I was listening to WTEM (which is actually in the Washington DC radio market) the other day, and their in-studio guest was former Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams. At the time they were talking about different aspects of sports they would change, and he brought up an interesting point about baseball. He said he’d get rid of the concept of September call-ups each year. Speaking for myself, I’ve never had an issue with September call-ups, and I’ve always felt that it gave big league teams a chance to evaluate their young talent in real games that mean something (regardless of whether or not they’re in contention). But is that really fair?
Williams’ point was that teams have played the season with a 25-man roster (which was probably adjusted several times as guys were promoted/demoted), why should they get to change that for a stretch run? Granted it’s “fair” in the sense that every team has the opportunity to do it. However again, he brought up a very valid point about that as well. Each year we talk at various points about who’s minor league system is the best and so forth. If you have a four-game lead on August 31st however your minor league system is weak (due perhaps to your minor league talent being on the field at the big league level) you might be at a disadvantage.
That’s a very interesting point in my opinion. I think that speaking for myself I’m still in favor of September call-ups, however I see his argument and it might be a very valid one. Without going into who’s minor league system is ranked higher and so forth, teams that are perpetual contenders might be at a disadvantage as opposed to an upstart team – such as say the Baltimore Orioles. One thing the O’s will find out next year is teams that make the playoffs have to draft lower in the draft. Therefore a team such as New York, Boston, Texas, Philadelphia, etc, has drafted low for some time. Furthermore, many of those franchises pay little attention to their farm system. Their true “farm system” are teams such as the Royals, Pirates, and Marlins. If they need a player in the middle of the season they’ll have no issue trading prospects to a struggling to in order to get a big league player.
I know that most people aren’t going to lose sleep over the big boys being at somewhat at a competitive disadvantage. However it’s an interesting point to say the least; why should a team that in theory has been in first place all season suddenly be at a disadvantage because their farm system might not be as good as someone else’s? One other way to look at it is that many of the players called up in September may have been on the roster at various points during the season anyways. However the point is well made; someone having a better farm system could in fact affect pennant races.
The flip side of this is that if this in fact is an issue it serves as an incentive for teams to keep their farm systems well-stocked. However even for an organization that crosses all of it’s t’s and dots all of it’s i’s on the field and in the minor league system, that’s a tough task indeed. As I said, the Orioles are looking at drafting at the bottom of the first round in next year’s draft. Odds are they won’t have the chance to draft a stud the quality of Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, or Manny Machado. However that’s where quality coaching at the minor league level comes into play. If you have a good program to begin with and the message is the same at all levels of the organization, you can churn out some superstars. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like the old Oriole Way.