LEvery month of the baseball season (and off-season) has its own particular character, shaped by the weather, the mile-posts and the emotional quality experienced by the teams, their organizations and their fans. August, as such, is known as “The Dog Days”, the characterization of which descends to us from ancient times when the sun arose in close proximity to the star Sirius (“The Dog Star”, so-called because of its prominence in the constellation Canis Major, the Big Dog) during the time of high summer and maximum heat in the northern hemisphere.
This is the part of the season where the 162-game length seems really, really long; the games tick off past 100 towards the 130 mark when September brings cooler weather and hotter pennant chases. This is a time when separation naturally occurs and the contenders distinguish themselves from the pretenders. The hot days and sultry nights create the conditions known as “Hitting Weather”, when the baseball carries in the heated air and the scores are frequently in the beer-league vicinity of 12-10 and 9-8 games. The pitchers are reaching the 130+ innings pitched for starters, and relievers are passing the 50 appearance mark. Their endurance is being challenged by the hitters, who naturally expend less effort during games and now begin to catch up, so to speak, having seen their opponents several times and taking notice of tendencies, for example, which pitch tends to get thrown in which situation. Smart hitters take note of such things and use the information in search of an advantage.
We take note of which teams are performing as we expected, which are up-side surprises, and which are disappointing. If your team is the Philadelphia Phillies or Boston Red Sox, you are no doubt in the dumps over your team’s fortunes in 2012. If you wagered on either team prior to the season, keep your receipt so you can claim a loss on your 2012 taxes.
If your team is the New York Yankees or Texas Rangers, you are right where you expected to be. Divisional titles are there for the taking. If you are a fan of the Washington Nationals, you are delighted at your team’s performance and are looking forward to post-season baseball in the Nation’s capital, which may in fact overshadow the political campaigns (not such a bad thing, really). For the Nationals, the main question is what to do with their outstanding young ace, Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg has been everything he is supposed to be, but he is coming off elbow surgery and prior to the season the Nationals were adamant that he would be “shut down” after about 150 innings. He is getting awfully close to that, the Nationals are going to be presented with a dilemma. Are they seriously not going to pitch him? Are they going to put him on strict pitch counts for the remainder of the season? And what about the playoffs, where they anticipate a long and fruitful run?
Great questions, and stay tuned.