Photo: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
It’s a tricky and somewhat doomed scenario trying to justify the current way MLB clubs can structure their rosters in September when they are allowed to use up to 40 players via supplementals arriving from the minor leagues. Whether those newbies, potentially 15 additional players, are brought to the big leagues to simply gain experience or to support a team’s playoff chase, their addition can easily cause chaos in a game in which rosters are fixed at 25 for the first five months of the season. Many general managers and others rightfully complain that teams having many additional bullpen options, for example, can slow the game down in general and, at worst, directly affect who gets in the playoffs. If teams see the same handful of relievers for each team over the course of the season, yet, in September during the crucial last stretch of the season, end up facing a number of relievers they’ve never seen before, it’s understandable how they’d be frustrated by that. The same scenario applies for supplemental starting pitchers.
Commissioner Bud Selig has put together a committee to look at this issue and it sounds as if they’re nearing a compromise that would still allow teams to use expanded rosters in September to get a look at prospective players for the future but also would restrict blatant roster bloat and misuse. Reportedly, there is a popular notion to modify daily roster expansion to 30 players and have a ‘locked-in’ group of 25 that must be present each day during September. As such, teams would be able to get a look at younger players and bring them up for a taste of life in the big leagues, but wouldn’t be able to just throw the new guys in there willy nilly or all at once and seriously disrupt the flow of the game for opposing teams. Only five call-ups would be eligible for each game along with a team’s 25-man roster (finalized as per usual at the end of August), and they would be designated as such before each game, so that there wouldn’t be room for nearly as many surprises for teams after a game has started. Some clubs, particularly those in the playoff chase, may not expand their rosters much at all. The new committee is taking into account the fact that a team that does choose to expand its roster should not have an advantage against teams that do not.
Honestly, this is great that they’re taking the time to explore tightening up September rosters. Call-ups are always intriguing, particularly if your team is out of the hunt, but it’s unlikely many baseball fans would be in favor of intentionally creating a skewed atmosphere in the pivotal month of September. I, for one, don’t want September games to resemble one of Tony La Russa’s bullpen-carousel games. There are definitely kinks to be worked out, but it sounds like the group looking at the issue is doing so in a pragmatic, thoughtful way. Now when will Selig figure out that little situation brewing with the A’s out there in Oakland?