are certainly going to vote in favor of no-DH and yes-extra roster spot.

From the owners place, the 30 new jobs will probably earn less than the 14 players who had been filling the DH roles.

And for the fans? Well, the use of the 26th slot should go to the previous day's starting pitcher. Benches have thinned out over the past twenty years as teams migrated from a 4-man pitching rotation to a 5-man rotation. That extra starter came at the cost of a bench player. With teams carrying 11 or 12 pitchers, benches are awfully thin. Solution: Extra bench player, inactive yesterday's starter.

Does this suggestion have a chance of being adopted? Probably not. But the owners are going to have to give the players something to get them to give up 14 DH jobs. Thirty new jobs is not a bad way to do just that.

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