Major League Baseball and the Players Association are negotiating a plan to get the season underway amid the coronavirus pandemic. Time is of the essence in these negotiations as the window for baseball getting started in narrowing day by day.
A key part of MLB's proposal to the players is a universal designated hitter, which was reported to be approved by the players union on Wednesday. While this will likely ruffle a lot of feathers throughout baseball, teams like the Texas Rangers need as many breaks as they can get.
Yes, the Rangers already play with a DH since they play in the American League and have been since their inception as the Washington Senators in 1961. Another key part of MLB's proposal plays a big role in why a universal DH has to be included.
In an effort to minimize travel, MLB would have regionalized schedules. It makes sense on paper, but teams like the Rangers and Astros would be at a major disadvantage.
Both teams already play in the AL West, a division with three west coast teams (Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, and Seattle Mariners). In MLB's proposal, the Rangers' schedule would include only their AL West opponents and all five teams from the NL West, which have three west coast teams of their own (Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and San Francisco Giants). Even the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks sit one time zone away. In this structure, all of the Rangers' opponents would be at least one time zone away, with the Astros as the lone exception.
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With this scheduling disadvantage, not having to worry about taxing the pitching staff would aid in keeping players safe, which is ultimately the largest concern as MLB mulls over how to get the season started. The primary safety concern is limiting COVID-19 exposure to players, but taking extra precautions to prevent player injuries is also right at the top of the list. Players, namely pitchers, have been waiting in limbo for nearly two months and will only get three weeks to ramp things back up again. Pitchers normally get six weeks of spring training to build up their arms for the regular season.
The designated hitter is a controversial topic in baseball. American League fans tend to favor it while National League tend to dislike it. Even in recent years when the idea of the National League adopting the DH has been brought up, it's come with its fair share of criticism.
This isn't an endorsement for the National League permanently adopting the designated hitter. As unique as the 2020 season is going to be (if there is one), certain uncomfortable concessions will have to be made to make the season as workable as possible.
On the flip side, this could be the foot in the door that DH supporters need to get the National League to adopt it once and for all. If and when that happens, it could possibly alienate a number of baseball fans. Unfortunately, the novel coronavirus pandemic has put MLB in a place where if baseball is going to be played in 2020, the game will look very different.
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