Don’t panic just yet, National League purists, the universal designated hitter probably won’t be coming to baseball in 2019. But the players want it to happen.
The Major League Baseball Players Association reportedly proposed a universal designated hitter as part of its back-and-forth with the league regarding rule changes for the upcoming season, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
On Jan. 14, the league sent proposed rule changes to the union, the biggest of which involved requiring pitchers to face a minimum of three batters before they can be removed from a game. The league believes the move will speed up the game, particularly in the late innings when managers want to play matchups with relievers.
In addition to a universal designated hitter, the MLBPA’s proposal addressed service-time manipulation and suggested a penalty for teams that are not competitive, according to Rosenthal.
“The Major League Baseball Players Association responded last Friday with its own comprehensive proposal that addressed the players’ concerns on competitive integrity and service-time manipulation in multifaceted fashion, sources said. A lowering of a team’s draft position for failing to reach a specified win total in a certain number of seasons is believed to be part of the union’s plan.”
There’s no guarantee any of those changes will be implemented in 2019. Both sides will continue to negotiate potential changes to the game during the offseason.
If no agreement is reached, however, commissioner Rob Manfred has the ability to unilaterally implement changes he discussed with the MLBPA last season. Those include a pitch clock, reduced mound visits and adopting the minor-league extra innings rule — in which a runner begins the 10th inning on second base — during spring training and the All-Star Game.
If there is an agreement, drastic changes don’t appear likely. After much talk about the pitch clock last offseason, the only major rule change to baseball in 2018 involved limiting mound visits.
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