Baseball’s annual gnashing of the teeth is upon us.
The Sept. 1 expansion of rosters from 25 to 40 has long been derided, mostly by those in the game.
“You play 80 percent of your season with even rosters, and then all of a sudden, you throw that out,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said a few years back. “It’s like playing three-on-six in basketball or 11-on-18 in football. I don't know of any sport in the world that does it like ours, with this kind of imbalance of rosters. I'd like to find out if there's any other sport that does that at the most important time of the year.”
Why does baseball expand rosters? Because that’s how it’s been done for a century. Clifford Blau of the Society for American Baseball Research found that the practice dates to 1910 — just two years after the Cubs won their last World Series title.
These days teams expand rosters for two reasons: to look at players who had good minor-league seasons and to give teams pushing for the playoffs some added weapons.
For the first time in a long while the Pirates are having discussions about the latter philosophy.
“The conversations we’re having are different,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “There’s more talk about what we need to add competitively. We try to keep it simple. What makes sense to add? Where can we use additional help?”
Naturally, that can make managing a bit difficult. Orioles manager Buck Showalter had a suggestion.
“You can call up all 40, but you’ve got to designate 25 every night,” Showalter said on MLB Network Radio. “You talk about tough managing when they’ve got about 38 guys over there, forget the matchup. I don’t think the call-ups, that’s the way that was intended when it started out that way.”