Those other rules of the game

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by Jean Gabler | 6/7/09 • There is a set of baseball rules that most fans are not familiar with but that can affect the players more than balls, strikes, hits, and outs. These are the rules that determine players’ eligibility to be sent to the minors or traded to other teams. Today I am going to write about the 25- and 40-man rosters, waivers, and options. There is also the Rule 5 draft and salary arbitration. These rules all pertain to the younger players. Veterans are more likely to be talking about free agency, no-trade clauses, and accepting assignments—which I will cover later.

the knothole view is jean gabler’s blog about the minnesota twins and all things baseball.

Each major league baseball team has a 25-man and a 40-man roster. The players on the 25-man roster are the only players eligible to play in the major leagues. The 40-man roster includes those 25 players plus up to 15 more players who are either on the 15-day disabled list or playing for the team in the minor leagues.

It seems that the disabled list causes most of the movement between the major and minor league teams. The most recent player the Minnesota Twins put on the disabled list was Nick Punto. As the term suggests, players put on the disabled list are injured and cannot play. When Punto was put on the disabled list, that opened a spot on the 25-man roster. The Twins filled that spot by recalling Alexi Casilla from the minor leagues. Casilla was optioned to the minor leagues on May 6 because he was not playing well.

What does it mean to be optioned? Any player on the 25-man roster with fewer than 5 years of professional experience can be sent to the minors. This is called an “optional assignment.” However, any player who has played on the major league team but spent at least 20 days in the minor leagues for more than three seasons is “out of options.” When this happens, a player has to be “put on waivers” before he can be sent to the minors. Any other team can claim a player who has been waived. If another team claims the player, the players’ current team can do one of three things: 1) keep the player and leave him on the 25-man roster; 2) trade the player to the new team; 3) let the other team have the player, in which case the new team has to pay a waiver fee and put the player on their 25-man roster. If a player is not claimed in three business days he has “cleared waivers” and can be sent to the minor leagues.

The most recent Twins player to be lost through the waiver process is pitcher Craig Breslow, who was claimed off waivers by Oakland. That move made room on the 25-man roster for starting pitcher Anthony Swarzak. Both Punto and Glenn Perkins (also on the 15-day disabled list) will be returning to the team by the end of this week. Two players will have to be moved to make room for their return.

I was talking to a friend the other day and said I had been doing research for my blog. (Thanks to Wikipedia, by the way, for the information I shared today.) She asked if I had written about the game she and I went to a couple of weeks ago—the Thursday afternoon game against the Boston Red Sox, which the Twins lost 3-1.

At that game we saw what might very well have been a baseball first: both teams’ catchers and managers were thrown out in the 7th inning. In the top half of the inning Twins catcher Mike Redmond was called out after arguing a close play at home plate with fill-in umpire Todd Tichenor. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire came out to argue Redmond’s quick ejection and followed Redmond out of the game. Redmond’s ejection caused the Twins to give up their DH position for the rest of the game because Joe Mauer had to move over to the catcher position. In this case it didn’t hurt the Twins because they were able to pinch-hit for the pitchers for the final two innings of the game. In the bottom half of the same inning, Red Sox catcher Jason Veritak questioned Tichenor’s ball/strike call and was immediately tossed. Red Sox manager Terry Francona came out to argue that Tichenor had been calling a poor game all day, and he also was ejected.

This same friend and I also were at the game when an umpire actually changed his call! Mauer was batting in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers. He swung at the pitch, dropped his bat, and started walking to first base, claiming the pitch hit him. The umpire called him back and said it was a foul ball. Gardenhire came out and argued, and the umpire changed his call, agreeing that Mauer had been hit. I believe the deciding factor was not Gardenhire’s argument but the fact that Mauer was able to show the mark on his wrist from being hit. Ken Macha, the Brewers manager, came out to argue but was not successful. Justin Morneau then came up and hit a grand slam on the first pitch he saw to seal the win for the Twins.

Two interesting situations and two different outcomes—but it all added up to good baseball!

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