Expanded Rosters Exacerbate Baseball’s Biggest Issue

How was your Labor Day? You, hopefully, were off enjoying it and not reading Twitter. If you weren’t, it’s probably a safe guess to say that more likely than not, you don’t follow the official account of the Cincinnati Reds. If so, you may have missed this tweet:

That’s — deep breath — pitchers Carlos Contreras, Daniel Corcino, David Holmberg, J.J. Hoover, and Ryan Dennick; catcher Tucker Barnhart; infielders Jake Elmore and Donald Lutz; and outfielders Jason Bourgeois and Yorman Rodriguez. When I first saw it, I was sure adding 10 players for the September roster expansion, pushing it to 35 active players –16 pitchers! — with the possibility that Joey Votto may yet return to be No. 36 was a record. After doing some research, it seems that other teams have had 36 players recently, and the Mariners will soon have 17 active pitchers. So while my initial shock is maybe muted a bit after seeing that, the point hasn’t, which is that expanded rosters continue to be ridiculous.

This is barely even baseball. It’s time for this to change.

* * *

It was “time for this to change” years ago, of course. This post won’t be the first to argue this. It probably won’t even be the 50th. You’ve already heard the argument that it’s silly to play the first five months under one set of rules, then the final month, containing some of the most important games, under a completely different set of rules, and it is. This isn’t really about the Reds, but let’s stick with them for a minute. They have 24 games remaining. 16 of them come against Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, the NL Central trio fighting it out in the tightest three-way divisional race in baseball. They won’t make the playoffs; they will play a sizable role in determining who does, and they’ll be doing so with a much larger bench (and therefore, strategy) than they might have otherwise.

It’s generally a good thing that the latest iteration of the MLB schedule attempts to put so many intra-divisional games late in the season, but that just means that so many of these extremely important games are played with wildly over-inflated rosters. Worse, it’s not the same for every team. Tampa Bay, for example, added only three new players, plus brought back David DeJesus from the disabled list. It’s valid to say that there’s no reason that the Rays couldn’t also have activated as many players as anyone else, but that also hardly seems to matter. That there’s even an option for any team to have more active players as their opponent is stunning.

It’s a complaint we see every year, of course. In 2009, Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin came out against it, saying “It’s like a Spring Training game” and “it’s like playing three-on-six in basketball or 11-on-18 in football.” While that’s not entirely accurate — it’s not like one team gets to add a second shortstop and two more outfielders during play — his point is well-taken, and his solution was the same one that everyone has: activate as much of your 40-man roster as you like, but designate a certain amount — say, 30 — for each game.

That’s what Bobby Cox and Terry Francona said in the same article, too. That’s what Clint Hurdle said in 2012. That’s what Terry Collins said, the same year. That’s what Mike Scioscia said three days ago...

“The one idea that I’ve really backed is the idea almost like hockey, when you call up and expand your roster to 37 but every given night you can only dress 30,” the Angels’ manager said. “I think you would lock the roster in as of September 1, those guys would have to dress every day, and then out of the added guys you have five guys that could dress on any given night and I think that would make it a little more equitable for match-ups.”

…which is great. But is it enough?

Remember, really, that this isn’t just about what’s fair and right when it comes to contesting very important baseball games. It’s also about not exacerbating one of the main problems facing the game right now. The biggest talking point about baseball right now, fairly or not, is length of game. There’s a certain beauty to the clock-free nature of baseball, and there are absolutely situations where the hand-wringing about the length of games goes too far, but it’s absolutely a valid question worth discussing.

Of course, “length” and “pace” are not the same thing. An exciting game that goes 3:10 is generally going to be better-received than a boring one that go 2:45. It’s the unnecessary amount of down time between the action that’s the problem for people, and when you think of what drives that, you generally think of two things: pitchers and hitters taking their sweet time between pitches, and the several minutes it takes to get a new pitcher into the game during mid-inning pitching changes.

Now, realize how never-ending September bullpens affect a manager’s ability to pick and choose relievers at will. Since 2000, we’ve seen 790 games that didn’t go into extra innings and saw one team use at least seven pitchers. Guess which month saw the overwhelming majority of them?

pitchers_since2000

Put another way, 57% of all such games this century have come just in September, which for our purposes also includes the rare times it’s happened in regular season play in early October. Each of the eight times a team has used nine or ten pitchers in a normal-length game, it’s happened in September. Certainly, it’s not only due to expanded rosters, because a contending manager in a situation where every game counts is more likely to manage a game like it’s a do-or-die playoff scenario rather than giving a pitcher extended leash, but that hardly explains this overwhelming number. Managers don’t like to sit idle. They make moves because they can, and in September, they can do just that more than ever.

