Spring Training in September

I very much love the game of baseball, and like anyone who loves the game, there are some things about the way Major League Baseball produces the game that drive me crazy. One of the glaring voids in the new collective bargaining agreement is the continued use of expanded rosters in the month of September. For the first five months of the season, managers have 25 players to use throughout the course of a game – but when the calendar flips over to the last month of the regular season, skippers are suddenly allowed to call on up to 40 players to take the field in a single game.  There is no justifiable reason for why the rules of the game should change this dramatically when the games matter the most – if you believe that sort of thing.

With that said, the idea of expanded rosters is not completely senseless. Since the minor league season wraps up earlier than the major league season does, active 40-man rosters give younger players a chance to collect a few more at-bats and register a few more innings. It also gives major league coaching staffs and fans a glimpse of what the future could be like. As a fan, that’s certainly not something I can complain about.

Former GM Jim Bowden expressed his thoughts on the topic earlier this year in preparation for September call-ups and cited a number of current GMs who also think this rule needs a change. While Bowden’s piece highlights the financial ramifications of expanded rosters – which are not insignificant – I’d prefer to endorse the sentiments of Padres Cubs GM Jed Hoyer, who said, “Matching up lefties and righties in the fourth inning is not baseball and shouldn’t impact pennant races. I hope this changes in the next collective bargaining agreement.” Unfortunately, it didn’t change and that’s exactly what we did see.

On the last day of the regular season, Joe Girardi gave us a perfect example of how the 40-man roster rule can be grossly abused. On what was arguably the greatest day of drama in baseball history, the Yankees’ manager signaled to the bullpen nine(!) times in the first nine innings. Ultimately, Girardi had to leave Scott Proctor in the game for however long it was going to take for New York to lose. Managers should not be given the opportunity to make the box score of a game in September look like it was played in the middle of March.

Beyond the integrity of the game, more available pitchers means more pitching changes – which means longer games. In 2011, managers used 3.81 pitchers per nine innings over the first five months of the season. In the last month of the season, however, skippers used 4.21 pitchers per nine innings. This increased the average length of a nine inning game by two minutes – a small, but non-trivial amount.

Instead of doing away with expanded rosters altogether – which would likely remove any possibility of seeing your team’s top prospect on the big stage until the following year – a better way to rectify this problem is to keep the expanded rosters but require a manager to select a set of only 25 players who are eligible for the upcoming series (in the same way rosters are selected prior to postseason series). Restructuring the active roster prior to each series is just an arbitrary partition and I’d have little problem if the reshuffling happened for each calendar week instead. This way, MLB could restrict the amount of players a manager can use in a game, but still encourage the use of younger talent. As far as salaries, options, and major league service time are concerned, everything can remain exactly the same as it is now.

I suppose I can understand why this was overlooked yet again. Owners and players are certainly much more concerned with issues of larger financial scope, but I can still hold out hope that some of them actually care about the way they choose to present the game.



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Ian R.
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Ian R.
4 years 6 months ago

I love this idea, mainly because September baseball invariably has a huge impact on each team’s strength of schedule. It’s absurd that some teams are playing minor league outfits while others run into fellow contenders.

I’d rather see teams setting rosters for calendar weeks (with obvious exceptions for injured players) rather than for each series. If you let managers reshuffle the roster every 3-4 days, you may see everyday players being left off the roster for 3-4 days. No manager will leave one of his best players off the roster for an entire week, though, even if the team has already sewn up a playoff spot.

www.thehotteststove.com
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www.thehotteststove.com
4 years 6 months ago

I like the idea, but I’m afraid September call-ups wouldn’t achieve the desired outcomes if the roster had to be set before the series, because most managers would select almost an identical roster to their normal roster aside from occasional injuries. It’s kind of exciting to see the managers utilize the special skills of some of the young players as an asset, but I agree the pitching changes are getting OUT OF CONTROL!

Redonkulous
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Redonkulous
4 years 6 months ago

Other thing with a week vs. a series. Wouldn’t a series allow a manager to keep 2 of the starters off the roster and put them in for the next series? I’m not sure, but it struck me as I was reading

Will
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Will
4 years 6 months ago

The “problem” is hugely overstated. Nevertheless, I fully expect MLB to make a rule change based off of something that happened in one game, involving AL East teams.

Charles from Macon
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Charles from Macon
4 years 6 months ago

I’m not sure I like the idea.

Some of the reasons for the late season “rule change” are stated above.

I don’t buy the “It’s the end of the season and callups shouldn’t impact pennant races” arguement. Every game of the regular season counts. That game that the Rays had to win on the last day wouldn’t have been so meaningful if they had not been 1-6 against Detroit or if they had won a couple more against Oakland.

Pennant races are such because the way the whole of the regular season played out.

If anything expanded rosters have more of an effect on the post season. Since the teams like the Yankees, Tigers, Phillies, etc. had their spots locked up, they were able to give their big guys a bit of rest to prepare themselves for the first round.

futurecfo
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futurecfo
4 years 6 months ago

Gotta agree with this argument. The Yankees played a lot of their regular hitters well into the late innings of the 162 game. Lets not overlook that for the sake of proving a point with pitchers.

