The National League is getting closer to adding DHs, maybe in 2017

Big League Stew

If you love to watch MLB pitchers bat, take it in while you can, because 2016 may be the final season it happens.

At an MLB owners' meeting on Thursday in Coral Gables, Fla., Commissioner Rob Manfred said the idea of the designated hitter coming to the National League is "gaining momentum." What's more: Deciding whether to implement a unified DH rule could happen this year and then get rolled out for the 2017 season. 

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MLB is set to work on a new collective bargaining agreement with the players' union this year. The current CBA expires on Dec. 31, 2016 and it sounds as if the DH could be a big part of the new agreement. Here's what Manfred had to say Thursday, as relayed by David Lennon of Newsday:

This would shake baseball like an earthquake. The entire brand and style of NL ball is built upon pitchers batting. It affects how teams construct their lineups and use their pitching staffs. Bringing the DH to the NL would not only start to make extinct a specific style of baseball but rattle long-time fans who swear by NL rules.

Manfred told reporters that he's aware of the how important the DH is to identies of each league, which demonstrates this issue will be carefully considered. Here's what Manfred said, via USA Today:

“And the biggest remnant of league identity is the difference between DH and no DH," Manfred said. "I think that’s a significant issue, I really do. I think it’s an important issue for us. I’m not saying it’s not possible. But it is a significant issue on the other side of the scale.”

The designated hitter was adopted in the American League in 1973 and ever since has been a divisive issue among fans. Opinion is spread out in a number of factions: People who want DHs in both leagues, people who want the DH gone altogether and people who would be happy to keep things the way they are, even if they are imbalanced.

Adding the DH to NL would bring a number of benefits to the game, though: It would increase offense, since many pitchers are looked as easy outs (the Zack Greinkes and Madison Bumgarners of the world notwithstanding) and that's something that would benefit baseball overall, since fans like offense.

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The universal DH would also unify the rules at a time when interleague play is being featured more prominently. A third plus would be pitchers not hurting themselves when they're out of their element at the plate. Adam Wainwright, for instance, tore his Achilles last season when he was running out a pop-up. 

Just last week Wainwright's boss, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, said the idea of a DH in NL was gaining favor among owners and GMs. But to hear that notion come from the commissioner's mouth is another thing entirely. 

Baseball, in recent years, has proven it's not afraid to mess with tradition — even if that means upsetting fans who don't like change. The addition of video replay and the home-plate collision rule are two examples. Making the DH universal, though, would be a much bigger and impactful change. It would essentially introduce a new era of the game. 

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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