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.