BOSTON: David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox watches his hit in the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Ortiz's hit was ruled a home run after review of the play. Victor Martinez of the Red Sox also scored on the play. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Jeez. As if two big changes -- shifting the Houston Astros to the American League after 50 seasons in the National League, and adding a couple of playoff teams to the championship tournament -- weren't enough, those changes just can't help inspiring thoughts of more change. Maybe even a change to something that's been in place for almost 40 years.
"I would be shocked if 10 years from now there's not a DH in both leagues," said one influential baseball source.
No one believes the National League will adopt the DH imminently. Rather, the thinking is that baseball, as it continues its progressive era, has embarked on a path in which it seems inevitable that all of its teams play by the same rules.
"In 10 years? I'll be long gone by then," said commissioner Bud Selig, who recently signed a contract extension to stay on the job through 2014. "At the moment there is no conversation about [the NL adopting the DH] .... That doesn't mean it won't happen. I've always said it would take something of a cataclysmic event to get that done. Geographic realignment would be such a cataclysmic event."
You might be young enough to have missed the prospect of this cataclysmic event the first time it came around, some years ago. Essentially, you would have a single division that included the Yankees and the Mets, and another that included the Athletics and the Giants, et cetera. The theoretical benefits of such a scheme are manifold, including less travel and more natural-rivalry games. Now, you might be wondering to yourself, "Self, that seems like a nifty scheme, but would the Yankees and Mets and Red Sox and (perhaps) the Phillies agree to be in the same division? Wouldn't all those rich clubs fight hard against being placed in such a difficult division?"
Well, yes ... Unless, perhaps, the playoffs were expanded yet again, to include (say) six or even seven teams per league. What if four teams from the same division could qualify for the postseason? Wouldn't that go a long way toward convincing them to support such a scheme?
Maybe. It's all highly speculative. You know what's not highly speculative, though? Major League Baseball in 20 years will not look exactly the same as it looks today. I promise you that it won't. And it's unlikely that the divisions will be less geographically aligned, or that there will be fewer postseason teams.
So geographic realignment is a real possibility, some-day. And if geographic realignment means a bunch of teams switching leagues, there will be very little chance of maintaining the last real difference between the two leagues. In fact, the American and National Leagues as we know them might disappear. We might have an Eastern and Western Leagues; who knows?
I don't believe we're close to the passing of the pitchers hitting. When it does happen, perhaps within 10 years but quite possibly not, I will be sad. Because the day they stop making some of the pitchers in the major leagues hit, the major leagues immediately becomes slightly less interesting than before.
It will happen, though. It really is just a question of when.