Teams have used over 1,200 players already this year

Getty Images
18 Comments

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.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.