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Teams have used over 1,200 players already this year

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Joe Sherman of the New York Post tweeted out an interesting fact a little while ago: as of last night, major league teams have, collectively, exceeded 1,200 players used this season.

Sherman goes on to note just how out-of-whack that is compared to the rest of baseball history. Before 1999, he says, the 1,200 mark had never been reached. Which, fine, since before 1998 there were fewer teams. But even in the 30-team era, the numbers we’re seeing are incredible. They have risen each and every year since 2012 and last year a new record was set. The record: 1,358. We’re, quite obviously, going to shatter that record this year.

The culprit here is teams shuttling players on and off rosters, on and off the disabled list and up and down from the minor leagues at rates never before seen. Each of these developments were likely born of efficiency and competitive considerations. Fresh arms and legs are better than tired arms and legs and it’s better to deal with injuries proactively than it is to let hurt guys linger on a roster.

Yet it’s hard to see how, whatever the motivation for this, it’s not a bad thing for the fan experience and thus the game.

While a lot of fans will own up to “rooting for laundry” (i.e. supporting a team no matter who is playing for it) fans unquestionably have a far greater attachment to a team which has players they know and recognize. Players whose development they can track and whose performance they can follow over time. With a much larger portion of the roster turning over constantly, the players increasingly become unknown quantities for whom feelings run comparatively shallow. That diminishes the fan experience, I suspect, and over time diminishes a fan’s loyalty and enthusiasm for a team. Many people have cited this as a problem of free agency, but at least that only impacts teams, at most, on an annual basis, involving a couple of guys. This is an all-year, many times a year phenomenon.

This is like any number of other problems facing baseball. With front offices increasingly looking for smaller and smaller edges and inefficiencies to exploit, any number of moves and strategies that may not have been employed a few years ago are being employed now, often with unexpected consequences. A GM wants pitching to get better, so he gets flamethrowers over pitch-to-contact guys and he wants hitting to get better so he beefs up on power. Oops, there goes all of the balls in play! Likewise, a GM wants to optimize the 25-man roster and all of its rules in maximal fashion and, oops, there goes any semblance of roster continuity.

There are no easy answers to this stuff and I won’t suggest I have any. But these are problems Major League Baseball has to acknowledge and address if it does not want to alienate fans.

There was a fight in the Wrigley Field bleachers last night

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The Pirates beat the Cubs pretty easily last night. There was far more fight in the folks from Chicago out in the bleachers.

A brawl erupted among a group of fans. It was fairly messy as far as fights go. Lots of shoving and yelling and some punches thrown but no one really distinguished themselves or covered themselves with honor or glory. Well, two people did, for wildly different reasons. The fight was recorded by Danny Rockett, who hosts a podcast for the BleedCubbieBlue website. There are two videos below showing most of the relevant action.

I will give some honor and glory points to the middle aged guy in the blue jacket in the first video who kept repeating, over and over again, “there’s no fighting in the bleachers!” He was dead wrong about that, obviously, as there was actually a considerable amount of fighting, but I respect his aspirational mantra:

There was also a guy who distinguished himself but for extremely dubious reasons. I’m talking about the guy here in this second video who hurled racist epithets at one of his adversaries. That was special, but nowhere near as special at his reaction when he realized that someone was filming him.

Listen for him saying “DON’T RECORD ME!” and, just after that, “if my unit sees that I’m dead!” Which I presume means a military unit, but I’m not sure:

It’s amazing what people will say when they don’t think anyone is documenting it. And how freaked out they get once they realize that, yeah, someone was. I’m sure if this guy hits the news once he’s identified he’ll talk about how “that’s not who he is” or something like that. Don’t listen to him if he says that. Because, as is quite clear here, that’s exactly who he is. That’s exactly who most people are who get caught saying stuff like this.