Over this past weekend, Bill Parker tackled an interesting issue for Getting Blanked, attempting to give credence to the much maligned Major League Baseball policy of expanding active rosters from 25 to 40 during the month of September. And while Parker makes a valiant effort of defending the more outlandish points that Joel Sherman made in his piece for the New York Post disparaging roster expansion, there is one argument that is truly difficult to counter.
Here is how you know it is stupid: If the rule didn’t exist and you proposed it today, the 30 general managers would laugh you out of the room.
Since this was written, word broke that MLB was considering changes to their September roster policy. While these changes aren’t likely to be as severe as some of the more interesting ideas being floated around, it seems as though the league might be ready to admit that the rules governing rosters during the last month of the regular season are a bit silly.
However, a little bit of silliness can be forgiven when the circumstances allow for good narratives to develop, at least so says the beat writers looking for fresh column inches after providing months and months of game summaries and personal interest stories on the same twenty-five players.
Earlier this week, Wendy Thurm wrote about some of the September call ups for Getting Blanked who made an immediate impact for their teams almost as soon as they were called up. Today, Keith Law of ESPN shares with us some of the more interesting prospects who will be starting their service time this month. However, not all of the extra players on Major League rosters are top prospects or the type of players expected to have a major impact going forward. For some, just being called up to the big league level, no matter the circumstances, is an achievement in its own right.
Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post brings up one such example with his story on 27-year-old Christian Garcia, the former New York Yankees starting pitcher prospect whose career was pretty much left for dead after undergoing two Tommy John surgeries over eight years in Minor Leagues. Garcia, who earned a Minor League contract with the Washington Nationals last season after his agent organized a tryout, was a pleasant surprise for the organization at both Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse this season, striking out 32% of the batters he faced and collecting a total of 21 saves over both levels.
Despite his success in the Minors, a call up seemed improbable given that he wasn’t even on the 40-man roster at the end of August. However, after earning a save in Sunday’s Triple-A game in Rochester, the second last of the season for the Syracuse Chiefs, Garcia was told that he had been called up to the big club.
After a brief tease on Monday evening, Garcia was brought into the game during Tuesday night’s 11-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs to face a single batter. He relayed the details of his first Major League appearance to Kilgore.
I took a deep breath and then had fun. That was the main thing. I told myself to enjoy and have fun. After all the years and stuff, I’m not going to go up there and get nervous. I’m going to go out there and have fun, put a smile on my face.
Garcia threw three fastballs to Cubs catcher Welington Castillo, inducing a pop up to first baseman Adam LaRoche, and that was it. His first batter at the Major League level was retired, and the inning was over.
According to Garcia:
It’s still not real to me. My best friend’s in town, and I was talking to my parents. I still can’t believe. As a kid you grow up and you’re sitting in the stands watching all those baseball players playing. You never picture yourself being one of those guys. Now it’s reality. I’m not just sitting. I’m actually playing.
So, yes. While the roster expansion in September makes little sense, it does allow for these type of stories to play out, and it’s difficult to not want these kinds of things to happen in baseball, or in life for that matter. While the National League East Division leading Washington Nationals have playoff baseball on their minds, the majority of teams, many of them with their own Christian Garcias now on the big league roster, do not. Such things give fans a reason to stay interested in what would otherwise be a forgotten season.
That’s a good thing for baseball, even if it only occurs because of a policy that’s purpose has been relegated from meaningful to being based in tradition.