That kills the pace of game, but it also hurts the length of game, too. I looked up all games that went at least 3.5 hours but didn’t go beyond nine innings since 2000, of which there were 1,868. Again, it’s September easily in the lead, though to less of an overwhelming extent, so this will be easier to show with bars rather than a pie:

since2000_35hr

Really, drawing out these games is happening at the worst possible time. School has started around the country by now, if not several weeks ago. The NFL behemoth gets started this week. College football is already in full swing. Just as baseball is losing the summer window it has to be the only game in town, its rules change to allow a game that too many already think is too slow and too long to become slower and longer, and it comes with the fun side effect of having managerial strategies completely change in the most important games of the year. (Not to mention logistical issues; Buck Showalter said last month that if the Orioles added too many players before heading to Fenway Park, they’d considered dressing in the hotel, rather than the locker room.)

Yet despite the continual complaints from those in and around the game, nothing has changed. In late 2012, there were reports that baseball was finally ready to improve this, with CBS reporting that there was “increasing momentum to change the rules by next season,” for many of the reasons discussed above. Obviously, nothing has happened. No matter what the solution is — either limiting call-ups to a number below the full 40, or having an NFL-style “active/inactive list” declared for each game, or both — it’s hard to see it not being an improvement on the free-for-all we have now. Unlimited roster expansion adds unnecessary time to games, and it takes away from critical pennant stretch matchups.




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Mike Petriello lives in New York and writes about the Dodgers daily at Dodgers Digest, as well as contributing to ESPN Insider. He wrote two chapters in the 2014 Hardball Times Annual as well as building The Hardball Times and TechGraphs, and was an editorial producer at Sports on Earth. Find him at @mike_petriello.


79 Responses to “Expanded Rosters Exacerbate Baseball’s Biggest Issue”

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  1. Plucky says:

    The problem with the “35 on the roster, 25 (or 30) dress” is that the obvious exploit is to not dress the 4 SP’s whose spot isn’t up. For any particular game you could have a 25-man roster but still have a 10- or 11-man bullpen. I agree that there needs to be some limit on number of players who can get in a game, but it needs to be thought out more thoroughly

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    • Guest says:

      What Scioscia said is that your 25-man roster is locked. For example: the Angels would have to dress Wilson, Weaver, and Santiago on the days Shoemaker is pitching

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    • louielips3 says:

      How about make the roster limit 21 all year long? Maybe even be allowed to increase that number if the game goes into extra innings.

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    • Mitchell says:

      As I read it, there is no such problem in Scioscia’s proposal. He specifies that you still have to have your playoff roster set Aug 31/Sept 1 and “those guys would have to dress every day.” Only Sept. call-ups could dress one day but not another.

      I’m an extremist here. I don’t see any reason at all to expand active rosters for Sept. If you want to call-up a bunch of your 40 man guys to have them work out with the club and get acquainted with the Major League game and life, knock yourself out. But I don’t think anyone not on the Aug. 31 roster should be eligible to play. The 25 man roster is plenty good enough for the other five months of the regular season, the playoffs, and the Series, but MLB reverts to spring training-style rosters for Sept? It makes no sense to me.

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      • The Ancient Mariner says:

        If you set your playoff roster with only four starters and then called your fifth starter back up, you’d still have a little flex.

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        • Lanidrac says:

          That’s true, plus teams are given flexibility to their playoff rosters through any players that go on or come off the DL in September. You could drop your 5th starter off the playoff roster, have three guys get healthy in early September, and still count most of your starting pitchers as inactive for each game. You could force teams to lock in their playoff rosters for the whole two months (September and October), but you can’t ask teams to make those kinds of decisions a month before the playoffs even start.

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  2. Mike says:

    Don’t use pie charts!

    A bar graph would be much better for the first one! And time should be ordered left to right (such that September is on the left).

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  3. ian says:

    Expanded rosters barely register as an issue in baseball. It’s been happening for years and years and to me, and calling it “barely even baseball” and “having managerial strategies completely change” are borderline hysterical. This is an obsessive fans’ problem. Most casual fans are probably barely aware that expanded rosters even exist.

