Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred walked back earlier comments that suggested growing interest in bringing the designated hitter to the National League.
“I think we’re status quo on the DH,” Manfred told ESPN, “because it is the single most important feature that defines the differences between the two leagues.”
Manfred’s predecessor abolished the league presidents, ushered in interleague play, and assigned umpires to all of baseball rather than the NL or AL. The designated hitter remains one of the last vestiges suggesting a difference in the two leagues beyond their names.
Manfred claimed last week at the owners’ meetings to feel momentum shift in favor of allowing designated hitters to take the place of pitchers in the batting order in the National League as they have done in the American League since 1973. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak seconded the commissioner’s assessment.
“I do feel like there were times I could look all of you in the face and say it’s a non-starter, it’s not being discussed at the owner level or GM,” Mozeliak remarked at the Cardinals fanfest. “But over the past year it has. I’m not suggesting you’re going to see a change but I definitely think the momentum [has changed].”
Despite acknowledging that his comments exaggerated the prospect of change, Manfred nevertheless affirmed a shift in attitudes in his conversation with ESPN. He says that owners in the older league encountering talk of designated hitters twenty years ago would have regarded it as heresy. Even if most NL owners look to maintain this distinguishing characteristic, they now appear open to discussion on the subject, Manfred says.
“The most likely result on the designated hitter for the foreseeable future is the status quo,” Manfred told ESPN. “I think the vast majority of clubs in the National League want to stay where they are.”