For there to be a 2020 Major League Baseball season, there are still many hurdles to clear – mainly, ensuring players' safety. But if local and state governments approve of games being played, and the owners and players can come to an agreement on safety – as well as money – some form of a baseball season seems likely. 

Monday's plan conceived by team owners would have clubs starting out playing in their home cities without fans, nearly all their games being played against division opponents and instituting the designated hitter all season by both leagues. 

The DH was adopted by the American League in 1973 and has been used ever since. The National League has stayed true to its roots, still allowing the pitcher to bat for himself except for in interleague and World Series games in AL parks. 

Those in favour of the DH contend the position adds additional offense and excitement by eliminating the pitcher batting. Some baseball purists, meanwhile, argue the DH takes away some of the strategy involved in the game. 

The DH is a unique position in baseball. Some established hitters struggle to adapt to the job, which involves a lot of sitting around over the course of a three-hour-long game broken up by their four or five at-bats. Others, though, excel with the specialised role. 

A number of NL hitters have had some experience DHing through interleague play, and here is a look at some that could benefit from filling that role more regularly. 

 

Yoenis Cespedes, LF, New York Mets 

Cespedes was already looking at starting the season on the injured list and possibly platooning some in the outfield after missing all of 2019 following surgery on both heels. 

With the 2020 season now starting in July, at the earliest, Cespedes will likely be penciled in as the Mets' everyday DH – and with good reason. Since being acquired by New York in 2015, he has slashed .379/.419/.759 for a 1.178 OPS while serving as the Mets DH, homering three times in 29 at-bats. 

Questions were already being raised about his ability to play defense, but those questions are no longer relevant if the Mets can just keep his bat in the lineup as a DH.  

Kyle Schwarber, LF, Chicago Cubs 

Schwarber has long been seen as a player whose game is best suited for the AL – a slugger with the bat and somewhat of a defensive liability in the field.

Not only does he look the part, his batting line as a DH backs it up. In 117 plate appearances as a DH – including the 2016 World Series – Schwarber has a .320/.393/.650 slash line for a 1.044 OPS with nine home runs. In 415 career games in the outfield, he is slashing .232/.338/.481 for an .819 OPS. He is homering once every 11.44 at-bats as a DH, compared to once every 15.11 at-bats as an outfielder. 

The Cubs also have a crowded outfield with Ian Happ, Jason Heyward and Albert Almora Jr. in the mix, and shifting Schwarber to DH would be a natural fit. A Cubs scout once compared Schwarber to Babe Ruth, and the evaluation is a bit more apt when looking at Schwarber's numbers as a DH. 

Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants 

Posey has put together a Hall of Fame resume in his 11-year major league career, winning three World Series championships, an MVP award, a batting title and earning six trips to the All-Star Game. A majority of those accomplishments came in the first half of his career, however, as the tolls of catching have caught up with the 33-year-old.

The DH has helped a number of superstars extend their career, and Posey could fill that role admirably. Since 2015, Posey has 87 plate appearances as a DH, producing a .329/.402/.487 slash line for an .889 OPS. Over that same stretch in games when he is squatting behind the plate, he has slashed .293/.365/.420 for a .785 OPS. 

Having Posey DH regularly seems like a no-brainer – he’s more dangerous as a hitter in that role and he’ll avoid the wear and tear that comes with catching. 

Today marks 25 years since Major League Baseball stars called off their strike, which had resulted in the previous year's World Series being scrapped.

It is also 38 years to the day since the New York Mets were left stunned by the death of one of the biggest names in baseball.

History was made on this day in England at Aintree in 1977, while India's cricketers and Manchester United's Wayne Rooney were both celebrating nine years ago.

Let's take a look back at April 2 in sporting history.

