The Designated Hitter in the National League in 2021 is Not Decided

photo: Matt Carpenter (Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the story of the case of a social media comment being taken out of context and turned into what appeared to be a legitimate article from a respected national site.

On Thursday, Twins beat writer LaVelle Neal of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis tweeted the following:

Note Neal’s careful and accurate qualifier right up front – “As of now”.

He only tweeted what many of us already understood – that the 2020 universal designated hitter was a one-year only decision – along with many other special accommodations made.

Chris Cwik of Yahoo Sports ran with it, turning it into something much more than a statement of the obvious. He spun that tweet into an entire article, led by the blazing headline that the designated hitter will not be used in the National League next season – as if it is fact, rather than a simple point in time observation made on October 22, 2020.

Report: The designated hitter will only be used in the American League in 2021

This proclamation was picked up and assumed to be gospel by countless readers, who trust Yahoo.

That was a mistake.

Cwik’s article clearly assumes the 2021 decision has been made, with Neal’s tweet being his only cited source. The article focuses on whether the designated hitter will be brought back in 2022 as part of the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement. While the latter could be true, there is no justification at this point to make any assumptions about 2021.

Let’s be honest. We don’t know what we don’t know for next season.

Exhibit A: The DH was not added for 2020 until just prior to Opening Day in July. It had long been reported to be on the negotiating table, but the final decision was not made until the myriad of 2020 issues were hammered out in the long and often ugly back-and-forth between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association that played out over months.

Looking ahead, a new series of meaty negotiations will need to be held between players and owners regarding the 2021 season. Many of the topics should be familiar.

Examples may include:

  • What will players be paid if the regular season again cannot be 162 games?
  • What will players be paid if the stands are not allowed to be full? How might this vary by city?
  • What will be the format of expanded playoffs, and how will players be compensated?
  • Will doubleheaders be seven innings?
  • Will the extra-innings runner on second base be continued?
  • Will the designated hitter be used in the National League?

These topics and many more will have to be collectively bargained before the 2021 season can get off the ground. As suggested, the “many more” will almost certainly include the matter of the designated hitter. The universal DH has been something the players have wanted for a long time and keeping it could be a bargaining chip used to gain concessions in another areas of the negotiations.

Granted, in an ideal world, both players and owners should be motivated to settle the DH question as quickly as possible. It could help the free agent market for players this winter and give NL front offices greater clarity on how to construct their rosters for 2021.

But when does MLB ever make matters easy? And when does one side “give” on an issue without securing a “get” in return?

As already noted, the long list of open items to resolve ahead of the 2021 season are probably not going to be negotiated in a piecemeal fashion. But we will have to see.

Bottom line, while the DH is not set for 2021 right now, unless Mr. Cwik or anyone else can see the future, we do not know its fate for next season – as of yet – which is precisely what Mr. Neal wrote in the first place.

General closing thoughts

It is not uncommon for sites to pick up items written by legitimate reporters and expand upon them, as Yahoo did here. Heck, I have written pieces commenting on others, too. Here we are!

However, my advice is to always go back to the original source and understand the context in which the words were delivered.

This is especially important in the hot stove season to be fired up just ahead. “Rumors” regularly get started by people simply thinking out loud about a trade scenario or a potential free agent landing location – and before you know it, others have turned it into what is misinterpreted to be a legitimate rumor.

Bottom line: Know your trusted sources and understand the context. Please don’t spread fake news!

Thank you for reading and let’s be sane out there!

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