September 6, 2012
Painting the Black
September Roster Rules Changes Needed?
Every September 1, teams across the league call up a myriad of players: some top prospects, some fringe specialists, and the occasional organizational soldier. They all have different purposes leading to one main goal: improving the big league team over the season’s final five weeks. This year looked to be no different approaching September, then began a wave of arguments against the practices of September roster expansion. Historians will identify Joel Sherman of the New York Post as the first writer to shoot. Sherman’s article offered strong language, supporting quotes from those within the industry, and, in a clear act of aggression, a Three Stooges reference. Sherman concludes like so:
By logic, if you are going to have a month with expanded rosters, it should be April when starters are not fully stretched out and players’ bodies are not yet trained to play nine innings day after day. Now, I would not allow any roster expansion: You play 25 in April and May, you should play 25 in September. If you want to see a prospect, call him up and demote or release someone else. If you are worried with the minor league season over about having someone ready should there be a September injury, then expand your Instructional League concepts to keep veteran minor leaguers prepared.
Baseball clings to its tradition like no other major professional sport, leading to a much-maligned and despised reluctance toward change on hot-button issues. Naturally, the league is working quickly to appease those opposing the current rules. On Tuesday night, Scott Miller of CBS Sports reported that the league is considering instituting new rules for the period of roster expansion. The proposal, as told by Miller, would cap active roster limits at 30 players as opposed to the 40 currently in play. A team’s 25-man roster would lock into place on August 31, as their playoff rosters do, and teams would then have five flex spots to use as they pleased.
Tightening the roster cap is a reasonable solution—a fix bearing resemblance to plans offered in the past by Sherman and Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. Nothing really changed in the process, except those worried about a busybody manager ruining the integrity of the game can now focus their attention on more problematic scenarios—such as players not taking the All-Star Game seriously. Whatever validity there is to those fears seems to stem from isolated incidents and cynical what-if analysis. As a whole, teams appear to operate as though they were reasonable human beings:
Substitutions Per Game, 1993-2010