    I’m fine with changing the way expanded rosters are done, but to call it “baseball’s biggest issue” is pure click-baitery (or just delusion) in action.

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    • Mike Petriello says:

      Well, two things there:

      1 — I didn’t call expanded rosters “baseball’s biggest issue.”

      2 — you’re probably right about casual fans, but since when is FanGraphs a place that caters to casual fans?

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      • Catoblepas says:

        You did call pace of game baseball’s biggest issue, but I think I disagree. There was a recent piece in the New Yorker that agreed that, by revenue measures, baseball is fine, but argued that by social measures, baseball is not, and basically used the fact that Mike Trout could probably get a good distance down the street before someone recognized him as the crux of the argument.
        I think September call-ups are awesome for combating that problem (if its something baseball decides it wants to fight). Everyone loves prospects! Every prospect has the ceiling of the best player in baseball, and the more fans actually get to see them and hear about them, the more easily they could be built up into a superstar. I have looked at Joc Pederson’s page a lot more in the past 48 hours than I have all year, and if he takes off, I’m now more likely to be a fan. I think that’s the biggest thing baseball should focus on fighting, and I think September call-ups are one good way of doing so.

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    • Weston Taylor says:

      The casual fans aren’t aware that it exists, but what they ARE aware of–which Mike highlights in the article–is that games take longer and are slower, which makes it harder for baseball to compete for viewers while football is on TV.

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    • coreyerb says:

      I took “baseball’s biggest issue” to mean the length of games, which is less of a stretch and arguably true. The headline implies having expanded rosters only worsens the problem (length of games).

      Casual fans certainly are aware of the length of games and it does keep some away.

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  4. prs130 says:

    I don’t see why there should be expanded rosters at all. Why make the decision that each team’s 25 best will battle it out through August, and then suddenly each team’s 40 best will battle it out for the rest of the season? (And if your counterargument is that the 26-40 guys aren’t that useful anyway, then why add them?)

    I also dislike the large number of off days during the postseason, enabling teams to cut down from a 5-man rotation to a 3-man rotation. I’d prefer that we play the same game under the same constraints from April right through October.

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    • Roger says:

      Pre-expansion era, we had 2 leagues of 8 teams apiece, and by September 3/4ths of the league (or close to it) was out of the race and auditioning players for next year. Those that were in the race of course were looking for every possible edge. I’m sure it was a popular rule with the teams then. It didn’t mean much of a payroll boost back then, before free agency. No one was concerned about the pace of the game, pre-NFL, pre-NBA, pre-MTV. Now… well, baseball changes slowly. It’s still a useful rule for many teams. And that matters far more to the rule makers than a level playing field or appealing to fans. Such is MLB.

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    • pearldrumbum says:

      I agree. I just don’t see the point in expanding at all. I feel it can and should be much more simple.

      1. Playoff rosters set September 1st, with the exception of DL replacements (I understand this leaves loopholes still, but I guess I’m OK with that).

      2. Schedule doesn’t change for playoffs. Play all 5-7 games in a row and just play day games on travel days (never will happen, because TV).

      3. Move the trade deadline earlier in the year, or do away with it all together (essentially making the deadline opening day). Still have waiver provisions and things that allow player movement between teams in certain circumstances, just making it harder for teams to completely revamp half-way through the year. ‘Baseball is a marathon’ right? I don’t see many marathon runners swapping out their legs at mile 14.

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  5. Too Many Players says:

    Any idea if the team that uses the most amount of pitchers in any of those long September games actually get Wins? It would be interesting to see if they are actually improving their odds of winning or just wasting all of our time.

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  6. Jasonhgc says:

    So how does this get negotiated in the next CBA? The MLBPA wants to reduce the number of players earning a big league salary and service time, isn’t that something the owners should want?

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  7. Hank G. says:

    It’s a complaint we see every year, of course. In 2009, Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin came out against it, saying “It’s like a Spring Training game” and “it’s like playing three-on-six in basketball or 11-on-18 in football.”

    idiot. ,m

    Any GM who brings up fewer players than other teams and then complains about being outnumbered is an idiot.

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    • Hank G. says:

      HTML fail.

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      • Hank G. says:

        FanGraphs might consider adding a preview or edit function to the commenting software.

