September... Ahh... September. I remember back to the days before I moved to Arizona. September is that time of year when leaves begin their annual deed to turn and fall from the trees, when the local swimming hole turns unfavorable, when the days get shorter while we are warned that soon the winds will get nipplier. September ushers in Autumn which means: Oh, so many marvelous things are coming soon!
The local department store is preparing their Christmas displays, the few remaining farmers of the great land begin their great harvest, the local school's bus stops are crowding up in the morning hours and football is ON!!! Before you know it, NBA and NHL teams will start to gather for training camp and the New York Yankees will be making golf reservations in Scottsdale and chartering fishing boats in the Gulf of Mexico.
But more important than all of these - September is the month when baseball lore is forged. If not for the Stalwarts of September there can be no Heroes of October. September is when leads are extended or choked away. September is when the 162 game season rears it's ugliness - when star players succumb to the daily rigors and burn out down the stretch and where newly minted rookies dig deep and find unknown talents and powers to push themselves into legends to be told for decades. It's when the Boys of Summer evolve into winners or losers. When the wheat is done growing and it's time to separate from the chaff...
September might be 30 days long, but September can last a lifetime. Who can forget the Rockies unbelievable run last September or the Mets' tragic collapse/self-inflicted chokehold? "We Gotta Believe"? The "Year of the Impossible Dream"? The "Year of the Blue Snow"?
It's because of September that Bucky Dent grew himself a new middle name. September is what made "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" possible. The only MLB season without a September (1994) was by far the saddest year of them all.
It all comes together in September before it can even dream of happening in October!
This September is shaping up nicely! All Division races except the AL West are within 5 games. Three Division races are within 3 games. So we have quite a dash coming down to the wire again this year! And that's not even taking the Wild Card races into account.
Let's take a look at the races we're in for!
Boston Red Sox 3.5 GB
The Rays start a 9 game road trip against the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Yankees. They could lock it up or break the door off the hinge and leave the race wide open. Another series at home against the Red Sox Sept 15-17 could be the icing on the cake if the road trip goes well. If the Rays do enough damage to the red Sox, they might be fighting just to stay in the Wild Card race! The Rays finish their season with 4 games in Detroit, who will be playing the youngsters of the future and packing it in after a disappointing, hope deflating season.
The Red Sox also have a heavy dosage of AL East battles and then 4 games at home against the Indians - who will be playing spoilers and for pride - before finishing a 3 game set against the Yankees at Fenway. Though the Yankees will long gone form contention by then you can only imagine that nothing would bring the Yankees as much pride as also knocking the Sox out of the Wild Card Race
The Rays finish 16-8 and end their season running away. They lock up the AL East (and baseball's best record) with 101 wins (only 9 more than I predicted in March) as the 6th of 7 seals is opened to the Apocalypse.
Red Sox finish their season 9-14 and loses out on the Wild Card after a one game playoff against the White Sox. While getting swept at home by the Yankees the last series of the season, was the kick in the groin, too much to overcome and not enough time to get Beckett healthy for the playoff game is what dooms the Red Sox. Yep,
Minnesota Twins 1.5 GB
This race is very interesting and the AL MVP will probably make himself apparent this month. In both the AL East and AL Central races, the Blue Jays and Indians will be potential/actual spoilers. This race will come down to the last day of the season but Minny has the easier (read: less tough) road to hoe as both team will be on relative tears through October.
Chicago goes 13-9 and loses the Division crown on the last day of the season yet still falls into a Wild Card tie with the Red Sox. The White Sox handle the Red Sox in the playoff, but Chicago's celebration doesn't last long.
Minnesota goes 15-6 and wins the division. Their prize? They get to visit Anaheim for a five game series. Justin Morneau wins MVP #2 yet still won't be a household name outside of Minnesota and British Columbia.
Florida Marlins 8GB
In all reality, Florida is out of it. There will be no self-choking this season as the Mets close out Shea. The Mets will have the scrutiny of the past, the foresightless NY media and all the pundits who are stuck living in the past breathing down their choke-marked throats.
New York goes 14-8 and doesn't collapse this September. Jerry Manuel redefines "Manager of the Year" and somehow, just somehow the Mets overcome their bullpen and the "Curse of Brian Stokes" (having Stokes in your bullpen IS the curse)
Philly goes 14-8 also and while they put a scare into the Mets, there's not enough Ooomph! this time around. Phillies fans revel in the surprise joy that is the Eagles as they are the one team that will make the playoffs in Philly this year.
Chicago Cubs --
Milwaukee Brewers 5 GB
A few weeks ago it looked like the Cubs had it locked up. They had the best record in baseball and a secure lead. Now they are floundering and facing the possibilities of losing the most effective parts of their pitching staff. They are in trouble and 6 games against surging Milwaukee (3 at home, 3 on the road) won't be helpful. The NL MVP might make himself the difference making votes in this race.
Chicago is your choke artist of the year this time going 9-13 down the stretch including losing 5 of 6 to the Brewers. Even with succumbing the Division to the Brewers, the Cubs will still hang on to the Wild Card but it won't help their confidence going into October. That will lead to Sweepsville for a second straight year. Hey there's always room for a 101st "Next Year"!!!
Milwaukee goes 16-6 down the stretch to take the division and secure the NL's best record. C.C. Sabathia robs Tim Lincecum and Brandon Webb of the Cy Young and also steals enough MVP votes away from his teammates that David Wright ends up with it instead.
Los Angeles Dodgers 1.5 GB
Colorado Rockies 6 GB
Let's face it; no team is out of it in the NL West because in reality they all kinda suck. It's not impossible for the Rockies to sneak up from behind and take the whole thing - especially considering the D-Backs and Dodgers
Arizona goes 12-11 to secure the division crown but so what? They're still just an 83 win team. The 2006 Cardinals proved anything is possible if you just get in, but let's be realistic. I won't be in need of a babysitter so I can go con/sneak/wiggle my way in the press box during the World Series.
Los Angeles goes 12-10 to end the season just above the .500 mark. Not exactly what they were hoping for is it? That "other" Manny walks, Torre makes more commercials and the Dodger Faithful will bleed Angel Red in October.
Colorado goes 14-7 to make it interesting and puts a scare in the D-Backs and Dodgers but in reality they do nothing more than play spoiler in a crappy division that no one should bat an eye at... These are a sad collection of .500 squads and not much more. Hurray for expanded playoffs!
So there you have it.
Rays and Angels in the ALCS while the Brewers and Mets sweep their first round opponents to meet in the NLCS. But since those matchups are too far into October we'll analyze them later. Just know that it was September that got them there!!!