New York Daily News
Brewers' GM has big idea
Tuesday, November 8th, 2005
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. - Baseball's general managers began their annual meetings at the Hyatt Grand Champions resort yesterday, spending much of their time in discourse over waivers minutia and instant replay, in and around sowing the first seeds for player deals that could involve Manny Ramirez, Jeff Kent, Jim Thome and Mike Cameron, among others, down the road.
For the most part, it was much ado about nothing. But today, Brewers GM Doug Melvin plans to address his peers on an issue that strikes near and dear to the very integrity of the game: roster disparity in September. It is an issue that, incredibly, baseball has chosen to ignore, even though it directly affects pennant races.
It's something no one ever seemed to care much about, but maybe now they will, Melvin says, when they realize it may have cost one of them - specifically the Phillies' Ed Wade - his job this year.
"It's unbelievable that we're the only sport that doesn't have a set amount of players on the rosters in the most important month of the season," Melvin said. "How can we have let this go on all these years?"
Melvin said this issue really struck home for him one week in September when the Astros, who were fighting with the Phillies for the National League wild card, were playing back-to-back series with his Brewers and the Pirates.
"Houston had 33 or 34 players on their roster, while both my club and the Pirates were at 28," Melvin said. "The reason for this was because both our clubs at Triple-A were in the playoffs and because we were all but eliminated from the pennant race and the Pirates were totally eliminated, we both elected to help our Triple-A teams out by leaving our players down there until the playoffs were over.
"... These games in September especially are deciding clubs' seasons and, in some cases, people's careers. The Phillies lost the wild card by one game and Ed Wade got fired. Did he lose his job over Houston having a five-six player advantage over teams in a half dozen or so games? I'm hoping to get support for this rule by impressing the other GMs that this could cost you your job."
It is Melvin's contention that baseball must establish an even playing field for when the rosters can be expanded up to 40 after Sept. 1.
"I don't have a particular magic number," he said, "but for argument's sake, let's say 30. Each team must be required to have 30 active players on its roster for each game in September, just as it has 25 for the first five months. "There would be no limit to the number of players a team could call up within the 40-man roster, but only 30 could be active and all clubs must have 30 players."
As part of Melvin's proposal, the September call-ups would serve as sort of a "taxi squad" in which managers would be able to designate their five activated extra players before each game.
"They could change them from game to game as the situation dictated," Melvin said. "This would add a whole new element of strategy to the games in September if managers wanted to drop one of their extra pitchers in favor of, say, a pinch-runner type because the team they're playing is easy to run on. Or if they were facing a team with predominantly right-handed pitching and they chose to activate a couple of left-handed hitters."
There is not likely to be any opposition from the players union on this proposal since, as long as players are called up, they're drawing service time, even if they're not activated. In cases such as the Brewers and Pirates in September, if they choose not to disrupt their Triple-A teams in the playoffs, they'd just have to meet the 30-player per game quota by bringing up players from the lower minors.
"I can kind of understand why this was never an issue for so many years," Melvin said, "but it's more important now because of the wild card, which has provided for so many more teams being involved."
For baseball, this is a radical proposal.
"I know we've tended to be pretty set in our ways," Melvin said, laughing. "But it wouldn't be the first time I was able to get an age-old rule changed. For years, players put on waivers had to go through leagues instead of through all the teams in reverse order of the standings, like the draft. Then, in 2000, a situation arose in which San Diego put Desi Relaford on waivers. I was with Texas at the time, and we had finished last. I put in a claim for Relaford, but he wound up with the Mets, who had finished second. I said: 'This is not right. It's not what waivers were intended for.'"
His fellow GMs concurred and at their meetings that November, the rule was changed. Confronted with the image of Ed Wade on the unemployment line, Melvin hopes they will similarly agree something has to be done about September roster disparity.