Don Mattingly thinks September roster rules should be changed

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On Saturday, the Marlins and Phillies combined to use 15 different pitchers. None of those 15 pitchers had a plate appearance, which is a modern era record in a game without the DH. The Phillies went on to win 5-4. Saturday’s game was also the fourth nine-inning game in which neither team’s pitcher recorded more than six outs. Three of those four games took place during September.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly thinks MLB’s September roster expansion rules should be changed, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. Mattingly said, “What we did [Saturday] and really what they ended up doing, too, is something that really only happens in September and, quite honestly, shouldn’t be able to happen. It’s too many guys. It’s not really regular baseball.”

Mattingly suggests keeping the active roster capped at 25 players, but allowing teams in September to carry a “taxi squad.” He said, “I’ve said it before. I’d be in favor of more of a taxi squad. You have your 25 guys that would be eligible for the playoffs — activate three, four, or five — and then you’re going to play more of a normal style. And you can move those guys around every day.”

A change like this would need to be collectively bargained as reducing September roster spots has an impact on players’ earning potential since fewer of them would be accumulating service time. Spencer notes that in Mattingly’s suggestion, the players on the “taxi squad” would still be paid and accumulate service time, but that still cuts out 10 players.

From a viewing perspective, September games — particularly ones without much of an impact on playoff chances — tend to be long and get dragged out in the later innings due to a greater willingness to make pitching changes, pinch-hit, and pinch-run. Mattingly is also right that the strategy changes in September. Normally, a manager would have to more seriously contemplate the pros and cons of pinch-hitting for his pitcher in the fifth inning or pinch-running for a slow-footed slugger in the seventh, but an expanded roster makes that calculus a lot simpler.

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

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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.