Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Eliminate the DH

Today Prince Fielder signed with the American League Detroit Tigers for 9 years and $214M. Earlier this off-season Albert Pujols inked a deal with the American League Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for 10 years and $240M. Both were members of National League Central teams. Fielder is 27 years old, and Pujols is 32.

Each took advantage of being able to sign a wealthy long-term contract with American League teams, most likely ending each of those first baseman will end those deals as the team's designated hitter. That gives those AL teams the advantage of signing these all-star caliber players to long-term contracts.

National league teams shied away from such deals. Both the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals had interest in keeping their high-profile athletes, but neither felt comfortable to long-term deals for the prices each athlete was asking for. The Cubs are dealing with the results of such a contract. In 2007 Alfonso Soriano went to Chicago's North Side for 8 years and $136M, the wealthiest contract in Cubs history. By the time this contract runs its course in 2014, Soriano will have been well past his prime for a player better known for his hitting than his fielding.

And as long as the American League plays by different rules, encouraging players to to sit on the bench for over half the game and only coming out to hit once every nine batters, the NL will be at a disadvantage on the field and off by signing marquee players for long-term contracts. Both Pujols and Fielder know they will not be a position player for their entire contract with their teams, rather be relegated to the DH role and extend their playing career.

As much as I'm against the DH rule, Major League Baseball needs to address this issue. They need to make sure it is not a disadvantage for National League teams to compete in the free agent market and eventually on the field.

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