As Spring Training winds down and Opening Day creeps closer, decisions will be made by managers and general managers of all thirty teams in the coming days that will trigger and affect not only the performance of each team for the first month or so of the season, but they’ll also have an effect on the lives of many people (ballplayers) who are on the cusp of being cut or making the team.
As fans of the team(s) we follow, we’ll be watching the transactions section of newspapers and MLB.COM to weigh the decisions our team chooses to make, as well as those that participate making your final selections in your Fantasy League.
Whittling down to 25 from as many as 60-70 invitees to your camp is not a welcome or easy task. Especially when you realize that at some point or another you’ve sat down with this particular player and said to him, “We want you to be a part of our organization.”
And yet, these decisions have to and will be made. Not all, but some of these decisions will sever ties with players forever while some will not be a divorce but only a temporary separation from the team with a renewal of life to come at a later time.
The factors and questions that go into making these decisions are complex and one decision often leads into another decision creating almost a domino effect that can change everything for a team……….
The intrigue begins with the realization that major league rules dictate that only 25 players are eligible to play in each game of the season. With that, the first decision a team makes is the one that will have a ripple effect on virtually all remaining decisions – and that is how many pitchers to carry.
Traditionally, and according to Baseball Reference “Most teams nowadays will carry a roster of 11 or 12 pitchers (5 starting pitchers and 6 or 7 relief pitchers), 2 catchers, 6 or 7 infielders (the four starters plus two or three substitutes) and 5 outfielders. This repartition has evolved over the years, and until the mid-1990s, it was common for teams to carry only 10 pitchers, leaving room for a third catcher and pinch-hitting or defensive specialists, for example.”
But nothing is written in stone in baseball and in fact the Kansas City Royals went with a 14 man pitching staff in 2012 that left only three spots open for position players after the eight regulars took the field. Very risky for sure even though one of those pitchers was Zach Greinke who could probably make a decent living as a major league hitter.
Back to where we started though…….this decision will have a ripple effect on the rest of your team’s makeup. For example, it could decide whether you will carry two or three catchers. It almost never happens but managers especially seem to live in fear of losing two catchers in the same game with no other position player capable of filling in for the remainder of that game.
But the pitching number can also have effects elsewhere. For example, do you carry a left and right handed DH……or do you pick your best shot. Do you carry a sure handed middle infielder who can play two or three positions as a defensive replacement late in games but can’t hit a lick……
And what about the kids who you invited to Spring Training for a cup of coffee in “The Show” to give them an incentive to continue to work hard because their turn is coming…….but they just lit it up and turned some eyes that can’t be avoided………what do you do with them…….give ’em a pat on the back and say “Hang in there son, we’ve got to send you down but you’ll be back”………
And then you’ve got the aging veterans who’ve been invited to your minor league camp with an outside chance of winning a spot on the roster IF they have a decent spring. And then they do but you are more into a youth movement at this time so what do you tell them…….”Sorry but we have to release you” and suddenly you’re a free agent again with the season just days away?……
Or in another scenario, you’ve got a player who is out of options and cannot be sent down to the minors without risking exposure to other teams who might “grab him” away from you after you’ve spent a considerable amount of time and money to develop him (Austin Romine, catcher for the Yankees comes to mind)………… Choices – always choices…….
The good news I guess is that we don’t get paid the big bucks to make these decisions……..but from where I sit as a baseball fan, it sure is fun thinking about it ………..