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August 24, 2022 3 min read

Hey baseball fans, especially you casual fans, time to start paying attention. It’s almost September and this is when baseball gets exciting.

If you haven’t heard, Albert Pujols is having a season!! Pujols returned to St. Louis this year to play out his final season, his 21st in the majors. In the process, he’s making waves. He recently passed fellow Cardinal Stan Musial to move into second on the all-time total bases list. Through Monday, he’s seven homers shy of becoming just the fourth player in baseball history to hit 700 home runs.

As the season goes for the Cardinals, they’re not likely to win another World Series, but Pujols is doing his share to get them there. He’s always been a force to contend with late in the season. The 3-time MVP has a career .305 BA in September. While his bat may not be what it used to be, he’s having a hell of an August, batting .450, with a .511 OBP, 1.025 SLG and 1.536 OPS in 16 games. Those numbers are off the charts for a 42-year old.

Former ESPN Senior Writer Jerry Crasnick documented, “The failed pursuit of history can be nearly as compelling as the attainment of greatness. George Brett held America captive with his pursuit of .400 before finishing at .390. Roger Maris tied Babe Ruth with his 60th homer in late September 1961 before hitting No. 61 on Oct. 1. That achievement came about a week too late for commissioner Ford Frick.”

There are a number of players who have made a name for themselves late in the season. As a Phillies fan, I always enjoyed watching Chipper Jones have his way with the Mets, especially when it could sway the Phillies post-season chances.

Speaking of the Mets and Phillies in September, 2008 was a beautiful year to be a Phillies fan. The Mets went 5-12 to close out the season, the Phillies went 13-4. It came down to the final day. The Mets had veteran lefty Tom Glavine on the mound. He was charged with 7 runs and lasted just one-third of an inning. The Phillies were fueled by watching the collapse unfold on the scoreboard. The Phillies went on to win the World Series that year. September baseball is the best!

But, I digress.

An MVP season can be won or lost based on how the individual plays in the final month, as well. You also don’t have be be on a playoff team to win the MVP, but usually as lest one of the two is. 2021 was an anomaly. The two MVPs, Shohei Ohtani and Bryce Harper “…became just the ninth pair of MVPs since the award was first handed out in 1931 to come from non-playoff teams and the first since George Bell (Blue Jays) and Andre Dawson (Cubs) in 1987” according to MLB.com.

There is no correlation to being a great player in September and a future Hall of Famer, although there are plenty of Hall of Famers who had great Septembers. Take Eddie Murray for example. These are his career numbers versus his Sept/Oct numbers:

Season career numbers - .287 BA, .359 OBP, .476 SLG, .836 OPS

Sept/Oct Career Numbers - .315 BA, .388 OBP, .518 SLG, .906 OPS

Murray’s best month was when it counted. Of course, the fact that he had 3255 Hits, 504 HR, 1917 RBI over 21 seasons was ultimately what put him in the Hall of Fame.

Johnny Bench and Ozzie Smith are two Hall of Famers who had their best months in the middle of the summer, not late in the season, but they were counted on for a whole lot more than their offense. Between the two of them, they have 23 Gold Gloves, 10 for Bench and 12 for Smith. They were recognized as All Stars a combined 29 times, Bench 15, Smith 14. Players like these won’t jump off the page in September, but they’re sure fun to watch as they hold their teams together.

Bottom line, September doesn’t make or break a Hall of Fame career, but the best ones usually shine when the heat is on. That make September baseball just as worth watching as the games they play in October.