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        • Jason Kipnis' Soul Patch says:

          Hank G might consider increasing his HTML karma by contributing thoughtful comments instead of name-calling.

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        • Bad Bill says:

          However, Hank G is correct, both in the desirability of an edit/preview feature and in his view of the GMs who don’t take advantage of the callups and complain about those who do.

          Rather than engage in name calling of your own, please explain how it is advantageous for a GM not to take advantage of roster expansion. If he doesn’t have anybody in the minors worth adding to the major-league roster, that’s just tough, because a savvy GM knows that a decent farm system is a significant asset for a team. Failure to develop and exploit that asset simply means that the GM is not doing his job well, and we’re back to Hank’s point.

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        • stuck in a slump says:

          Well, I can think of one reason why managers wouldn’t want to utilize the full 40 man roster and call everyone up:

          Service time

          Another large problem with baseball.

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        • Catoblepas says:

          not really how service time works, since what matters are full years or super two thresholds. Definitely something that is stupid about the current CBA, but not a problem here.

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        • Stuck in a slump says:

          I was always under the impression that service time was cumulative, so two Sept call-ups could affect a player’s super two status.

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    • SillyGomez says:

      Wouldn’t it make sense for a person to represent what they believe, i.e. over expanded rosters a bad thing therefore not doing it themselves?

      Did I just fart?

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      • Jason says:

        They are going to do everything they can to win, but they don’t have to like it. Some managers don’t like the idea of a DH, but they wouldn’t let their pitchers hit on principle.

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  8. D. Goat says:

    this is great, Mike. you covered pretty much all the bases though, i can’t get too much behind the argument that teams who call up fewer players are at a disadvantage. this was a decision the team made and lack of talent on the 40 man is not that much different than the disparity between any two 25 man rosters. it is what ot os. that said, the NFL style option seems a fine solution to what doesn’t seem like a huge problem to me.

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  9. D. Goat says:

    oh yeah, and i love the pie chart.

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  10. Roger says:

    Maybe a more salient rule would be to directly limit bullpens to no more than 7 pitchers.

    A tangential rule suggestion I would make would be to dispense with the 8 pitch warm up routine when it’s a non-injury situation and the preceding pitcher has faced less than 3 batters. While that may or may not be an effective penalty, it would cut about a minute off of pitching changes and give the TV networks less reason to cut to commercials. The manager would have to plan more for (L/R)OOGY scenarios.

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    • Lanidrac says:

      Then how would teams audition relief pitchers for next year?

      As for the other idea, good luck convincing the networks to agree on fewer commercials. They’re willing to sign these huge TV deals with MLB teams for a reason, you know.

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    • jfree says:

      My idea is to combine the AL and the NL rules. Implement the DH in both leagues – but beyond the starter (ie starting DH stays in the game as long as the starting pitcher does), every change in pitcher also requires a change in the DH. Ultimately this would force the limit in bullpens because you’d run out of bats and/or the cost of changing pitchers would start eating into the middle of your batting order.

      Right now pitching changes are costless for both leagues – the AL can keep their good DH bat in the heart of the order the whole game and the NL can keep a crappy bat at the bottom of the order (and pretend that their one-out relievers are actually going to bat in two innings).

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      • Nick C says:

        And the relief pitcher has to put his head ontop of a bat and spin around as many times as there are players on the roster before he can make a pitch. And must make his next pitch within 10 seconds of stopping or else its an automatic ball.

        No offense but your idea sounds about as great as the one I proposed. :D

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        • jfree says:

          It’s not complicated. The rule would simply define the designated hitter as the player who is designated to bat for the specific named (not ‘generic’) pitcher. When that pitcher is no longer in the game, that batter is no longer in the game either. And obviously a pitcher can be designated to bat for himself too (like the NL currently does).

          It will shorten games – year round – by bringing back multi-inning relief appearances. And eliminate 1-2 visits to the mound each game. Will probably also result in some more scoring too – which is starting to turn into a problem for the game as well.

          Changing some roster rule for September only does nothing to change the ‘biggest issue in the game’ which is over-long games. And if managers have to spend time in the dugout figuring out the specifics – well that’s a lot better than the manager wasting the fans time by making too many pitching changes and delaying the game.

          When a negative externality is costless/free (ie pitching changes or pollution), too much of it is produced.

