Should the Union Have Sought Another Small Victory? by Travis Sawchik March 3, 2017 Personally, I prefer the DH-less game. I like when managers are forced to make more in-game decisions — in particular, when they must decide whether to allow a starting pitcher to take one last at-bat before exiting. I like that starting pitchers who are perhaps pitching too aggressively up-and-in are held accountable by stepping into the batter’s box. In an age of elevated pitching injuries, I like that the pitching spot allows pitchers a breather when working through the lineup multiple times. I like that each player who wields a bat must also wear a glove. And as a former beat writer, and as a fan of the game, I like that the game moves a little more quickly without the DH. But it seems the adoption of the DH by the NL is inevitable, having become part of the game at the amateur level and every professional level besides the NL. Entering the most recent collective-bargaining cycle, it seemed like the DH-to-the-NL could be in play. Manfred also said NL adopting DH is gaining momentum. Expect it to be addressed in upcoming CBA, so could be for '17 season. #mlb — David Lennon (@DPLennon) January 21, 2016 As for DH, eventually MLB was going to go DH route, with more interleague play & concern over pitchers health. Sure union will be on board. — David Lennon (@DPLennon) January 21, 2016 I bring up the DH today because Pedro Alvarez is still available. I bring up the DH today because the NL’s leading home-run hitters last season, Chris Carter, had so little appeal on the market this offseason that he considered playing in Japan before agreeing to a one-year, $3-million deal with the Yankees. I bring up the DH because Adam Lind (142 wRC+ in 2014, 119 wRC+ in 2015) settled for a one-year, $1.5-million deal with the Nationals in mid-February. I bring up the DH because, as Dave Cameron wrote earlier this offseason, the industry is not valuing bat-only players. The players seemed to have largely kicked the can down the road in the most recent CBA. Their objectives seemed modest in nature, focused primarily on the qualifying offer. And the changes to QO compensation did mark a small victory for the union. Despite a declining share of revenues, players are nevertheless enjoying record average salaries. Perhaps the status is quo is good enough for the majority of players. But if the union is seeking small victories, it’s a little surprising the DH wasn’t more of a focus. It didn’t seem to be a significant negotiating topic in CBA talks despite indications from Rob Manfred that there was growing interest from his perspective, and with Tony Clark suggesting that he was open to the idea when speaking with the St. Louis Post Dispatch back in 2015. Perhaps the players misread the direction of the market, that bat-first players are increasingly experiencing difficulty in finding work. Has the market overcorrected against these players? Will it correct back? We don’t know for sure. What we do know is bringing the DH to the NL could create 15 new starting jobs — real economic growth! — where only a bat is required, though teams increasingly have sought to use the DH as a vehicle to create roster flexibility with more versatile players. Moreover, the DH would also address, if only slightly, the growing revenue imbalance between players and owners. As Craig Edwards wrote last winter, the designated hitter was the highest paid position in the game. Wrote Edwards: A combination of the free agent system, aging, and the decline that puts the spectrum to use mean first basemen and designated hitters make the most money while shortstops tend to make the least when taking all starters into account. Edwards also explored what adding the DH and a 26th man would mean for players’ share of revenues. Adding a 26th man would create just $54 million in new player salary, Edwards estimates, with the average bench salary being $1.8 million at the time of his study last offseason. But if the designated hitter arrived in the NL, the salaries filling those slots would be more significant, assuming the position continued to be paid well because of the type of player — aging sluggers — who often fill it. Now, big picture, the DH debate is a relatively small matter, though it’s a big thing for a growing pool of bat-only players who were still waiting for work in February as spring-training camps opened. Under Clark, the union hasn’t been interested in picking a big fight like, say, over a salary floor or the service-time requirements to become eligible for arbitration or free agency. Players haven’t engaged there. But I think most agree that the players could have done better for themselves in the most recent CBA. And even if they didn’t want to pick large battles, even if their focus is on incremental improvement, they could have chosen — and perhaps won — a smaller victory with the DH, and helped a growing nobody of bat-first players while taking a slice out of a growing revenue imbalance. I like the DH-less game, but the players should want the DH in every lineup in baseball.