It’s September. The pennant races are officially pennant races. The whole, “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” thing can be thrown out like Prince Fielder trying to steal second base because, yes, it’s a sprint.
This isn’t just a sprint of teams trying to make the final eight. It’s also a sprint of September call-ups, injured (former) stars and desperate role players all jockeying for a spot on the 2010 roster. Whose roster? It really doesn’t matter. To be on a Major League team is Goal #1. To have a say in which team? Like the commercial says: Priceless.
Think of a guy like Carlos Delgado of the Mets. His contract runs out on October 3rd. Rather than receive an extension, he’ll be looking for work. A hip injury put him on the DL in May, and just as he was about to come back to the field, an oblique injury put a stop to that. A guy like Delgado needs a couple weeks to prove he’s worth an investment by some team for 2010. Barring recovery in the next 30-ish days, he might be one of those guys you read about in January, trying out for scouts on some back Puerto Rican ballfield.
Lefty Ron Mahay of the Twins has been healthy this year. The problem is he hasn’t been great, or at least that’s what his statistics say. Ineffective in Kansas City, he was designated for assignment and released, going from a last place, underperforming Royals team, to an AL Central contender. Ron’s performance during the next month will either raise his value to another multi-year, multi-million dollar contract or a floater getting picked up just as camps begin in February.
Then there’s a guy like Paul Byrd, who took the majority of 2009 off because, well, he wanted to. When he decided he did want to come back, the Red Sox signed him. His first start was six innings of shutout ball. What’s September mean to him? It means a Wild Card October and one more shot at a World Series he’s never reached after 3 Championship Series appearances. But even more than that, Paul Byrd’s September is one more opportunity to see if he wants to play next year or follow through on his most-of-2009 sit -out and retire for good.
There are more stories like these, many of players only the hardcore or fantasy baseball fans know about. But they’re out there, taking early BP, watching extra video, or doing some extra pre-game warning track wind sprints. Because the season’s winding down and there’s no time left for marathon training. Just playing hard and making the most of these last 30 days.
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