Baseball by the Month

With April over, we are well into the baseball season. Things should start settling out now, as “small sample sizes” are a thing of the past. Trevor Story has got to cool off, the Phillies can’t really be as good as they’ve been, and the Astros can’t be as bad.

But it’s not just April that’s a special part of the baseball season. Every month all the way through to October has its own characteristic, its own “feel”.

April is the month of rebirth, renewal, and optimism. As the season opens, pretty much every team can believe that it has a chance at winning. Hot starts give fans a chance to celebrate and look forward to an impressive season; cold starts can be brushed off as a reflection of the brevity of a single month. One month in baseball corresponds to two weeks of an NFL season, and you don’t write off a football team when they lose two straight, do you?

May is when the chaff gets separated from the wheat. By Memorial Day, it should be obvious which teams have no chance at getting anywhere other than the basement. The pheenoms of April return to earth and the bums recover as things start to round out to a truer representation of talent.

Although the All-Star Ballots have been out for weeks by the time June rolls around, that’s the month where it starts to become clear which players are having great years. “Small sample sizes” are a distant memory. Now it’s time for fans to argue over whether popularity or statistical performance is more important in determining the lineup for an exhibition game.

July 31 is the trade deadline. So in July, there’s all the discussion over which teams are “sellers” with no hope of competing, and which teams are “buyers” looking for that one player who can push them over the top.

In August, there’s still enough baseball left to make it a challenge to figure out which teams have absolutely no chance at a playoff spot, especially with the wild cards. Very few teams will be mathematically eliminated before the end of the month, and those that are will have been obviously out of contention for weeks. The discussion therefore comes down to which players are worthy of the major awards. It’s not likely anyone can sneak into the league leaders at this point.

September, of course, is the heart of the pennant race. For contenders, every single game takes on significance. “Magic numbers” and scoreboard watching come into play, as does “strength of schedule”. Fans (and teams) secretly lament the losses back in April that are coming back to haunt them in the standings.

October? Playoffs and World Series!

One could, if one was so inclined, continue. November is when all the awards are given. The Winter Meetings, where owners and general managers wheel and deal, are in December. The Hall of Fame announces its new inductees in January. Spring Training camps open in February, and the the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues get going in March

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