While this week’s sports news wasn’t nearly as wild as last week’s was, I wanted to look at the MLB because I haven’t done it in a while and because the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires Dec. 1.
I wanted to discuss a couple of items that are likely to be topics of discussion.
Now, the MLB Players Association and owners have to agree on a new CBA by Dec. 1 or everything involving the MLB hits a freeze.
That means free agency, extensions trades and hirings and firings will not take place, and word around baseball is that some kind of freeze is expected, but it shouldn’t last too terribly long.
So, with the CBA set to expire in less than a month, I wanted to touch on a few topics.
The first and probably most important item I want to discuss is the universal designated hitter.
This is a topic that has been discussed in MLB circles for quite some time, which we got a taste of in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And, it’s really one that I’ve been desiring for quite a while now.
I know baseball traditionalists may say that the universal DH, which would bring the DH to the National League, takes away some strategy, and sure, I agree, but in a day and age of rising contracts, I’d rather not see a pitcher making upwards of $25 million getting hurt doing something that he doesn’t get paid for.
Now, I will say, pitchers that can hit are a blast to watch, but again, I’d rather not see a pitcher getting hurt running up the first-base line. I’ve seen it happen all too often lately, and there’s really no reason for a pitcher to bat.
Besides the injury angle, pitchers are horrible at batting.
It’s not a primary focus anymore for pitchers, therefore, you’ve got a guy coming in every nine batters to step up to the plate with a sub-.150 batting average early in the game.
If a pitcher is rolling, you’re not going to give up that out.
That means, if an NL starting pitcher completes a game, that’s three outs out of 27 that you’re likely giving up during a game.
Though that isn’t a lot, if you could replace that pitcher with a guy that can get on base or hit instead, then you have three more outs to work with.
Using a couple examples from a New York Times article, since the inception of the DH in 1973 for the American League, the AL has bested the NL in batting average every year, sometimes by a wide margin.
Personally, I’d prefer a guy that can mash in the lineup over a guy that doesn’t focus on hitting.
It’s also odd that a professional game plays with a different set of rules for each league.
Also, the DH is used at every level of baseball except the National League.
It’s time for the universal DH.
Next, if we’re talking about competitive balance across the league, I believe there needs to be a salary floor for the MLB, possibly even a hard salary cap.
The MLB is the only professional sport among the Big Four (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) that doesn’t have a salary cap.
The luxury tax system works as a de facto salary cap with penalties for each year a team is over the cap as well as different tiers of penalties for each tier of the luxury tax passed.
However, there is no current salary floor for the MLB, which is why teams like the Oakland A’s, Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, among others seemingly have to offload their players shortly after being competitive for a few years.
Thus, creating a competitive imbalance among the league.
The Tampa Bay Rays have seemingly broken that formula as they seem to offload players every year, but remain one of the better teams in the league.
But, it wasn’t always like that for Tampa.
Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen Tampa rise to be among the top teams after years of the early days of the franchise being one of the worst teams.
While the Rays have been able to remain competitive despite a large budget, other teams continually seem like they’re in the bottom of the league, picking toward the top of the draft.
That, along with proven formulas of picking toward the top of the draft allow for teams to tank, which has also been a hot topic.
I’ve never been a big fan of the draft lottery, especially for baseball because there are teams that just can’t spend as much as other teams.
But, if a salary floor were to be implemented, that would allow for teams to be able to spend more because they too would be penalized for not spending above the salary, thus preventing tanking by some measure.
We’ll see whether these things take place in the next CBA or not.