In a perfect world, the Cubs would have Alfonso Soriano as their designated hitter and not their starting left fielder. But of course, this is far from a perfect world. The National League still does not implement the designated hitter rule, meaning the Cubs still hide Soriano in left field. However, that perfect world–at least baseball wise–may be coming sooner than you think.
You may not be aware, but Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement expires this winter. Sports fans should be no stranger to collective bargaining agreements. The NFL is currently in a lockout due to the lack of an agreement, and the NBA is facing the same troubles that the NFL is. But unlike those two sports, there is not expected to be a lockout in Major League Baseball. But just because there will be no lockout, does not mean there will not be any changes to the game. In fact, there could be a plethora of changes. The biggest change that could be coming would be a realignment of the two leagues. Right now the National League stands at 16 teams, while the American League stands at 14. The current talk going around baseball circles is that the next CBA may bring upon two 15-team leagues. Meaning one team would move from the National League to the American League. It does not take a rocket scientist to determine what team would make the jump. The National League Central has 6 teams, and the American League West has 4 teams. Meaning a NL Central team will move to the AL West. Given their location and their current rivalry with the Texas Rangers, the Houston Astros are the prime candidate to be moved to the American League.
Of course such a move would immediately have an effect on not only the Cubs, but the entire National League Central. Though, given the fact that the Astros are not at the same level they once were in the early 2000s, the move should not impact the top tier teams–the Cardinals, Reds. and Brewers. Instead, it would leave the Cubs vulnerable to being the worst team in their division.
But the biggest difference resulting from a possible realignment would be the fact that interleague play would be on display throughout the entire season, and not for the two month span that it currently is. With that change, that means the National League teams would use a designated hitter more than they normally do. Meaning Soriano would spend less time in the field, and more time as a designated hitter. Though, it still would be a limited amount of games that the Cubs could use a designated hitter.
Which brings me to my next point. If the realignment does actually take place and interleague games go on throughout the entire season, then there would have to be a change to the designated hitter rule. Obviously interleague games would have a greater impact than they currently do, thus increasing the need for the two leagues to be equal. Meaning that either both leagues should use a designated hitter for the entire season, or, the designated hitter position is scratched from all of baseball. But scratching the designated hitter position would only create greater problems, meaning that the best option would be for the National League to install the designated hitter on a full time basis. Under this scenario, the Cubs would be able to use Soriano as a full time DH and use the opening in left field for one of the handful of outfield prospects in the farm system.
Realignment would be a good thing in baseball to increase equality between the two leagues. But if it is going to be successful, then the two leagues must play under the same rules for the entire season. If such a scenario exists next season, the Cubs would benefit greatly from it.