2019 is the final year of 40-man rosters in September. Beginning next year, teams will only be allowed to max out at 28 players. There is a lot we won’t miss about the bloated rosters, chief among them four-hour games extended by countless pitching changes made possible by a team carrying 600 relievers...
...oh, you thought I was exaggerating? You were right, I was. But only by a little!
But the exit of 40-man rosters comes with a drawback. It’ll mean that many fewer chances for minor leaguers to get called up and make their MLB debuts, which are reliably heartwarming moments that make the September slog more bearable for fans whose teams are well out of the race.
Players like the Marlins’ Brian Moran. Especially players like Brian Moran. He’s a 30-year-old lefty who’d been through just about everything short of a call-up. He’d spent a decade in the minors. He’d undergone Tommy John surgery. He’d played in the fall league, and in winter leagues. He’d been out of the MLB system all together, playing multiple stints in independent ball just hoping to get another crack. And then, finally, finally, Thursday night, in an otherwise meaningless Miami/Pittsburgh game, Brian Moran made his MLB debut.
“You look forward to it and hope it’ll happen,” Moran said, choking up the whole while. “There’s moments when you don’t think it’ll happen. And then when it does, you’re just flooded with emotion.”
“He’s been my inspiration my whole life, he’s never given up,” his brother Colin said. And, wouldn’t you know it, the second MLB hitter Moran faced, with his parents looking on from the stands, was Colin Moran.
“I felt bad for the dad,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle admitted.
Colin worked the count full, and then (for maximum drama, pretend you didn’t read the headline)...
Brian got Colin looking with a slider, a ballsy pitch to throw with a full count. But Brian, the older brother by four years, knows how little brother thinks. Brian said the last time the two faced off was in their backyard as kids, where home plate was a rock, but tendencies don’t change. Brian knew that Colin knew that Brian wouldn’t want to appear to be pitching around him, and so would be expecting something meaty. And indeed Colin said afterward that “I was looking heater.” Instead, Brian froze him with the breaking ball.
Big brother won the match, and all little brother could do was smile:
Brian would pitch a scoreless inning, and since the Marlins came back with a four-spot in the fifth and held on to win 10-7, Brian was awarded the win.
The all-Moran at-bat was a little bit of history. According to Elias, it was only the seventh time since 1900 that a player made his big-league debut against his brother’s team, and the first time a player’s MLB debut featured a pitcher-vs.-batter matchup against his brother.
Brian Moran wasn’t thinking much about the history, he admitted. He was too busy enjoying the culmination of a lifelong dream, and marveling at how great it was to be able to do it with the people he cares about most.
“I think the last three days have been some of the most exciting, moving days that I’ve experienced,” Brian said. “I don’t think you could dream up a cooler situation. I’m so excited I got to share it with my family. I got to get out on a big league mound.”