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        • Lanidrac says:

          Sorry, but I prefer (and I bet many fans would agree) the NL style of baseball with the late-game strategy of deciding where and when to pinch-hit and double-switch no matter how long the games get. I never want to see the DH in the National League outside of Spring Training, interleague games, the All-Star Game, and the World Series.

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  11. Kirk says:

    I like the pie chart.

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  12. Kumar Plocher says:

    I think it’s important to have the expanded rosters, for two reasons: resting the regulars at the end of a long season, and also having a chance to see what you’ve got with your closest youngsters. I also think that complaining about the unfairness of one team having more players available than another is silly- the GM’s make these decisions, so it’s their own damn fault if they don’t bring up a suitable number of personnel.

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    • Mark L says:

      If you’ve got 25 guys but still need to give some of them extra rest, then the problem might be the 25 guys, not the system.

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  13. Hurtlocker says:

    The length of games is also associated with the adjust batting gloves “ritual” many batters go through after EVERY pitch, not to mention the pitchers that are human rain delays. Changing pitchers takes time, but fix the first two and we would see a marked improvement.

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  14. mike wants wins says:

    If they need the minor leaguers to get more time, have some kind of pre-AFL thingy……

    I’d think anyone should be able to bring up anyone, but still only have 25 guys on the roster any given night. This seems like a relic that has always been there, so they keep doing it (that and the CBA thing).

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    • Mark L says:

      I like this system. If they want to keep a “roster expansion” thing, allow free exchange of players on and off the 25-man in September.

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  15. Pie Chart says:

    Pie Charts!

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  16. Breadbaker says:

    So how many of those games involved games where both teams were just playing out the string, versus games where one team was in a pennant race and the other was just playing out the string, versus both teams in the hunt for a spot? If the two Texas teams play each other this September, I don’t think baseball needs to be considering changing their rules based on the pitcher usage during those games.

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  17. While I see the point about game length, I would disagree that the “same” game is played all season long.

    April: Teams go with a 4-man rotation vs. those who go with a 5-man rotation because they have 5 good starters.
    May: Teams all go with 5-man rotation, good or bad.
    June: Teams start bringing up their top prospects in order so that they don’t go Super-two, but many teams don’t have such top prospects and have no one to bring up.
    May-July: Trades can be made at any time, but if a team don’t have enough good prospects, they can’t make a trade for a good player.
    August: Trades can only be made via players who pass through waivers, but if a player they happen to need don’t make it through, they can’t participate in a trade.
    September: Teams that have good enough players to bring up will bring up a lot of them, teams that don’t don’t.

    Every month certain teams can’t participate, depending on their circumstances with their farm system. Is any of this less fair than September?

    Scoiscia might not like this, but I didn’t care that he was able to bring up K-Rod in Sept 2002 and then through a loophole in the rules, K-Rod could pitch in the playoffs even though he was not on the 40-man list on September 1st. He seemed to like the rule pretty well back then.

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    • stuck in a slump says:

      I think that the A’s, Tigers, Mariners, Cardinals, Red Sox, and Rays all proved that you don’t need top prospects to get top talent.

      A’s and Red Sox: Completed a trade of Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester and Johnny Gomes

      Rays, Mariners, and Tigers: Completed a trade of David Price (to Tigers) for Drew Smyly (Rays), Nick Franklin (Rays), Willy Adames (Rays), Austin Jackson (Mariners)

      Cardinals and Red Sox: Completed a trade of Joe Kelly and Allen Craig for John Lackey and Corey Littrell

      These were some BIG trades that included two prospects total, and both were in A ball. You don’t need to have big name prospects to pull off important trades to help you win now, and I have a feeling that controllable big leaguers who should be consistently above average but are flawed may be the next big market in trades as teams value their prospects more and more.

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  18. Spa City says:

    You mentioned “baseball’s biggest issue,” so naturally I assumed you meant the “Tampa Bay” Rays being named after a body of water rather than a city. It was bad enough when teams started using states (Texas, Minnesota, Utah) instead of cities, and grew worse when teams got cute and used geographic regions (New England, Carolina) or just odd (Golden State). But of all the problematic practices for team names, the worst of all is using a body of water.

    Clearly we have very different ideas about baseball’s biggest issue. Hopefully the new commissioner will finally resolve this problem.

    Speaking of which, baseball’s second biggest issue is the fact they have a “commissioner” but no actual “commission.”

