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Zulgad: To DH or not DH? MLB’s failure to get its act together is business as usual

Players Choice Awards Baseball
FILE – In this Sept. 27, 2020, file photo, Minnesota Twins’ Nelson Cruz, center, smiles in the dugout after the Twins clinched the AL Central championship with the Chicago White Sox’s loss during the tenth inning of a baseball game in Minneapolis. Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz was voted Marvin Miller Man of the Year and Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was picked as Player of the Year in annual Players Choice award voting by the Major League Baseball Players Association.(AP Photo/Craig Lassig, File)

The fact it remains an unknown whether Nelson Cruz will return to the Twins next season is not a surprise. Cruz is 40, coming off an excellent season and looking for one more significant payday. What is a surprise — not to mention a major embarrassment — is that Cruz still doesn’t know how many potential suitors might be in the market for his services.

Two months before spring training is supposed to start, MLB still hasn’t clarified whether the designated hitter will be used in the National League in 2021, as it was during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic recently reported that MLB sent a memo to teams telling them to operate under the assumption that there will not be a universal DH this coming season.

This memo was sent despite the fact that almost everyone involved knows the universal designated hitter is coming and will be good for business. The issue is that with the collective bargaining agreement expiring after 2021, owners don’t want to give the players anything without getting something in return and going to the DH in the NL  (and thus creating jobs) is considered giving the players something.

The fact the clock is ticking and MLB doesn’t have its act together should come as no surprise, no matter how maddening it might be for those of us who want to see the sport succeed. Don’t forget MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and the players spent the spring arguing publicly over how the finances would work for a season played during a pandemic! Not exactly a good look considering how many Americans were losing their jobs.

There has been speculation that spring training isn’t going to start on time because of the pandemic, but at some point MLB is going to have to figure out its rules for the coming season. This includes whether we’ll continue to have expanded playoffs, a runner on second base to start extra innings and how big rosters will be?

It would be nice to have answers to all of these questions, but the most pressing one is the DH because there are several players who would like to know whether half the teams in MLB could use them. Cruz leads this list that also includes guys like Kyle Schwarber, Marcell Ozuna, Michael Brantley and Adam Duvall.

Baseball fans should be discussing the possible candidates to sign these players — or really any free agents — instead of rolling their eyes at a sport that can’t even tell you what all of its rules will be for the coming summer. It’s embarrassing and sad. The worst part: It’s also not surprising.