Players open to expanded DH, wild card, but MLB not keen
By Ronald Blum
AP Baseball Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Baseball players are open to extending the designated hitter to the National League and to expanding the winner-take-all wild-card playoff to a multi-game series. Management has little interest.
The American League has used the DH since 1972, and there has been more discussion among fans and media of expanding it to the NL.
“It’s gaining momentum, I’ll offer you that,” players’ union head Tony Clark told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday. “Players are talking more about it now than they have in the past.”
DHs often are high-priced sluggers, a reason players are interested in having the rule cover both leagues.
“Fans like to see offense,” said Boston’s J.D. Martinez, who has DHed in 54 of his 92 games this year.
Not all players agree.
“I lightly lean toward no, just because I’m used to the National League style of play,” Cincinnati’s Joey Votto said. “I find that the American League is a little more basic and the games are longer. That doesn’t excite me. On the other side, I guess I do like the idea of the occasional break and getting to DH.”
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said change was unlikely.
“I could have made a deal with the MLBPA on extending the DH to the National League,” he said. “I think the most likely outcome at this point remains the status quo.”
MLB began one-game wild-card playoffs in each league in 2012, when the postseason field was expanded from eight to 10. There has been renewed scrutiny of the format because of the AL East race. Boston is 68-30 and on pace for 112 wins, and the New York Yankees are at 62-33, which projects to 105 wins.
“Having series is always better … for a player in a lot of ways than a one-game playoff,” Clark said. He said complications include a schedule that can stretch from late March until early November and division winners not wanting to have three or four off days before the playoffs.
Manfred said this year’s AL East race is proof of the current format’s success.
“Under the old system the Yankees and the Red Sox wouldn’t care who won the American League East,” he said. “In contrast, under the new system we are all going to be treated to a pennant race that goes all the way through the end of September and they’re going to be trying to win every single game to avoid that one-game wild card.”
He maintained that if the same circumstances occurred in the NL Central, if it were “the Brewers and the Reds that might be winning 100 games, that the uproar would probably be a little less.”
In an era when most calls are subject to video review, Clark said it was not yet clear whether computers could replace umpires in calling balls and strikes.
“Electronic strike zones have been bantered about quite a bit,” he said. “The discussions that we’ve had so far suggest that as much as we want that consistency, we also respect and appreciate the umpires and the human element of the game as well. I don’t know where we’re going to end up at this point. We have a lot more conversations to have with players.”