No one can argue about the novelty and appeal of the Dodgers and Diamondbacks 2014 MLB season opener at historic Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Australia on March 22 and 23, 2014. In fact, it would be a complete surprise if the newly renovated 48,000-capacity facility isn’t sold out for both games – especially when you consider that the second largest attendance record for a baseball game, an estimated 114,000, occurred during an exhibition game between the Australian National Team and an American services team during the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. (Trivia note: The all-time attendance record for a baseball game was set on March 29, 2008 at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum when 115,300 fans attended a pre-season exhibition game between the Dodgers and the 2007 defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox).
But behind the novelty and the appeal of the season opening series in Sydney is a little known (and seldom used) MLB rule that dictates the rosters for official regular-season games played abroad – more specifically, then number of players on those rosters.
As we all know, every team must submit their 25-man opening day roster to Major League Baseball no later than 3:00 PM (ET) on Opening Day. However, the MLB rules also clearly state:
“If MLB regular season games are scheduled prior to MLB Opening Day (for example, if MLB games are played in Japan, Mexico, Australia, etc), the MLB Commissioner will determine the Active List maximum roster limit for those games.”
What’s the big deal, you ask?
The big deal is that following the two official regular-season games in Australia on Saturday and Sunday, March 22 and 23, the Dodgers return to L.A. for their annual Freeway Series exhibition games with the Angels on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 27, 28 and 28 – two at Dodger Stadium and one at Angels Stadium respectively.
Undoubtedly, the Dodgers will use their everyday regular players for the two games Down Under which, of course, count towards the regular 162-game standings. But the three exhibition games against the Angels after the opening series against the Dbacks are meaningless, so why would the Dodgers risk injury to their everyday players in the Freeway Series, not to mention messing up their starting rotation? The answer, of course, is that they wouldn’t, or at least they shouldn’t. But if their 25-man roster is already set (because of the Australia series), will the Dodgers have any say in the matter?
Although I couldn’t find a specific answer to this question, I have a very hard time believing that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig would compel the Dodgers to use their regular season 25-man roster for the three exhibition games. Heck, he may even allow both teams to take more than 25 guys to Australia because technically the rule says “…no later than 3:00 PM (ET) on Opening Day,” and according to MLB.com, Opening Day is officially on Monday, March 31, 2014 (although there is one game scheduled for Sunday night, March 30, 2014). Additionally, Selig will most likely allow the Dodgers to use their entire 40-man roster for the Freeway Series.
While this may be all-to-do about nothing, it could also be all-to-do about everything – especially since it involves the Dodgers and Dbacks… and we all know what that means.