September roster expansions are a good and helpful tool both for contenders and those who are evaluating their clubs for next year. They also are just plain nuts -- at least, the way the rules currently are designed.
Texas this month has 36 players on its roster. Thirty-six! That equals the Rangers' club record from 2010. Other clubs have 32 active players. Or 29. Or 30. Or 27.
The day will come -- and the sooner the better -- when clubs can recall whomever they want … but then must meet a roster ceiling for each September evening's game.
Here's how it would work: A rule is established designated how many players can be active for a given game in September. Say, that number is 29. Now if, after recalls, you have 35 players and I have 31, we both must designated which 29 are active when we play each other tonight.
That affords clubs the freedom to recall whomever (and however many) they want ... while preventing them from turning key September games into rush parties.
Commissioner Bud Selig formed a committee to study on-field matters in 2009, and the committee has discussed this. Eventually, the committee will act.
Why baseball didn't long ago adopt this rule – lock in a September roster size so both clubs in a particular game have the same number of players – is beyond crazy.
“Just from an integrity standpoint,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin – correctly – told USA Today's Bob Nightengale last week. “There is no other competitive team sport that allows uneven rosters any time in the year. … and now, in the most important month, we're doing that.”
Don't blame the Rangers -- they're simply taking advantage of what the rules allow.
“Doug's made that point for as far back as I can remember in the GM meetings,” Rangers GM Jon Daniels says. “I've been slow to come around, but I do think he's right. I do think there is a benefit to an even playing field.”
Personally, Daniels says, he would lean toward having a club lock in its roster for a particular series, rather than allowing changes for each night's game. And he would allow starting pitchers not due to work to be de-activated until their next turn in the rotation comes up.
“Look around the league,” Daniels says. “How many teams have the same five starters all season?"
While having 36 players gives the Rangers extra weapons to deploy this month -- think, particularly, extra relievers for left-right matchups -- it also presents its own set of challenges. The Rangers batted out of order in the ninth inning of last Wednesday's 11-4 loss to Oakland. But because the game was a blowout and nobody reached base, the A's didn't call them on it.
Washington thinks the extra bodies are a good thing.
"We brought what we thought we needed," he says. "It was nice the organization will accommodate us.”
There isn't much room to maneuver in the Rangers clubhouse, but they don't seem to mind.
"It's got to be the most [active players] I've ever seen," Rangers outfielder David Murphy says. "But so many guys have contributed this year both up here and in the minors, they all deserve to be here.
"Plus, you see so many matchups in September because of expanded rosters. You see a lot of it from the pitcher's side. I feel we're prepared on the offensive side as well as the pitchers' side."
It brings back memories of college football in the 1970s, before the NCAA limited scholarships, when powerhouses like Oklahoma and Michigan would dress 80 players for home games.
But there are increasing calls within the industry -- from Melvin and a growing number of others -- for a September change.
As Daniels says, even he has come around on the topic.
“I'm generally in favor of rules that give clubs options and flexibility, and promote individual strategy," he says. "But I do think there are benefits to having the same rules under which you've played all year.”