Like most years, as we approach the final month of the Major League Baseball season, many fans have already checked out. Interest is lost at this point of the season as people tend to shift from baseball to football.
A 162-game regular season with games every day can make it very difficult to maintain fans’ attention. It is a long haul, and unless “your team” is in the midst of a pennant race, most fans simply don't care.
But those who stop following the baseball season tend to miss out on quite a bit. September can be a very exciting time in Major League Baseball. Here are a few reasons to keep watching as the 2012 regular season winds down.
As we noted a few weeks back, the playoff picture is beginning to take shape. Even since then, however, a couple of races have tightened and we appear to be in store for another frantic race to the post-season.
Of particular interest should be the NL West race between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The new ownership of the Dodgers is attempting to “Steinbrenner” their way into the playoffs. The Dodgers have not made up any ground on the Giants of late, but this lineup is too good not to produce runs.
In the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles continue their unlikely run at the New York Yankees atop the division. Even with a negative run differential for the season, the Orioles have somehow managed a record of 76-60 and sit just a game back of the Bronx Bombers.
And we dare not forget about the Tampa Bay Rays, arguably the best September team in baseball. The Rays are currently 2.5 games back and will surely be in the playoff picture at the end of the month.
Finally, the addition of a second Wild Card team this year figures to make the season’s final month even more intriguing.
There are no fewer than nine teams in a position to compete for the one-game Wild Card playoff: the Oakland A’s, the aforementioned Orioles and Rays, the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the American League are all within three games of each other.
There is little doubt that these post-season contenders will be in a dogfight all the way to the final out of the season.
With MLB rosters expanded from 25 to 40 players last weekend, the annual influx of rookies to the league is upon us.
Every year, youngsters across the majors will be making their debuts in the month of September.
Bleacher Reports’ Mike Rosenbaum has done an excellent job of highlighting some of the exciting young players to watch for, so I won’t duplicate his work here, but suffice it to say that this year’s bunch is a much anticipated crop of prospects.
In addition to those noted by Mr. Rosenbaum, there is also a chance we could see the game’s best pitching prospect, Dylan Bundy (Orioles) and the “Fastest Man on Turf”, Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati Reds) make their MLB debuts in the coming month.
The 2013 (insert your team name here)
One of my favorite scenes in the movie “Major League” is near the beginning of the film. Three guys are sitting looking at the paper reading the Indians roster. After listing a few names (including Mitchell Friedman), the scene switches to two construction workers and one of the men says “Who are these ____ ing guys?”
This could be you during Spring Training next year if you don't closely following your team the rest of the season.
A good number of players who make their debuts in September will begin next season as good candidates to make the majors and potentially be in the starting lineup or rotation. If you want to get a preview of a team’s 2013 lineup, September might give you a good idea of what to expect.
Life is Just a Fantasy
More than 27 million people participate every year in fantasy football, according to AdWeek. Admittedly, most are involved in fantasy football, but fantasy baseball is still a huge business.
Even if your “real” team is out of the hunt, the same may not be true for your fantasy team. One thing fantasy baseball has done for the sport of baseball is to keep more fans interested for the duration of the long season.
If you are in the unfortunate position of having both your “real” team and your fantasy team near the bottom of the standings, it’s never too early to start prepping for next year.
While the predictive value of September statistics is debatable, they can be an indication that young Player X is starting to figure things out, or that the much older Player Y is starting to lose it.
Those in “keeper” leagues can get some early insight as to a player’s potential performance for next season by keeping a mindful eye on the final month of the current one. Skip out on September and you may make some foolish roster protection decisions next March.
It may seem as if the season is about wrapped up, but there is a lot of excitement yet to come. There is plenty of football to watch after the baseball season is truly completed.
Follow Mark on Twitter @EbbyCalvin37. Thanks for reading.