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    • Lanidrac says:

      I’d argue that a bigger name issue is the “Los Angelos Angels of Anaheim.” Can you get anymore ridiculous than that?! I get that the stadium rights require the use of “Anaheim” in the team name, so just go back to calling them the “Anaheim Angels.” The naming link to LA isn’t really necessary is it, especially when it literally translates as “The The Angels Angels of Anaheim?!” At the very least have the sportscasters use the team’s full name on the sports shows, rather than lopping off the last part continuously.” They don’t like how unwieldy is is to say all the time? Then get them to help convince the Angels to change it!

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      • Spa City says:

        Agreed. The “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” is absurd.

        But then again, at least Los Angeles and Anaheim are actual places on dry land where baseball is/could be played. Tampa Bay is water.

        Regardless… the new commissioner is on the clock with regard to these troubling questions. I expect him to issue a new system of regulations to govern team names using his “best interests of baseball” authority.

        And also reinstate Peter Edward Rose.

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        • Lanidrac says:

          Well, “Tampa Bay” could be a reference to the territory covering both Tampa and St. Petersburg. After all, the stadium itself is located in St. Petersburg.

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    • Lanidrac says:

      By the way, there are occasionally reasons why the state name is used instead of the city name. For example, the “Colorado Rockies” and “Texas Rangers” are actual terms outside of baseball, while the “Minnesota Twins” name refers to the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. There have also been teams that have swapped the state name for the city name later like the Angels, Marlins, and football Cardinals.

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      • jfree says:

        Not to mention that the Utah Jazz is an homage to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir which invented it. And the Los Angeles Lakers is a sly reference to the movie Chinatown and Mono Lake.

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  19. Lanidrac says:

    While limiting the day-to-day active players could work as a way to speed up the game while keeping the benefits of the expanded rosters (although there are issues that need to be ironed out with the idea), I think it would easier just to limit mound visits (for both catchers and pitching coaches) and enforce the 20 second pitch rule that’s already on the books. This would also have the added bonus of speeding up the game all season long rather than just during September.

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  20. Chris from Bothell says:

    I don’t know you well enough to say “oh, come on”, so I will express that instead as “I do not think this is the scale of issue you do”.

    First thing that comes to mind is how the DL is openly manipulated throughout the year, to say nothing of legitimate injuries. Add to that the things others have pointed out about service time issues or making room for various talents, and really, no team in baseball goes wire-to-wire with their Opening Day roster. Think of it as organization vs. organization rather than team vs. team, if that helps.

    And I am too biased to be able to constructively opine on length of game arguments because I’ve never understood or agreed with them. If someone wants to watch highlights of a baseball game, catch it on sportscenter later. If someone only has 180 minutes max, get up and leave in the late innings. If you’re actually interested in watching a baseball game, start to finish, then clear your afternoon / evening and relax.

    And lastly, I’m not sure how you got through an entire article whose premise was roster stability and fairness without mentioning Adam Dunn. 40-man, 30-man, year-round 25-man, whatever; size of roster is irrelevant if a team can obtain a designated hitter from another team with a month to go in the regular season. Your beef isn’t about expanded rosters, it’s about mercenaries and who gets to use what resources. If you want the game to look the same and operate under the same rules for all 6 months of the season you might as well limit trades to the offseason too.

    Anyway. There is nothing sacred about the 25-man, and no point in the regular season that is purer baseball than most any other. Make it a fixed 35-man roster year round with no DL if you’re that concerned about fairness.

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    • Mike Petriello says:

      Some fair points here, but why would I mention Adam Dunn in an article about how expanded rosters make the game take even longer?

      I never said teams should have the same 25-man roster all year. Trades are great. I just don’t like that they can have 36 active players in September.

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      • jfree says:

        Once Adam Dunn finds out that Coco Crisp (nomnomnom) is on the same team, then the games may well be delayed for roster reasons. If Dunn eats Crisp and he then comes to bat, does that count as using up two players on the roster? If Crisp is in the belly of the Big Donkey is he still included on the roster of the Green-and-Yellow Beane? What if Dunn also eats the Green-and-Yellow Beane? And where’s Jack?

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  21. TKDC says:

    This is clearly a presentation of data to try to prove a thesis. The number of 7-pitcher games is pretty meaningless. I mean, we’re talking about 30 games per September, or each team doing this in September all of once. In-inning pitching changes would be the best gauge of this. That is the only time a pitching change ever has a non-negligible effect on the length of a game. If that is too hard, just the average pitchers per game. Picking a number that is very unlikely given the roster limitations, but then making a big deal about 30 games per year because you can make a pie with a really big piece is unconvincing to anyone who would give this even a second thought.

