I have seen half a dozen games so far this spring in Florida, and it seems in every one of them the last two or three innings are played to a great extent by those wearing numbers in the 90s, and without names on the back of the uniform or anywhere to be found in the game program.
Now, I have been working or watching these games for more than four decades. I understand that regulars do not play nine innings very often. Maybe the last week or so, and even that seems pretty limited in these days of astronomical salaries. The late innings of the game are usually played by the younger members of the 40-man roster who still are a year or so away from the major leagues or by the non-roster players trying to squeeze their way onto the 25-man Opening Day roster. After all, most teams have about 20 non-roster guys these days, which gives them nearly 60 players in the big-league camp.
In my tracking of former Independent players who are neither on the 40-man roster or an invitee, I have seen no less than 17 others with Indy experience in a game or two. Chances are, I've also missed a few. And, there are many, many more of these players filling out a major league roster via a one-day pass from the minor league camp.
It has to be a thrill for a Darren Byrd (Fargo, ND, a new American Association team) to get into a game with Milwaukee or Austin Bibens-Dirkx (Victoria, BC, formerly in the Golden League) to show up in a Chicago Cubs box score or Erold Andrus, recently signed by Texas after playing last season at York, PA in the Atlantic League, to be able to say he got into a game with his major league brother Elvis. None of these players has any major league experience. Some may never get to this level again, so it could be their memory of a lifetime.
But is it fair to the fans who drove an hour, paid for a ticket, parking, concessions and probably a souvenir and expected to at least see nine innings from the players who are listed on the already expansive rosters. They could have spent the day at the beach, and used a lot less money.
I've watched good fans who know a great deal about their favorite team and its primary prospects scratch their head to figure out who numbers 93, 94 and 95 are. That might be the entire outfield for the final innings of what is supposed to be a major league exhibition game.
What do you think?
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