Brad Johnson
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4 years 6 months ago

I’ve always supported the idea of naming a 25-30 man active roster before each September game.

Here’s another alternative I like. The number of active players per game can be related to winning percentage. For instance .525 pct and better teams get only 25, .500-.525 get 27, .475-.500 get 30, less than .475 get the full 40.

Those numbers aren’t set in stone, just the general concept.

Anon
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Anon
4 years 6 months ago

There is no justifiable reason for why the rules of the game should change this dramatically when the games matter the most – if you believe that sort of thing.
You completely contradict this statement with your second paragraph.

Regarding the Yankees-Rays, you seem to blame Girardi but ignore the fact that the Yankees were leading 7-0 in the middle of the 8th.

Some type of a rotating 25 man roster seems too complicated and just as apt for abuse as the current system. Why not just have a 30 man active roster in September?

hmm
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hmm
4 years 6 months ago

Players aren’t your statistical machines. They have bodies. The physical and mental strain of playing five months of regular season ball, plus the two months to get ready, is going to wear down some players. A manager can use the expanded roster to protect players from injury for the future, whether it be postseason or the following season(s).

A limit to the expansion I agree with. But an outright elimination is cruel.

JD
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JD
4 years 6 months ago

Why not consider something like hockey does and set the roster but limit the ability to “dress” a specific number of players? Sure, call up as many of your 40 man roster as you care to, but specifically limit the amount of players eligible to be on the field during each game in September.

Craig in MN
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Craig in MN
4 years 6 months ago

I think this is the easiest solution. Just make it a 25 man limit per game. Before the game, you pick the 25 guys. They are basically doing the same thing for doubleheaders this year…giving them a 26 man roster for the day.

Assuming that you’d just sit your 4 other starters most days, you could usually add 2 relievers and 2 position players. But there would be days when a reliever has been used a lot and he isn’t available that day, or a position player is banged up, you could swap them out for a day too. Either way, there’s no reason anyone needs more than a 9 man bullpen and 6-7 bench players.

quincy0191
Member
quincy0191
4 years 6 months ago

Don’t hate the idea, but the execution is terrible.

That’s not to say I like the idea either – Jed Hoyer may not think that it’s “baseball” but Jed Hoyer does not get to decide what baseball is. Hate to go nuclear, but at one point using black players was not “baseball”. Things change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

I think this would be for the worse. As hmm said, players are tired after going constantly, the incessant travel, the grind of months of baseball. Having an expanded roster alleviates some of those aches. Players need that.

The solution seems nice, but is wildly impractical – how many GMs would put their young studs on this pseudo-rosters when they can’t use them in games? Would you, as a GM, be okay with burning through service time while actually not being allowed to use that player should the opportunity arise? I doubt many would. The only solution to that is to demote and promote a player several times during September to keep him on the roster when he’s active and in the minors when he wouldn’t be on the 25-man. That might cause some players to file grievances – just a feeling.

Since that wouldn’t work, then you’ll be limited either to not calling up top prospects – which can hinder their development IMO – or sticking salaried ML players on an inactive list for about a month. At that point you might as well release him (if he’s an impending FA or will be non-tendered) – you’re not going to use him, and if he gets picked up by another team you shave some salary.

Then, of course, there’s the general unpredictability. Maybe the Pirates, who had an unexpectedly interesting season this year, want to win games in September to show their fanbase (and players, and the media) they’re turning things around. But if they’re getting blown out in the fifth inning, might as well get the kids some work. Now you can’t do that – either you “throw” games by playing prospects who aren’t ready, or you waste time on players who won’t be in your organization in two years. Teams on the edge of contention would be seriously hurt by this.

I like the 40-man expansion – it gives rebuilding teams the opportunity to see what their prospects can do, and it gives contending teams the ability to rest their key players in blowouts (no one wants to see Josh Hamilton out of the playoffs or hitting .200 because he hurt himself on September 20th or is just out of gas). It gives every player some degree of rest that they need after the grind of a season’s worth of games. Maybe there are ways to improve it – lower the expanded roster size, limit the number of days a player called up after 8/31 can be active – but I don’t want to see drastic changes.

Husker
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Husker
4 years 6 months ago

I agree with your criticism of the September roster expansion, but totally disagree with your and the other even more Byzantine proposals.
Just keep the rosters at 25.
I also agree with your criticism of managers’ use of huge numbers of relievers in a game, but your and the other proposals would do nothing to solve that.
There is nothing in all of sports more boring than a pitching change unless it’s all the fooling around by pitchers and batters between pitches. I am on the border of losing my interest in MLB because of them. Everybody else I know has already lost interest because of them.

ChrisFromBothell
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ChrisFromBothell
4 years 6 months ago

30 man roster for the entire season, limit of 1 pitching change per inning for the first 9 innings of a game, and call it a day.

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