From the advent of the suspension of the 2020 MLB season, we knew that baseball, upon return, was going to look much different than it has for most of our lives. The coronavirus pandemic has altered all facets of daily life, and if and when baseball is played again, the gameday experience is going to be massively altered.
The virus mitigation measures will directly impact the game play as well, it appears. Given the geographic and travel restrictions in the most recent proposal for how to play games in 2020, that will include a blending of current American League and National League teams into single divisions, and that means putting teams with Designated Hitter rules in direct competition with teams that play sans DH. That’s a problem, obviously, and is one that is expected to be solved by implementing a Universal DH rule for the 2020 season (at least). And as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman relayed today, that part of MLB’s proposal is expected to be approved by the MLBPA.
Universal DH proposed by MLB is expected to be easily approved by players, who long favored idea. It won’t impact finances in ‘20 but could boost pay for select few in ‘21 based on better stats. Teams helped: Dodgers (great depth), Nats (same), Brewers (Braun), Mets (Cespedes?)— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) May 13, 2020
Obviously, that’s a big deal to a large swath of NL traditionalists who have long opined that the foible of watching pitchers struggle at the plate early in games is offset by the late-game strategic decisions - pinch hitters, double-switches, forcing opposing pitching changes, etc. To be honest, I was pretty firmly in that camp for most of my life, though for much of that time the game of baseball featured drastically different rates of striking out and honking dingers. When the ball was put into the field of play more often - and when that meant baserunners trying to score in ways other than having someone homer behind them - the traditional non-DH play was exactly what I loved about NL play.
In today’s game of Ks and dingers, though, I suppose that’s much less emphatic. Honestly, it pretty well makes sense that if it’s going to be all about swinging big, you might as well have the most big-swingers.
Fortunately for the 2020 Cincinnati Reds, they’re just about as well equipped to make that spontaneous transition to DH-ball as anyone, a topic we first addressed a week and a half ago before the proposal came to light.
For one, all three major offensive signings by the Reds this winter were offense-first in nature. Nick Castellanos already comes with plenty of DH experience after not exactly shining defensively at either 3B or RF, Mike Moustakas is a cromulent 3B but is being tasked with 2B full-time for the first time, and Shogo Akiyama - while once a rock solid CF - is now in his 30s and might be better suited being bumped down the defensive spectrum.
On top of that, the Reds have a major glut in their OF, with Shogo and Castellanos in the mix for everyday reps with Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, Phil Ervin, and Aristides Aquino. A full-time DH spot in the lineup is pretty well exactly what the Reds need to get one more of those bats in the everyday lineup, so they’re hardly a club left searching for a thumper now that the opportunity is suddenly there.
There’s still a ton left for MLB and the MLBPA to figure out for getting the 2020 season unfurled, but it appears this one-time conundrum is going to be solved in simple fashion, done in a way that should benefit the Reds more than most.