August has yielded to September, ushering in that time of the season in which Major League baseball rosters go through an Anthony Davis-like growth spurt.
It is the time again of the September call-up, when teams, having operated all season with 25 players, are allowed to fill their dugouts with their entire 40-man roster if they choose.
It also has become a time of some debate over whether such a call-up is too large and too unfair here in the season’s last month.
Critics of the rule say teams with deeper farm systems and teams with nothing else to play for might employ the maximum 40 players while those of more limited depth and higher aspirations are likely to use significantly fewer. That creates a potential strategic imbalance that troubles said critics.
Count Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez among their number.
It has been a Gonzalez philosophy to be conservative with his call-up numbers. “Maybe I’m at a disadvantage that way when you play other teams that will bring up 40 guys. But I feel like you can have too many guys.
“I think you start bringing up guys you know aren’t going to play, it’s a distraction.”
He can see the need for another catcher, a couple spare arms as insurance against extra innings, a little speed to insert on the basepaths. After that, there can be so many idle bodies in the dugout that it starts looking like a road construction site in there.
Trying to manage under those conditions is especially trying, Gonzalez said.
“You’re in a pennant race and (other teams) are just looking at players,” he began.
“You play team out of it, they’re going to bring 40 guys,” Gonzalez continued. “So you bring the leftie out of the bullpen and they have five right-handers (hitters) sitting there. Bring in the rightie and they have four left-handers. So you never get the advantage.”
“I think there should be a limit guys who are available (for example 30 out of the 40 for any given game),” Gonzalez said. “It’s the only sport that expands the roster the last month of the season and you have whole different game, really.”
The manager does not, however, believe altering the September call-up rules is particularly high on the new commissioner’s agenda.