1972 - Baseball in shock as Mets manager Hodges dies

Gil Hodges had been a superstar with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Los Angeles Dodgers, and rounded off his playing career with the just-founded New York Mets. An eight-time All-Star, as a coach he added to the two World Series with the Dodgers, Hodges famously reviving the Mets and leading them to a shock 1969 title triumph over the Baltimore Orioles. But Hodges died on April 2, 1972, at the age of just 47, when he suffered a heart attack following a round of golf in West Palm Beach, Florida. It was his second heart attack: a first came in Atlanta in September 1968, early in his career as manager of the Mets.

1977 - Red Rum wins third Grand National

Tommy Stack rode Red Rum to Aintree glory, as the Ireland-bred steeplechaser followed up 1973 and 1974 triumphs at the Liverpool course with an unprecedented third Grand National victory. The feat has never been matched, with Red Rum triumphing against the odds after second-placed finishes in 1975 and 1976. At the age of 12, Red Rum's third success went down as one of racing's most famous wins.

1995 - Baseball stars go back to work

From August 12 1994 until April 2 1995, there was no top-tier baseball in the United States, with MLB stars going on strike in a labour dispute that stemmed from salary-cap proposals that got players riled. The 1994-95 season was abandoned in September, and the strike lasted for 232 days until judge Sonia Sotomayor's injunction against team owners persuaded the players to go back to work.

2011 - India triumph, Rooney treble

India landed Cricket World Cup glory in front of their home fans in Mumbai when the hosts landed a six-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the final. Mahela Jayawardene made a century in Sri Lanka's 274-6 before India reached their target with 10 balls to spare, helped by 97 from Gautam Gambhir and 91 not out from MS Dhoni.

In London, on the same day, Wayne Rooney scored a hat-trick as Manchester United came from 2-0 behind to defeat West Ham 4-2 at Upton Park in the Premier League, an important result as Alex Ferguson's team went on to win the title weeks later.

Hard-throwing New York Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard has a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his pitching elbow and will undergo Tommy John surgery on Thursday.

The rehab will likely keep him sidelined through the first few months of the 2021 season.

"While this is unfortunate, we have no doubt that Noah will be able to return to full strength and continue to be an integral part of our championship pursuits in the future," Mets executive vice-president and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said in a statement.

An All-Star in 2016, the 27-year-old Syndergaard managed to stay relatively healthy last season, starting 32 games after making 32 starts combined in 2017 and 2018 when he dealt with various injuries.

Despite setting a personal high for games started last season, Syndergaard went 10-8 with 202 strikeouts along with a career-high 4.28 ERA and career-worst 1.23 WHIP for a Mets team that finished third in the NL East at 86-76.

Syndergaard is now the third top-end starting pitcher this spring to need Tommy John surgery, joining the Boston Red Sox's Chris Sale and the New York Yankees' Luis Severino.

 

New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran has left his post with the team before taking charge of a single game after he was named in MLB's findings from an investigation into sign stealing.

The Houston Astros were the subject of the investigation from the league after they had initially been warned about sign-stealing policies in September 2017 ahead of their run to a maiden World Series title later that season.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the Astros "took no action" to comply with the policies after the league-wide warning, and general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch were suspended before Houston sacked the pair.

Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora was also dismissed after he was named by Manfred, with Beltran, an Astros player at the time, becoming the latest to lose his job.

Manfred revealed in his statement earlier this week: "Approximately two months into the 2017 season, a group of players, including Carlos Beltran, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams' signs and communicating the signs to the batter."

The Mets announced Beltran's departure in a statement on Thursday.

"We met with Carlos last night and again this morning and agreed to mutually part ways," chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and executive vice president and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said.

"This was not an easy decision. Considering the circumstances, it became clear to all parties that it was not in anyone's best interest for Carlos to move forward as manager of the New York Mets.

"We believe that Carlos was honest and forthcoming with us. We are confident that this will not be the final chapter in his baseball career.

"We remain excited about the talent on this team and are committed to reaching our goals of winning now and in the future."

Beltran added in his own statement released by the Mets: "At a meeting this morning with Jeff and Brodie, we mutually agreed to part ways.

