Jim Henneman: What’s To Like, Dislike About Baseball In 2020, Starting With The DH

Some things I like, don’t like, wonder about, and/or predict while wondering if we’ll have 2020 baseball …

Not sure why it hasn’t gotten some attention, but every projection about how baseball would look if played this year has missed the obvious — that the designated hitter would almost certainly be used in all games. Which means there is a very good likelihood you have seen a pitcher with a bat in his hand for the last time.

From the outset, the National League has resisted the DH rule adopted by the AL in 1973 to spur offensive production. But with time and many changes of ownership the resistance has dwindled and it almost certainly would disappear under any of the scenarios presented for play this year.

Once it’s gone, the DH figures to be here to stay. The Major League Baseball Players Association, which has to approve any rule change, is on record as opposing any attempt to eliminate the DH, making acceptance automatic if and when it gets to that point.

On the flip side, one major concern is that all proposals for play this year eliminate classification of the American and National Leagues. The idea of a World Series being played without designation of AL and NL teams is a little frightening from this perspective.

Hopefully any three-division playoff system would be a one-and-done proposition, but regardless chances are strong that once the DH is tried universally it’s highly likely to be adopted permanently.

It was a sad day for the Baseball Hall of Fame when its board of directors made the painful but necessary decision to cancel this year’s induction ceremony. But those worrying that Derek Jeter’s induction will lose some luster by combining it with next year’s ceremony can relax.

None of the 2021 first-time eligibles figure to attract much attention, leaving open the possibility that the 2020 class would be the sole attraction. Curt Schilling, who fell 5 percent short of the 75 percent needed for election this year, would seem to be the only one who might have a chance of joining Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller.

There were a few who used the “single bullet” voting theory last year, leaving the rest of the ballot blank hoping Jeter would be a solo entrant, so similar thinking, misguided though it might be, could hurt carryover contenders.

Is there any doubt that Baltimore’s baseball fan base wants to adopt Trey Mancini as its next sports hero?

Hopefully the O’s organization realizes it sorely needs another icon and remembers that when Mancini faces a second year of arbitration coming off a blank season.

When Steve Dalkowski passed away last week, it sent a lot of researchers to the record books and turned up some fascinating statistics.

All things considered, given his walk-or-strikeout reputation, it was somewhat surprising to see that the eccentric left-hander gave up 37 home runs, the same as the number of batters he hit with a pitch. The first one seems high, the second one low.

The one number perhaps most widely debated, but without even the faintest shred of evidence, would be the number of pitches Dalkowski must have thrown in his 956 minor-league innings, given the fact that he walked 1,236 and struck out 1,324.

Since pitch counts were non-existent in those days (late 1950s to early 1960s), it’s like trying to guess how many jelly beans are in the jar. However, it’s feasible to suggest the number was more than 40,000, possibly close to 50,000 — on one side or the other.

Using a minimum number of pitches it would have taken for walks, strikeouts and using one pitch for every other plate appearance, Dalkowski would have averaged a touch fewer than 25 pitches per inning — a total of almost 24,000. Given the preponderance of walks and strikeouts, it is not a stretch to say it’s as probable as possible that the total could be double that number.

Suffice it to say the number was, is and always will be … unimaginable.

If there is such a thing, one benefit of the most recent proposal for baseball’s 2020 schedule is that only a few games would involve teams out of their own time zone.

None of the 10 Eastern Division teams would have to change the time on the clock — not that it’s necessary in do-it-all-phone era.

Baseball reportedly will substantially reduce its annual amateur draft to a still undecided number of rounds, somewhere between five and 10, but you have to wonder if even that will be worthwhile, especially for high school players.

It figures to be a draft heavily dominated by college players because there really seems to be no reason for a top high school prospect to sign this year. In an effort to restrict the outgoing cash flow, MLB has determined it will keep the same allotted bonus slot money as a year ago — but with all but a small chunk payable next year.

For high school players on the bubble, 2021 would seem to be a good year for junior college recruiters. With $20,000 rumored to be the most allowable for undrafted players (or for those drafted and signing this year) there will be no rush to sign on the dotted line.

All indications are that any minor-league activity this year will be in an “Instructional League” setting, with teams operating out of their spring training facilities. It will be a lost year for all but a handful of minor leaguers.

Provided there is a season in 2020, teams will have to have some reinforcements ready to deal with inevitable injuries. Every team is going to suffer, but the Orioles figure to be damaged the most. Having top prospect, and last year’s overall No. 1 pick, Adley Rutschman miss his first full year of professional competition will be a huge hit.

In addition, the organization’s scouting system, overhauled big time last fall, will be tested by this year’s severely reduced draft, especially when it comes to those undrafted.

Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox