MLB commissioner opposed to changing DH rule for World Series

ByJayson Stark ESPN logo
Saturday, October 29, 2016

CHICAGO -- For the first time in four years, the American League representative at the World Series had to play its designated hitter, Carlos Santana, in left field Friday night. But commissioner Rob Manfred said he is not in favor of playing the World Series under a single set of rules in future years.

"I think the problem is picking what that one set of rules is," Manfred told, following Friday night's presentation of the Roberto Clemente Award.

"The National League plays without a DH all year. Their team is built to play without a DH. It's the opposite in the American League. And I think the competitive ramifications of picking a single set of rules would be significant.

"Both teams have to adjust. Each of them has to adjust at some point in the series. And given that we play the game two different ways during the year, that makes some sense to me."

While the commissioner has expressed an openness to changing the game in many other ways, he has consistently said he is in favor of keeping the DH rule. So he doesn't believe in changing that, even though having different sets of rules presents a major impact on baseball's most important games of the year.

"Honestly, I remain of the view that the principal value of the difference in rules is the conversation that it generates," Manfred said. "Even in a week where we have two unbelievable story lines [involving each team], most of the last 24 hours have been consumed by conversations about the designated hitter. And when people are talking about the game, I think that's a good thing for the game."

Indians manager Terry Francona admits he is biased, but he believes American League teams are penalized by the inability to use their best lineups.

"I don't think it makes it a bad game,'' he said before Game 3. "I just don't necessarily agree with this. I just think you set your team up the way you set it up, and then you get to the most important games and you're doing something different.''

Cubs skipper Joe Maddon, a former manager for the AL's Tampa Bay Rays for nine years, told the Chicago Tribune in September he'd prefer the MLB "move to eradicate the DH as opposed to including the DH in the National League."

"It's a better game, a more interesting game," Maddon said. "If you want to teach the game to young people trying to understand and learn our game and are really into the nuances, the NL game is a lot more of that.

"Now having had a chance to do both, there's no comparison with these two games."

Manfred understands that the risks the Indians had to take in playing Santana in the outfield gave more ripple effects than an ordinary DH-rule conversation.

"But I also believe that unless you're going to play by a single set of rules all year long, there's no way you can take the World Series and say we're going to use the American League rules or we're going to use the National League rules, because somebody is disadvantaged," he said. "Both teams -- the National League team when they're in the American League park and the American League team when they're here in the National League park -- have to make an adjustment."