    The difference in 3.5+ hour games could very likely be explained almost wholly by playoff-like games (and we know playoff games go 3.5 hours or longer regularly). But again, why not just look at the average (or median) length of a game? I can’t imagine that would have been harder to do.

    Finally, pace and length of game are generally complaints of non-fans. People who actually like baseball, while perhaps they’d like shorter commercial breaks and faster gameplay, pretty much all would rank these lower on their lists of concerns than other issues, like stupid out-of-market TV/MLBtv/Fox rules.

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    • jfree says:

      I’m a baseball fan (one of the few who still scores games) and I really don’t like the way the game changes once the starting pitcher is gone. Games start dragging on like the last two minutes of a basketball game. And this is a change over the last 15 years or so. I love a pitchers duel but that’s only good when the starters are dueling. When it turns to my LOOGY/7th inning/ROOGY/setup/closer vs your midrelief/LOOGY/ROOGY/whosthisupforoneday/whosthat – all to satisfy the micromanaging obsession of a manager, I lose interest completely. And this stuff isn’t just happening in close meaningful games. It’s happening in every game because bullpens are now filled with one-legged 20-pitch-max specialists.

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      • TKDC says:

        In a very scientific study I just did of “looking at yesterday” there were 24 instances of teams bringing in a guy to record fewer than 3 outs. There was a full slate of games. So that means each team on average did this .8 times yesterday. I think you might be overreacting a bit.

        However, really you are not addressing my point. Which is that the evidence presented is clearly to sell a specific narrative, that expanding rosters makes games longer (and perhaps more boring). Just saying you don’t like the micromanaging and specialization doesn’t make expanded rosters a problem, even given the parameters for what a problem is that you yourself set.

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        • jfree says:

          Well actually ‘yesterday’ was pretty abnormal. Two complete games (extremely unusual now), two 8 IP (unusual except for the once every fifth day ace pitchers), and 4 blowout games (not unusual – but they STILL had the plethora of one-inning nonsense)

          And the fact remains. In 1963, when baseball was still America’s pastime, the average game was just over 2 hours. Today, baseball is the #3 sport – and falling – and games average just over 3 hours. Still the same nine innings and 24/27 total outs. Still the same 24 hours in a day for fans – but actually less recreation time since work weeks are longer.

          Some of that extra time stuff won’t be going away (media delays). Some of it absolutely better go away if baseball ever wants to restore its connection to the non-obsessed fanbase.

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        • jfree says:

          To compare those average times to one alternative pastime:

          Average popular movie has stayed the same over those 50 years – roughly 2 hours (with family-oriented G/PG films a bit shorter)

          Average opera or Swedish/Italian art film or other ‘high-culture’ event has stayed the same over those 50 years – roughly 3 hours

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        • Mark L says:

          jfree completely nails it.

          I’m as hardcore a baseball fan as you’d find, but I work, and when I come home it’s nice to be able to do something other than watch a game. A 2-hour game leaves me time to read a book, or take the dog for a walk, or whatever. A 3+ hour game leaves me basically no time.

          Ultimately, casual fans dropping their money on a game is the thing that allows baseball to keep going, to attract top athletes, and so on. The game needs to make some changes to the time-management that will make games a little more similar to they were when it was the most popular sport in the country.

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  22. Krog says:

    My personal solution to reducing pitcher usage is to only allow a pitching change if the pitcher has given up a run (with exceptions for in-between innings or due to injury). Once a pitcher has given up a run he can be removed at any time. Reducing pitching changes during innings will speed up the game and eliminate the one-batter specialists that bloat pitching staffs.

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  23. Tito Landrum says:

    I love expanded rosters, always have. If your team is not contending then you hope to see some of your clubs prospects get some playing time, perhaps get a glimpse of the future. If your team is contending then your team gets some extra bodies that can, potentially, help your team win games. If your team has a big lead, like the Orioles, you can give some of your regulars a little extra rest. Everybody is gassed in September, I see the exta bodies as a very good thing.

    I also, generally, could not care less what ESPN or the “casual fan” thinks about baseball. When I’m watching my team play I want them to do whatever they think they have to do to perform their best, as an individual and as a team.

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