It’s the time of the year when baseball games have that different feel to it. While they technically have the same value over this month as the games in April or May, the final weeks of the baseball regular season bring a level of intensity that continues to snowball into the playoffs. While the excitement hits a fever pitch at this time of the year, it’s those teams looking to build their farm systems that tend to get in the way.
When you’re up by five or six games in the division, September 1 means the addition of an extra arm or two in the bullpen. When you’re 20 games out, September 1 means you have an additional 15 players to create new lineup combinations with. Major League Baseball is full of contradictions, and the September call-ups remain its biggest disappointment for fans looking for games with as much drama as possible. It has a different feel to it when a team only has one pitcher left in the bullpen, rather than the eighth arm out of the bullpen to throw 1/3 of an inning.
I understand the excitement factor for players on teams well out of the hunt. It wasn’t that long ago that Tigers fans would begin to drool over the prospect of (fill in the blank) hitting .250 at AA with 15 home runs. Those days are thankfully behind us, and the extra roster spots look to only be used for an additional spot start or an actual backup catcher. I wouldn’t mind if they capped rosters at 30, but it just seems that extending to a dugout packed with prospects just leads to longer games and sometimes less excitement.
In the famed game 162 of 2006 against the Royals, the two teams combined to use 13 pitchers across the board, including four pitching less than an inning. Even though it was 12 innings, the game took over 4.5 hours and felt liked it dragged on over the final six innings. I love teams that are out of it that still provide a fight, but it was this game where I finally gave in that roster expansions were serving the wrong purpose.
For the Tigers, the next four weeks are standing between this team and the franchise history books. Over the past 23 years (since 1988), the Tigers have had the occasional close call to taking a division title and have fallen short. They even moved divisions halfway through this journey, now avoiding the annual battle that has become Red Sox-Yankees. Even with two teams in pursuit this season, one has to think that this September will be different than the 23 previous ones.