As part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement being hashed out between Major League Baseball and the Players Association, the roster for teams may jump from 25 to 26 between Opening Day and August. In return, active rosters would be 28 the last month.
Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal says the September call-ups will still be 40, but 28 will be the limit for any one game. By itself, that should make for a more entertaining product. The endless pitching changes of last September’s games, combined with thousands of fans dressed as empty seats, gave us the atmosphere of a Spring Training snoozer in March.
Not how you want the most important regular season games to play out.
Since this is a horse trade between the parties, the full extra roster spot for no September anarchy, it is curious how teams will handle the 26th spot.
With rosters now at 13 position players and 12 pitchers, will Mike Rizzo and Dusty Baker opt to deepen the bench by one for a 14th potential bat? Or, do we see another arm for the bullpen and an equal number of 13 players and pitchers? You know different teams will experiment with both.
The smart money—depending on what other rule changes make their way into the CBA—is another bench player. It used to be teams carried 15 batters and 10 pitchers. Modern bullpen usage has changed everything.
With teams like the Nationals needing four innings or more out of the pen a few times a week, those extra arms are needed to balance the load. Here is the chance to keep an extra outfielder or third catcher that is no longer there. Perhaps giving someone destined for Triple-A Syracuse a chance to see some MLB service time.
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The owners are smart to recognize the 40-player free-for-all of September baseball is not working. Instead of lower teams seeing how the stars of tomorrow play now, games turned into long, boring bullpen slogs. Box scores—you remember those—showing four-hour games and 20 pitchers used combined, great for a nap.
Treating the pennant races as you would a game in July is a step forward. Baker should manage his pitchers the same way as in May as it is fairer for both teams and is a better product. As football season creeps in, MLB needs to find a way for casual fans to remain watching.