The 2020 season was unlike any other in Major League Baseball history due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Not only was the season delayed until July, but a number of rule changes were also tested, including a universal designated hitter and expanded postseason.
The universal DH marked a major shift from traditional National League baseball, as pitchers were no longer required to hit. The change took some time getting used to, but the majority of players and coaches grew to like it by season’s end.
While the expectation was that the universal DH would return for the 2021 season, the Players Association recently rejected MLB’s proposal to keep it around. The deal was contingent on the expanded postseason also coming back for another year.
For now, NL teams are planning to be without the universal DH this season. However, there remains a possibility of the league and union getting back together and reaching an agreement before Opening Day, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle:
My understanding is that the door hasn't been closed on the DH or expanded playoffs, there is plenty of room for continued negotiations on both topics, I'm told.
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) January 25, 2021
With roughly three weeks until the start of 2021 Spring Training, there is plenty of time for both sides to compromise on a deal that benefits all.
The universal DH would remove the advantage American League teams have over NL team and help prevent pitcher injuries. Meanwhile, an expanded postseason gave the league more revenue through their lucrative TV rights contracts.
It’s no secret that last year’s expanded postseason was unpopular with players, but MLB commissioner Rob Manfred previously expressed a willingness to tweak the format.
Friedman wants to keep universal DH without sacrificing strategy
One of the biggest downsides of the universal DH was that it took away from the strategy element typically seen in NL games.
To address this, Los Angeles Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman proposed a hybrid universal DH that would make everyone happy. His idea would see teams begin games with a DH, but lose it as soon as the starting pitcher is removed.
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