"I'm grateful to them for giving me the opportunity, but we agreed this decision is in the best interest of the team. I couldn't let myself be a distraction for the team.

"I wish the entire organisation success in the future."

Nine-time All-Star Beltran retired from playing after finally landing a first title with the Astros.

The 42-year-old, who played for the Mets between 2005 and 2011, had only replaced Mickey Callaway as manager in November, signing a three-year contract with the option for another 12 months.

New York Mets star Jacob deGrom secured back-to-back National League Cy Young Award honours, while Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander was also recognised again in the American League.

MLB's biggest pitching prize was announced on Wednesday, with DeGrom topping the votes in the NL and Verlander in the AL midweek.

DeGrom became the 11th pitcher to secure successive Cy Young Awards after appearing at the top of all but one of the 30 ballots this year.

"Words can't express it," DeGrom said. "I said it was a dream to win one, but to win back to back, honestly, I'm kind of speechless right now."

A three-time All-Star, DeGrom had a 1.89 ERA and .538 opponents' OPS in his final 23 starts, covering 152 innings, as the Mets missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

DeGrom led the NL in strikeouts (255) and ranked second in ERA (2.43) after the Mets posted a 77-85 win-loss record in 2019.

As for Houston's Verlander, the eight-time All-Star finally added to his 2011 AL Cy Young Award.

Verlander produced one of his best seasons as the Astros reached the World Series before falling to the Washington Nationals – leading the league in wins (21), innings (223), batting average against (.172) and WHIP (0.80).

The 36-year-old finished ahead of Astros team-mate Gerrit Cole, who has been linked with a move away from Houston.

New York Mets star Pete Alonso and Houston Astros designated hitter Yordan Alvarez were named Rookies of the Year on Monday.

Alonso, 24, blasted 53 home runs for the Mets in 2019 and was a runaway winner in the National League.

The Home Run Derby winner finished with 148 points, well clear of the Atlanta Braves' Mike Soroka (82) and San Diego Padres' Fernando Tatis Jr. (26).

Alvarez was the unanimous winner in the American League with 150 points, becoming the third Astros player to claim the prize.

The 22-year-old enjoyed a fine season that included 27 home runs and 78 RBIs as the Astros reached the World Series.

"I'm very happy, very thankful to my family, to the team, to everybody who has supported me, to everybody in Cuba," Alvarez said through an interpreter, via MLB.com.

"I appreciate all the help everybody has given me during the season, especially my team-mates and all the fans."

The New York Mets introduced former star Carlos Beltran as their new manager on Monday.

First-time manager Beltran replaces Mickey Callaway, who was sacked after the Mets finished with an 86-76 record in 2019 and missed the MLB playoffs.

Beltran played 20 seasons in the majors, including just over six with the Mets at Citi Field before he left for the San Francisco Giants in 2011.

"I feel like I was coming to a place where I didn't have to sell anything," said Beltran, who interviewed for the New York Yankees' managerial position following the 2017 season before he was hired by the team in December 2018 to serve as a special assistant to general manager Brian Cashman. "They knew what kind of person I am. They knew what I can bring to the table."

Beltran brings a wealth of experience to the Mets, having won a World Series and earned nine All-Star appearances throughout his playing career.

The 42-year-old also won three Gold Glove awards and two Silver Sluggers in a career which saw him play for the Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, Mets, Giants, St Louis Cardinals, Yankees and Texas Rangers.

"His familiarity with New York City, his familiarity with the Mets, his understanding of how to cope with expectations, adversity and success all factored into it," Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. "Carlos didn't want a job. He wanted this job, and that was powerful in our process."

Beltran added: "The way it has been presented to me, it's going to be collaboration. They are going to give me all this information, they are going to make me make the decisions, which I appreciate, and at the same time as a manager I understand, I want to be a part of everything because at the end of the day it's not a one-man show.

