Two Special Dates in the Baseball Season

In Michael Lewis’ book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, he chronicles how Billy Beane, the long-time GM of Oakland, a small budget team, had to resort to unusual tactics to make Oakland competitive. One of these strategies was to just stay within reach of making the playoffs for the first half of the season and then through the use of trades before the non-waiver trade deadline and call-ups in September make the final run for the playoffs.

Because of Oakland’s limited budget, players requiring long-term multi-million dollar contracts, were out of his reach in the off-season. This brings me to the date of July 31. July 31 is the end of the non-waiver trade deadline. Starting August 1 of each season, clubs can put players on a special type of waivers. Any player who could possibly be traded can be put on waivers and if they are claimed, the club can call them back without losing the player. If a player is not claimed within the 48-hour waiver period, he can be traded to any MLB team during the month of August. If multiple teams put in claims on the same player, only one club can have the priority waiver claim. Priority is given to the team with the lowest winning percentage in the same league, from worst to first, and then from worst to first in the other league.

This rule encourages many teams out-of-playoff-contention to make trades before July 31. Teams out of playoff contention try to discard a veteran player either to reduce their budget or because they no longer feel he can help them or because they feel they can’t resign him.

This year the Mets were able to snag Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers. Since putting on the Mets uniform he has led a resurgent Mets offense into a commanding lead in the NL East. Before the trade deadline Toronto acquired Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies and David Price from the Tigers. These trades helped propel Toronto from an under .500 team to the lead in the AL East.

The other special date is September 1. On this date teams can promote any player on their 40-man roster to the big league club. Most will add four to eight players, bringing their roster size to about 32, but some teams end up with 35 or more.

Here are the problems I see with the September call-up rule as it now stands. First is how the length of a September game can be affected. Forty-man rosters let managers load their bullpens with as many arms as they want. From March to August of last season only two percent of games saw a team use at least eight pitchers. In September, that number skyrocketed to seven percent. As a result, the chances of a game hitting the three-hour mark also went up by about five percent. Next, this rule creates a situation where all teams do not have the same number of players active during a game. A more pressing issue is by adding players to the daily roster, the fundamental nature of the game changes. For example, there have been teams to use non-baseball players. The prime example is the role of a pinch-runner can be filled by a track star. With a 25-man active roster you could not afford the luxury to carry such a player.

Baseball is played with one set of rules for five months, yet suddenly — when the games are most important — those rules change. This does not happen in other sports.

I am not against the rule but would like it changed. After all are as much a part of the game as the All-Star game. Allow teams to increase the roster to 40 players but for any game only 25 players would be active. This would keep the many benefits the call-up rule brings to the young player as well as to the team. The young player gets to audition his skills and also increase his pay and increase his Major League credits toward his free-agency and his pension. Remember how last season’s Royals benefitted in the World Series by letting Brandon Finnegan get his feet wet in September.

Original Comments:

Marty Cobern said…

Great idea, which means the MLB will never adopt it. It lets those with big leads in the pennant race rest their key players and those out of the race to evaluate future talent. “To hell with the fans!” is the MLB motto.

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