Why the universal DH for 2021 MLB season remains unsettled

Andy Martino
·1 min read
Dom Smith Mets reacts hitting home run against Tampa Bay Rays
Dom Smith Mets reacts hitting home run against Tampa Bay Rays

Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association agreed on Monday night to COVID-19 health and safety protocols for spring training and the regular season. While the universal designated hitter was not in the agreement, that is not relevant to whether it will ultimately be in effect in 2021.

Here’s why:

This deal was strictly related to health and safety protocols. As such, seven-inning games for doubleheaders and the runner on second base in extra innings were included, because they limit time at the ballpark.

At one point earlier in the negotiation, the players tried to insert the universal DH into the discussion, but the league shot it down. The reason was simple: A designated hitter has nothing to do with COVID-19 (pitchers can justifiably argue that it’s healthier and safer not to bat, but that’s not pandemic-related).

The DH is an economic bargaining chip, the subject of a totally different negotiation and potential agreement.

Now, here’s why the prospect of the universal DH this year remains dicey: The Players' Association has zero interest in trading it for expanded playoffs, which MLB initially thought could work.

In fact, the union does not necessarily think it smart to make any new agreements before CBA talks later this year.

The upshot of all this is that the DH might not happen -- but the issue wasn’t settled Monday. That was a totally different deal.