"It's a group of people doing great work to hopefully put the team in the best position possible."

 

The Nationals now have a crucial advantage in the National League wild-card game following their 10-7 win over the Cleveland Indians.

Saturday's victory against the already-eliminated Indians, the Nationals will host the MLB playoff contest at the beginning of October.

Gerardo Parra hit a grand slam in a whopping nine-run second inning to highlight the triumph, which is Washington's seventh consecutive win.

"I don't have to go home and pack," manager Dave Martinez said after the game, via ESPN. "Nice to stay at home. The boys wanted to stay at home, so they came out and swung the bats."

Nationals star Parra finished two of four for the night, along with Ryan Zimmerman, while Daniel Hudson earned the win after pitching one hitless inning.

 

Mets rookie Alonso sets record

Pete Alonso hit his 53rd home run on Saturday, which is more than any rookie in MLB history – surpassing Aaron Judge's record set in 2017. The New York Mets beat the Atlanta Braves 3-0.

Houston Astros star Justin Verlander struck out his 3,000th batter to become just the 18th pitcher to reach the milestone.

Hyun-jin Ryu pitched seven solid innings as the Los Angeles Dodgers claimed their 105th win. He allowed five hits while striking out seven in the 2-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants.

 

Rays struggle against Jays

The Tampa Bay Rays recorded only three hits in a 4-1 loss against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays had seven starters lay goose eggs, including Austin Meadows, Jesus Aguilar and Nate Lowe, who all went 0 for four.

Edwin Jackson gave up three runs on four hits in just three innings of work in the Detroit Tigers' 7-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Detroit split the doubleheader after a 4-3 victory.

 

Soler homers… again

What else do you expect from Kansas City Royals outfielder Jorge Soler? (P.S. This was his second home run of the game.)

Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Villar has power and speed.

 

Saturday's results

Baltimore Orioles 9-4 Boston Red Sox
Minnesota Twins 4-3 Kansas City Royals
Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 Tampa Bay Rays
Chicago White Sox 7-1 Detroit Tigers
Detroit Tigers 4-3 Chicago White Sox
Washington Nationals 10-7 Cleveland Indians
Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0 San Francisco Giants
Philadelphia Phillies 9-3 Miami Marlins
New York Mets 3-0 Atlanta Braves
Chicago Cubs 8-6 St Louis Cardinals
Texas Rangers 9-4 New York Yankees
Arizona Diamondbacks 6-5 San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies 3-2 Milwaukee Brewers
Houston Astros 6-3 Los Angeles Angels
Oakland Athletics 1-0 Seattle Mariners
Cincinnati Reds 4-2 Pittsburgh Pirates

 

Brewers at Rockies

Sunday marks the last day of the regular season and there is a lot at stake. One of the biggest games will be a must-win contest for the Brewers. They trail the Cardinals by one game after losing on Saturday. A Brewers win along with a Cardinals loss will put the two teams in a tie for first place in the NL Central, which would force Game 163. That is not all. The Rays are hoping for a win of their own, and an A's loss, to force a tie-breaker to decide who gets home-field advantage for the American League wild-card game.

New York Mets rookie Pete Alonso set the record for most home runs in a single MLB season by a first-year player.

Alonso hit his 53rd homer of the season on Saturday, eclipsing the record of New York Yankees star Aaron Judge – who set the mark with 52 in 2017.

Mets first baseman Alonso homered off Atlanta Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz, having matched Judge's record on Friday.

"There's no better person to represent not only the Mets, but also the City of New York," Judge said on Friday. "He's going to do special things over his long career. It's the first of many records he's going to break."

Alonso's home run numbers continue to improve as he broke the Mets' single-season home run record in August which was previously held by Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltran.

He also has a chance to become the first rookie to lead MLB in homers since Mark McGwire hit 49 in 1987.

Alonso currently sits first in MLB, while Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez has 49 and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger and Kansas City Royals outfielder Jorge Soler each have 47.

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