Wild Card Roster Loophole Might Mean 10-Man Bullpens

Kevin C. Cox - Getty Images

If Major League Baseball doesn't do something, that wacky September bullpen action might carry well into October.

Have you considered the roster rules for the one-game Wild Card playoffs, just more than a couple of weeks from this very day?

You haven't? Don't feel bad; neither have we.

ESPN's Buster Olney has, though. And this could get weird:

The wild-card games will be conducted under circumstances we've never seen before in the postseason. The participating teams will set 25-man rosters for this one-game, winner-take-all extravaganza -- rosters that don't have to carry over to the Division series matchup.


Because the new playoff format and rules had to be put together quickly, it may be that changes will be forthcoming, as the practical use is evaluated. As part of the reward for division winners, for example, it might make sense to ask the wild-card teams to declare their 25-man rosters for the first two rounds of the playoffs -- forcing them to carry starting pitchers for the wild-card game and perhaps use them.

But on the other hand, allowing a separate 25-man roster for the wild-card games alone could be very fair, giving the managers as many weapons as possible in a winner-take-all situation. The work of an entire summer will be at stake.

Fair? Sure.

Very fair, though? Again, sure. One might argue that it's most fair. But is fairness what we want? If the Braves finish with the second-best record in the National League, maybe six or eight games ahead of their Wild Card competition, don't they deserve an advantage? They'll have an advantage, because they can spend the last week of the season getting the pitching rotation in exactly the order they like. But you take some of that advantage away, if you allow the other team to carry 10 relief pitchers, and start playing the match game in the sixth inning.

So yes, it's "fair" ... but I'm not sure you want to be fair.

And this argument leaves aside the fact that an 10-man bullpen distorts the game. It's bad enough that September baseball becomes a parade of relief pitchers, beginning in the sixth or seventh inning. Do we really want to see a dozen pitching changes in a postseason game? I don't.

So here's hoping that sanity prevails, and everyone can get together and make a good rule. I wouldn't bet on it, though, because as things stand now, a lot more union members will get a chance to drink some sweet October postseason love potion.

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