Peter Gammons: Enough is enough with September call ups

Mike Scioscia and Bob Melvin played the game under the rules baseball has ignored for decades. Managers hate the absurdity of unlimited September call ups, led by the Jim Leyland and Buck Showalter, who have said for years that the way September is played is a manager’s worst nightmare.

It also is an affront to the integrity of the sport. Tuesday morning, there were 14 of the 30 teams within three games of a post season berth, and rather than playing with the same rules they had from Opening Day through August 31, they are now playing with rosters that can be expanded to 40 players. So who makes the post-season and who doesn’t can be decided by minor leaguers.

Monday night, in a fun-filled four hour, 38 minute entertainment special in Oakland, the Angels beat the Athletics. The Angels have played their hearts out all season. Fine. To win, Scioscia set a record with 12 pitchers, while Melvin used eight. Scioscia used 11 relievers to get 24 outs, a treat for for those who pay to see relievers walk in from the bullpen and warm up. Three of those relievers got three outs in the top of the 10th inning.  Melvin used seven relievers for 23 outs. The two starting pitchers got nine and ten outs, respectively.

Really good managers like Scioscia, Melvin, Leyland and Showalter realize that Eric Trump could manage a September roster with 15+ pitchers. It means that starting pitchers are not required to battle to get 15, or even 12 outs. It means that while inexperienced pitchers roll out one sidearming one-side-of-the-plate  specialist after another, it means nothing, because the dugouts are lined with a Billy Ashley for every Randy Choate. It means times of games become the Paris Peace Talks, unless a team has a couple of relievers who can get out hitters from both sides of the plate.

Mike Scioscia may well be the American League manager of the year,  a man who knows what it’s like to win a World Series ring as a player and a manager, and he used 12 pitchers—three in that tenth inning to get to the bottom of the inning tied with more pitchers remaining in the bullpen—to keep the Angels within a half-game of the Twins for the second wild card spot. An Angels fan has to be overjoyed by this win.

In the end, perhaps we can all be overjoyed, because this game is a demonstration of how ugly, how contrary to the legitimacy of the sport and its September pennant races can become.

The 1970 Baltimore Orioles went 104-58 in the regular season, 7-1 in rolling through to the World Championship. They did so using 12 pitchers.


Enough is enough.


  1. I wish they did it like hockey. You can carry more guys, but only 25 are eligible to suit up for the game. Maybe you could throw them a bone, and say 26 players after Sept 1. That way the back up catchers can get some ABS.

  2. Mr. Gammons,

    This is exactly right. The constant pitching changes and slow pace of “play” is the reason I have stopped watching games on a casual basis, and now only watch the play-offs or important games. I used to work for the Pittsfield Mets and watch 100 games a year, and now I watch maybe 10. Thanks for keeping this issue in the spotlight!

  3. I would be more concerned with Boston using replay officials to tell players what pitch is coming. That might be worse for the game.

    I followed the game in question, and while long, the drama was gripping, and I stayed tuned, as I did for the 9/5 contest even while living on the east coast. Either you love the drama of baseball or you love the drama of a clock. They are not the same thing.

  4. Wah, Save the crybaby stuff for kindergarten. If you want to complain about integrity of the game or spirit of the rules, look no further than your red Sox and Yankees

    • Hammons is Red Sox lover and will never say anything against his team. He’d rather take pathetic shots at the Trumps.

      • seems like you are pretty upset at Peter Gammons here, not sure why. All he said was September call ups hurt the fairness of a Major League season. You want to yell at Peter for talking about this instead of the the watch thing when he wrote this before the story even broke. Not to mention, it is not his responsibility to be the Red Sox explanation guy, he is a Hall of fame sports writer and has earned the right to discuss what he wants

    • That’s a different Mark replying than me.

      • Thank you, I’m sure you don’t want to be connected to him.

        • Its only an unfair advantage if these rules only apply to one team. This has been going on for ages. New to baseball? Get with the program. Can’t get a hit off a AAA scrub. Not scioscia’s problem.Now, when using technology to steel signs. Unforgivable. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

  5. The 1970 Orioles won 108 regular season games. They won the last eleven games of the regular season and then the first six games of the post-season. They finished off 1970 winning 18 of their last 19 games.

  6. It’s ruining the Dodgers right now. I want the team that went 43-7 playing everyday. Now it’s turned into spring training for them with all the additions now getting playing time. These 25 guys have been together for the past 5 months, day in and day out…..and now you bring in all these newcomers to the locker room and road trips?? Tell me how this doesn’t affect team chemistry??? A magical season is now going south.

  7. john reilly says:

    Billy Martin used to use the September call ups as a way to get MLB PENSIONS for minor leaguers who were short service time.Love or hate Martin but he had a heart.There are many MLB PENSIONERS today with monthly paychecks and healthcare because of Billy.

  8. Say it ain’t so Mr Gammons!?! One of the joys of being a lifelong season ticket holder is the kids who are brought up for their proverbial cup of coffee. Many are never heard from again and it’s been a lifelong challenge trying to figure out who’ll stick around and have a decent career and who won’t. It adds to the fan experience, imo. Love ya though anyway. I grew up reading your opinions and always have valued them.