DH in NL will be reality

PITTSBURGH — It doesn’t matter if you protest or sign an online petition or wear a T-shirt that expresses your sentiments.

The designated hitter is coming to the National League.

It supposedly won’t happen until 2022 at the earliest but make no mistake: It’s going to happen.

The American League added the DH in 1973 on an experimental basis. It never went away.

So no, decades later, MLB is set to make the rule uniform for both leagues. It is worth noting that MLB has been on a crusade to eliminate the distinctions between leagues for some time now.

The league offices were eliminated, as were presidents for each league. Umpiring was placed under central control. Interleague play became a regular feature. Teams shifted — Milwaukee went to the National League and Houston went to the American.

The next step is to make uniform rules and have the DH in National League lineups.

Every rules change in every league is done with the idea of adding offense. The majority of fans like to see the scoreboard light up.

The union is fine with this because most DHs make more than a middle reliever who would otherwise occupy that roster spot.

The universal DH is one of many proposals being floated as MLB and the union start very preliminary idea exchanges on the next labor contract.

Some of the other ideas don’t make much sense. There’s been a proposal to require a relief pitcher to dispose of at least three batters before he can be replaced. Not good, and the savings in time wouldn’t be worth the sacrifice.

Pace of play has become a bigger issue every year because so many games drag needlessly. Of course, there’s an easy way to trim 18 minutes off the time of every game. Just limit commercial time between innings to one minute.

That won’t happen either, because both sides love banking the money that those extra commercials help bring in.

There’s still a lot of time before negotiations get serious and real changes get closer.

But book this: The Pirates will have a full-time DH sooner rather than later.

Speed limit

Have other NHL teams gotten appreciably faster, or have the Penguins slowed down just a tick?

The Penguins’ speed used to set them apart from a lot of opponents. but that’s not happening as much now.

Spring football

A new league, the American Alliance of Football, debuted Saturday night.

This is being typed before the game aired, so there’s no way to judge the quality of the product.

But there’s a market for pro football after the NFL season ends. Some people don’t follow basketball or hockey and need a sports TV fix before baseball starts. The weather is still miserable in a lot of the country, so people are trapped indoors for another month or two.

The regular season ends in mid-April and the championship game will be played on April 27. That makes sense. As the USFL proved many years ago, the appetite for football diminishes and nobody much cares about early summer games.

There’s no local franchise, but Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu are involved in AAF administration.

Remembering Robinson

Hall of Fame member Frank Robinson died last week. He was quite a ball player and a strong personality.

When he was managing the Giants, he came out to find the Pirates’ Tony Pena in the visitors dugout, talking with some friends from the Giants.

Robinson saw him and said, “Hey, let’s go. Take a hike. Get on your own side of the field.”

This was four hours before the first pitch. Pena thought Robinson was kidding. “Now,” Robinson said, gesturing with his thumb.

Pena still wasn’t sure if Robinson was serious. But he left.

John Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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