MLB Commissioner: Universal Designated Hitter Coming in 2022

The experimental rule MLB tested during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season is officially on the books moving forward

Boston DH J.D. Martinez hits a grand slam home run
Boston DH J.D. Martinez hits a grand slam home run against the Houston Astros.
Carmen Mandato/Getty

If Major League Baseball actually has a season in 2022, baseball could see a spike in offensive numbers — and not just because MLB stopped testing its players for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs during the lockout.

Speaking on Thursday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed that the league and the MLBPA have agreed to implement a universal designated hitter in the new collective bargaining agreement starting in the 2022 season. That means the experiment MLB tested out in the National League during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season will now officially be on the books moving forward.

Implemented in the American League in 1973 following a ’72 season that saw AL teams collectively bat .239/.306/.343 and score an average of 3.47 runs per game, the so-called “designated pinch hitter” gave ballclubs the option to send a full-time hitter to the plate to bat in place of the pitcher. While the rule change in the AL didn’t lead to an offensive explosion, it did give a number of aging sluggers a chance to extend their careers by allowing them to solely focus on hitting without having to worry about playing in the field.

In 2020, select players on teams in the National League were given that same luxury when MLB temporarily adopted the DH in the NL in a shortened season that saw a number of rule tweaks and changes. Now, after being restored as an AL-only position last season, the designated hitter is back to universal status.

Though the move has felt like somewhat of an inevitability, traditionalists and baseball purists aren’t going to be fond of the decision. Nonetheless, it should benefit baseball and hopefully help improve offense and scoring in a sport that would clearly benefit from an influx of exciting plays.

Baseball is broken in so many ways, it needs more than a universal designated hitter to fix it. But a DH in the NL won’t hurt.

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