PHOENIX — Finally, Major League Baseball has listened to him.
The stupidest rule in all of sports is about to obsolete, and baseball will actually have a level playing field again, restoring integrity in the most important month of the season.
Beginning in 2020, team will no longer be permitted to have as many as 40 players on their roster, while others stay with 25, two officials told USA TODAY Sports. They spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they have yet to publicly announce the changes.
MLB and the union will formally announce Thursday several major rule changes, most which will be implemented in 2020.
All teams will have a 28-man roster in the final month of September, after having a 26-man roster the first five months of the season.
No longer will teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies be playing with a huge advantage in September, expanding to 40 players, while low-budget teams like the Miami Marlins stick with only 25 players.
And no longer will we have 15 pitching changes in nine-inning games during the month of September, with games dragging past four hours.
Those god-awful games in September are finally over.
Say hello to the Doug Melvin rule, in honor of the longtime Milwaukee Brewers executive and former GM who has been lobbying for this change for the last decade.
“I think people got sick of me talking about it, but it was about the integrity of the game,’’ Melvin told USA TODAY Sports. “That was the most important thing to me. I couldn’t believe it has gone on so long.
“It was the only sport where the playing field was uneven in the month of September.
“It was just so unfair.
“It didn’t make sense to me.’’
Why not just let some NBA teams play with eight players on the court, while others stay at five? Why not let NFL teams have 15 players on defense instead of 11? And why in the most important month of the season do you permit teams to have a 20-man pitching staff while others stay with 12?
“It got to be such a huge imbalance,’’ Melvin said. “It would be one thing if teams just had a couple of more players than the other team in September, but we were seeing differences by more than 10 players a game. To me, it was destroying the integrity of it.
“No other sport has uneven rosters at any point in the season, and we were doing it the pennant race.’’
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It was so ridiculous that when Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper was with the Washington Nationals, he remembers being angry with Phillies manager Gabe Kapler’s tactics last September.
“When we faced him last year in September, and they had like 45 guys or whatever they had in the clubhouse,’’ Harper said, laughing “switch this guy, switch that guy, and our game was like 5 ½ hours, it was kind of tough to be able to go, ‘Oh, yeah, I like this guy.'”
Now, those days are mercifully over.
The Doug Melvin rule is here to stay.
“I never won a World Series,’’ Melvin, 66, said, “but if I get credit for changing the September rule, that’s ok.’’
Follow Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale