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The Designated Hitter coming to the National League would benefit the Braves and baseball as a whole

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The DH could be coming to the NL as soon as this season. I, for one, welcome our new non-fielding overlords.

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

With each day that passes by during these turbulent times, one thing that is especially turbulent when it comes to sports has been the negotiations between baseball’s players and the owners in an effort to get a season going in 2020. It seems as if we’re bouncing between the extremes of having a season and the season being thrown away on a near-daily basis. Fortunately, we appear to be on the side of the scale where we’re more likely to have a season than not. Both parties appear to have the structure of any future agreement in place and all that needs to be done now is to fine tune it so that everybody can get rolling again in 2020.

This news has resulted in some interesting details leaking out — the most interesting of which involving the inevitable adoption of the Designated Hitter position by the National League. Even if you hate the idea of the NL using the DH, you all figured that this was going to happen eventually. I don’t think that anybody could have foreseen that the DH would be coming to the NL this year, though.

Even though the NL using the DH would be considered a “weird thing for a weird season” like the rumors of a 16-team postseason or whatever divisional structure they have going on for each league, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is absolutely correct in his assumption that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement would include the NL adopting the DH permanently. If that’s true, then you’re going to see a lot of people mourning the death of good ol’ National League baseball. I am not one of those people.

The adoption of the Designated Hitter is something that has been long overdue for the National League and I’m glad that it appears that the time has finally come. For starters, you could easily make the argument that the DH-less version of the NL has been living on borrowed time since the American League adopted it back in 1973. In 1980, the twelve Senior Circuit clubs from back then came together to vote on whether or not it was time to bring the DH to the NL. The vote ended up being six against, four for, and two clubs abstained. Why did two teams abstain for such an important vote? It’s baseball, so you know the story surrounding the answer is a wacky one:

Pirates GM Harding Peterson entered the meeting with very straightforward instructions from owner John Galbreath: Vote as the Phillies voted. As for Philly, owner Ruly Carpenter told his vice president, Bill Giles, to vote for the DH. The reason for this was simple: Philly had Greg Luzinski in left field with young Keith Moreland searching for playing time, two strong bats who weren’t particularly skilled in the outfield.

That weekend, Carpenter decided to go fishing, confident that his right-hand man had things under control. That did not turn out to be the case. As the meeting began, teams were informed that the rule wouldn’t come into effect until the 1982 season. Giles hesitated, unsure whether this new information would change his owner’s thinking. And, given that this was a couple decades before the advent of cell phones, nobody could get a hold of Carpenter, so Giles was forced to abstain.

So if it wasn’t for Ruly Carpenter going fishing at a time when “going fishing” meant that you were off the grid, the two Keystone State teams would have very likely voted for the implementation of the DH and we wouldn’t be having this discussion 40 years from then. While the two Pennsylvanian teams didn’t officially make their voice heard, it was clear that the majority of the National League was ready to join the American League in that brave new era of baseball where they didn’t have to fret over the fact that a rally could be killed at any moment by someone who has no business swinging a bat going to the plate to swing the bat.

One of the four teams that voted “Yes” for the DH in that fateful NL vote from 1980 was our very own Atlanta Braves, and the 2020 version of the team would actually benefit greatly from having a DH. The Braves’ problem of having “too many outfielders” for the lineup would be alleviated thanks to the Designated Hitter. If Brian Snitker still has the itch to play Nick Markakis semi-regularly, then I would totally be in favor of seeing Markakis serve as the DH. If the manager wanted to bat Ender Inciarte in the 9 slot, it actually wouldn’t make the rest of the lineup look wacky by moving the pitcher ahead of him since there wouldn’t be a pitcher to worry about. Suddenly, it becomes a whole lot easier to find some more at-bats for guys like Johan Camargo, Adam Duvall and Austin Riley if the Braves have the ability to deploy a DH. Simply put, the Braves immediately become a better team with the Designated Hitter in the picture.

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

This also changes things when it comes to team construction in the long term as well. Players who may not have the slickest glove in the world but still produce with the bat are no longer destined to spend their careers floating around the same 15 teams in the American League. I could envision NL teams deciding to hang on to their all bat and no glove players while also resulting in the DH becoming a hot commodity on the free agent and trade market as well. The days of those types of players always being trade targets and desirable free agent acquisitions for AL teams only are seemingly over, and baseball will be better off for both leagues finally joining together in uniformity.

The only drawback that I can even think of is that the number of quirky baseball stories will go down as a result. The novelty of seeing a pitcher who can actually hit will become an extreme rarity in the future, as the only pitchers who we’ll see hitting going forward will be guys like Shohei Ohtani — players who spend just as much time in the batting cage as they do on the mound and have done so for their entire professional career while also having legit pop in their bat. So, moments like Tim Hudson going deep to break a scoreless tie in the seventh inning of a gem would likely end up being a relic of the past.

At the same time, this means that we won’t have to see Mike Foltynewicz spend three pitches flailing about in the batter’s box in an effort to get it over with as quickly as possible. A pitcher hitting a home run is an admittedly cool moment. Bartolo Colon’s miraculous moonshot in San Diego is a classic moment that will never be forgotten by baseball fans. I’m totally fine with those moments being left behind for good if it means that I never have to see this again.

So while this doesn’t appear to be a completely done deal, it’s clear that this is the closest that we’ve ever been to seeing the Designated Hitter finally come to National League ballparks. If and when it happens, it’ll be a good thing for baseball — even if I know that I’ll probably never convince purists that it is indeed a good thing. From the short-term benefits (particularly for the Braves) to the long-term effect on roster construction, the positives of a move like this will greatly outweigh the negatives. The mistake of 1980 will finally be rectified and baseball can enter into a bold new world where double-switches are no longer considered to be the height of baseball strategy.