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The Beauty of September Baseball

St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati RedsIt’s one of those quirky baseball things: September. For the first five months of the baseball season, each MLB team is constrained to a 25-man active roster. Of course, each team also has a 40-man roster which is the list of players a team is allowed to bring up and use in the majors.

But in that last month of September, teams are allowed—for some reason—to expand their active rosters to 40. A lot of people tend to see this as a bad thing—as if more ballplayers playing the game is some kind of taboo. But it’s not a bad thing. It’s actually really exciting.

It’s especially really exciting when teams call up exciting players to get them exposure to the big leagues. Take the Cincinnati Reds and their prospect Billy Hamilton, for example. The 22-year-old set a minor league baseball record by stealing 155 bases last season. He stole 103 in 2011, and he had 75 this year prior to his call up.

Who wouldn’t want to see guys like this in the show?

The important thing to know is that teams’ general managers don’t sit in their offices and empty the rest of the guys from the 40-man into their MLB team; they strategically pick certain players they think can hold a vital role for the team.

Now think of the trade that the Boston Red Sox recently made with the Kanas City Royals. Boston acquired a speedy outfielder in Quintin Berry and sent a relief pitcher, Clayton Mortenson, back to the Royals.

Berry has one year in the majors, 2012, where he turned some heads with Detroit. However, he has struggled mightily in the minors this season. The Red Sox didn’t go out and get the 28-year-old for his bat—that much is obvious. He is there to be a role player.

Berry’s role will likely be to pinch run and steal bases when needed. Sound familiar?

It’s not to suggest that Quintin Berry is or will be a Dave Roberts, but that’s what September is all about. It may not look like it on paper, but these guys can and do make a huge difference. Dave Roberts will never be forgotten in Red Sox lore because of the immense difference he made.

Think it can’t happen again?

They say speed kills in this game. Billy Hamilton made his first major league appearance on Tuesday, pinch-running, and stole a base against Yadier Molina—arguably the most advanced defensive catcher in baseball. Okay, his first career stolen base. Big deal, right?

But it was against the St. Louis Cardinals—a team the Reds have been perpetually chasing for the NL Central crown. After the theft, Hamilton proceeded to score the only run of the game. A game that could have serious implications on the pennant chase.

Yeah, big deal. That’s September.

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