Universal designated hitter in 2021? MLB says not so fast
As major league teams continue preparing for the 2021 season, a multitude of unknowns are making the process much more difficult than usual.
Managers like the Cubs' David Ross were recently told to plan on spring training opening on time as usual in mid-February, with the 162-game regular season starting April 1.
A recent report in USA Today, however, cited unnamed MLB owners wanting all players to be vaccinated for COVID-19 before training camp begins, even if that means pushing Opening Day back to May.
"I think there will be significant pressure for players to get the vaccine first before they go to spring training," a National League owner told USA Today. "If (spring training) has to be moved back to April and we play 130 games, so be it."
While dealing with that unknown, NL executives like Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer are also trying to put rosters together unsure if there will be a universal designated hitter next year.
Both leagues used the DH for the first time last season. Overall, it seemed to be a hit.
"When I was a player, I hated the thought of the DH coming in," Cubs manager David Ross said. "Then I get out and did TV (broadcasting). As a fan I was like, 'I don't care about a pitcher hitting. I wish more guys like David Ortiz were hitting.' And (the designated hitter) made my job a lot easier this year as well, selfishly speaking. I enjoyed that."
Hoyer said MLB has advised National League teams to plan on not having the DH in 2021.
If that is the case, that's bad news for fans that like the universal designated hitter and for free agents like Kyle Schwarber.
Non-tendered by the Cubs on Dec. 3, the left fielder has never been known for his defensive skills. Even though he is an ideal fit of the role, Schwarber has voiced disdain in the past when asked about the possibility of becoming a full-time DH.
That attitude has likely changed after the designated hitter was used in both leagues last season, and no DH in the NL cuts out half of Schwarber's potential landing spots.
If he does sign with an AL team that wants him as a DH, the Yankees, Twins, Blue Jays, White Sox and Angels are in the picture.
As for other rule changes implemented last season that face uncertain futures, Ross liked 7-inning doubleheaders.
"It makes a ton of sense for the health of the players," the Cubs' manager said. "I think everybody's on board with that. It's a long day and you can really cash in a staff and a bullpen. The health of the players is so critical to put a good product out there, so I thought that made a lot of sense."
Ross did not like the playoff field expanding from 10 to 16 teams, but he did become a fan of placing a runner at second base to start extra innings.
"I didn't think I would like it," Ross said. "But it puts some intensity and some excitement and some strategy in the game really fast, really early. It was fun. It was all of sudden like, 'OK, here we go.'"