Universal DH and expanded MLB postseason reportedly won't happen in 2021

Chris Cwik
·2 min read

Milwaukee Brewers fans hoping to see Dan Vogelbach pop 30+ home runs in 2021 likely aren't going to get their wish anymore. Both the universal designated hitter and an expanded postseason reportedly aren't happening in 2021, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic.

Those proposals are considered "dead issues." Drellich notes that it can't be completely ruled out that the league and the MLBPA reverse course, but that both sides are proceeding as if the 2021 season will be played without a DH or an expanded postseason.

That news shouldn't come as a surprise considering spring training has already started. If a universal DH was going to continue being used, that change should have been implemented early in spring training so every NL team could build its team accordingly. While some NL teams — like the Atlanta Braves, Brewers and Washington Nationals — might welcome a change even now, others wouldn't be as prepared if the league suddenly changed course.

At the same time, MLB and the MLBPA proved last year they aren't averse to last-second changes. Both sides literally agreed to expand the postseason during the first game of the 2020 MLB season. As the Washington Nationals faced the New York Yankees on opening night, news broke that the 2020 postseason would feature 16 teams instead of the usual 10.

Universal DH and expanded postseason are labor issues

While the league and its players agreed to alter the rules during the 2020 season, it was assumed things would revert back to normal in 2021. Both the universal DH and expanded postseason are considered labor issues, and neither side wants to give up ground with the collective-bargaining agreement coming to an end in December.

Once that happens, the players and the league will use the universal DH and expanded playoffs as bargaining chips to get what they want in negotiations. Players are in favor of a universal DH because it creates job opportunities for aging hitters. The league wants to expand the postseason because owners view it as a way to increase profits. Players are opposed to that idea because some teams might not try as hard knowing 82 wins could get them into the postseason instead of 90+.

MLB has reportedly tried to link those issues in talks with the union, but the union hasn't budged, according to Drellich. Expanded playoffs would likely have a much larger impact on the game than the universal DH, which is likely why the union isn't on board with linking the issues.

Labor negotiations are expected to be contentious, with some believing a strike could happen following the 2021 MLB season. The fact that the players and union couldn't come to an agreement on at least the universal DH — which is believed to be a relatively minor issue — suggests both sides are going to dig in hard when it comes to even more controversial topics.

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