Posted on October 29, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
As has become customary during the World Series, the issue of the designated hitter becomes a talking point. The use of the DH has become quite relevant during this year’s World Series, as the Chicago Cubs are only able to use Kyle Schwarber as a DH, as he is not cleared to play the field, while the Cleveland Indians are taking a risk by putting regular DH Carlos Santana in left field.
However, the unique dynamic the DH creates between National League and American League teams during the World Series isn’t like to change any time soon, at least according to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who weighed in on the topic Friday evening.
“I think the problem is picking what that one set of rules is,” Manfred opined when asked about the issue. “The National League plays without a DH all year. Their team is built to play without a DH. It’s the opposite in the American League. And I think the competitive ramifications of picking a single set of rules would be significant. Both teams have to adjust. Each of them has to adjust at some point in the series. And given that we play the game two different ways during the year, that makes some sense to me.”
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Somewhat ironically, Manfred, a commissioner who has not been shy when it comes to proposing rule changes or alterations, does not want to change how the DH is currently used, in part because of the controversy it generates. “Honestly, I remain of the view that the principal value of the difference in rules is the conversation that it generates,” Manfred explains. “Even in a week where we have two unbelievable story lines, most of the last 24 hours have been consumed by conversations about the designated hitter. And when people are talking about the game, I think that’s a good thing for the game.”
Naturally, both managers in this year’s World Series have also weighed in on the issue, as the DH rule has had a significant impact on how each makes out their lineup each game. “I don’t think it makes it a bad game,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said prior to Game 3. “I just don’t necessarily agree with this. I just think you set your team up the way you set it up, and then you get to the most important games and you’re doing something different.”
Meanwhile, Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who has managed in both leagues, is a proponent of getting rid of the DH altogether. “It’s a better game, a more interesting game,” Maddon said. “If you want to teach the game to young people trying to understand and learn our game and are really into the nuances, the NL game is a lot more of that. Now having had a chance to do both, there’s no comparison with these two games.”
Whether baseball will consider doing away with the DH or making it universal appears to be a discussion for another day. However, Manfred says that the World Series will proceed as it does now, with the DH being used in American League parks, but not being used when a National League club is the home team. “Unless you’re going to play by a single set of rules all year long, there’s no way you can take the World Series and say we’re going to use the American League rules or we’re going to use the National League rules, because somebody is disadvantaged.”