MLB’s September call-ups rule needs to be addressed

Rangers left-hander Yohander Mendez talks about his first callup to majors

Rangers left-hander Yohander Mendez was one of four minor league callups who joined the team on Friday. He talked about his first stint in the majors through Rangers Spanish broadcaster Eleno Ornelas (Video by Stefan Stevenson/Star-Telegram).
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Rangers left-hander Yohander Mendez was one of four minor league callups who joined the team on Friday. He talked about his first stint in the majors through Rangers Spanish broadcaster Eleno Ornelas (Video by Stefan Stevenson/Star-Telegram).

The final month of the season has arrived, and with it so will 100 to 200 additional players.

Many have already made the trek from the minor leagues as part of the annual expansion that makes Major League Baseball the only major professional sport that changes its rules during a season.

Each of the 30 MLB teams is allowed to expand its active 25-man roster to include anyone on the 40-man roster. Some teams go crazy. Some teams stay somewhat under control.

From September 1 through the end of the season the entire 40-man roster is eligible to play for the Club at the Major League level. From Opening Day through August 31, however, a Club may use only 25 of its 40 players in the Majors.

Major League Baseball

Games start taking longer to be completed, with endless pitching changes from bloated bullpens. Many of those extra relievers aren’t ready for prime time, so outs can be hard to come by and rallies can last forever.

That’s just one way to nitpick around the central issue, though pace of play is always a central issue to the deadline-oriented baseball writer. It’s an issue for the commissioner, too.

But here’s the main issue: The end result of expanded rosters is games in which one team has more players than the other, which doesn’t seem fair because it isn’t fair.

It’s entirely within the rules and certainly isn’t a new rule, but it’s just not right.

Amid the squawking about the season being too long and putting players at risk for injury, the integrity of the game is at risk each September.

For the first five months of a season, teams put themselves into contention with 25 players. Managers have to juggle rotations, bullpens, injuries and late-game situations. Front offices construct and reconstruct rosters time and time again to fit team needs.

Once the stretch run arrives and rosters grow, everything changes.

One team, for instance, might have five left-handers in the bullpen and use each one in situational matchups to decide a close game. Or a team might have four right-handed-hitting bench players to trump an opponent’s top lefty reliever.

Each of the Houston Astros’ three September call-ups played a role as they stormed back Friday night to nearly beat the Texas Rangers. One was rookie Tyler White, a righty hitter who pinch-hit with two outs in the eighth inning against Jake Diekman — the Rangers’ best lefty reliever — and delivered a two-out double.

The Los Angeles Angels also used three September call-ups as they nearly overtook the Seattle Mariners. Two relievers — former Rangers prospect Cody Ege and former AL Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey — worked a scoreless inning apiece, and catcher Juan Graterol delivered a pinch-hit RBI double.

An Astros victory would have trimmed a game off the Rangers’ lead in the American League West. An Angels victory would have further diluted the Mariners’ slim playoff hopes.

More of those types of games are ahead, probably every day. Look for specialists, be it a lefty reliever or a pinch runner who was promoted simply to steal bases or score from first base on a late-game extra-base hit.

Some managers and general managers don’t have a huge issue with the expanded rosters, while others loathe the rule. Managers and coaching staffs have more of their own players to tend to and more of their opponents’ players to prepare for. GMs are adding to payrolls while at the same time giving their next wave of prospects a taste of the big leagues.

That was one of the purposes of the rule.

The players association certainly doesn’t have much of an issue with the bigger rosters, as more of its players are getting paid big-league money and getting their service-time clocks punched, in some cases, for the first time.

But there’s middle ground to be found somewhere, and as luck would have it, a new collective bargaining agreement is being hashed out. A popular idea is putting a cap on the roster size for each game, say 28 or 30 active players.

Managers would choose which extra players they want, and any beyond the set limit would be inactive, as is the case in the NFL, NHL and NBA.

The owners and the players have bigger fish to fry to reach a new CBA, with free-agent compensation heading the list. The September roster rules, though, need to be on the agenda.

No one is doing anything illegal by expanding their rosters, but it’s just not right.

Yu Darvish said that he will try to treat his start Sunday as any other start even though it's against the second-place Astros (video by Jeff Wilson).

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