“September Song”

“Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December,

But the days grow short when you reach September,

When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame,

One hasn’t got time for the waiting game.”

Major League Baseball promotes the final games of its regular season as the “Hunt for October,” and the television networks have been running player promotions all year with the tagline: “I play for October.”  But as we all know, games in September usually decide which teams play in MLB’s post-season. So as my introduction to MLB’s 2013 pennant race I chose a Maxwell Anderson lyric from a classic tune composed by Kurt Weill for the 1938 Broadway musical “Knickerbocker Holiday” (more about that Show later).

Depending on the artist’s interpretation, “September Song” is either about finding love or losing love.  Either interpretation is appropriate for MLB’s pennant race – think of it as a contemplative version of “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!”  For the older ones among us, remember when ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” was the only sports show on TV the entire week?  Check out this link for a bit of nostalgia. http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=wide+world+of+sports+intro+video&FORM=VIRE1#view=detail&mid=FA3163AAD0AB8A454587FA3163AAD0AB8A454587

I think “September Song” would make a perfect soundtrack for a lead-in to a late September game broadcast. (Coming soon to ESPN, Fox or MLB Network?) There are dozens of recordings of “September Song,” but my two favorites are by Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson.  These legends’ contrasting choral styles are as diverse as the personalities of DiMaggio and Williams, and although I love Sinatra, I actually prefer Willie’s version of this tune because it is so mellow (finding love/thrill of victory), where Sinatra’s is melancholy (losing love/agony of defeat).  Here are the links if you want to listen for yourself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9nSgMwtkK0  (Nelson)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjiVbaA1-sc (Sinatra)

If you don’t know Nelson’s 1978 album “Stardust,” which includes this tune and other classics from the American songbook, you’ve missed some of the best stress-relief medicine available. As we head into the MLB stretch-run perhaps all of the managers could benefit from downloading “Stardust” on their iPods, or at least the following managers should: STL, CIN, TBR, OAK, BAL, NYY, CLE, KCR, ARI, each of whose teams is within 6.5 games of the second wild card position.  Perhaps several of us B.A.B.E.S. members should engage in a little music therapy, too, as this brief review of our predictions will reveal the need for some stress relief.

It has been a strange year so far, one where the experts appear to have been greatly mistaken as to the dominant teams.  Sixteen of us predicted either WAS, LAA or TOR would win the World Series.  That’s not just stressful, it’s shameful.  Those teams are a combined 21 games under .500, and they wouldn’t be that good if not for WAS finally showing signs of life by winning 7 of its last 10 games. and LAA winning 3 games in a row over the Braun-less Brewers.

Due to their dismal performance all year, even WAS’s recent modest improvement still leaves them 7.5 games behind CIN for the second NL wild-card.  If you are one of the 9 of us that picked WAS to win the Series, there is at least a glimmer of hope, but not much.  For the other 7 of you who picked TOR or LAA, forget it.  As for the four of you who picked LAA and WAS to be in the World Series, well, “expert” is a relative term.

For those of you who picked ATL, DET, LAD or TEX to win it all, you can look forward to some anxious moments for all the right reasons.  On September 1, each of those three teams is be a good bet for a Series win. http://linemakers.sportingnews.com/mlb/2013-08-26/world-series-odds-2013-las-vegas-cardinals-reds-pirates-dodgers-yankees-tigers

The failures of LAA, TOR, SFO and likely WAS, as well as the surprising success of BOS and PIT, have damaged nearly everyone’s potential first round point totals.  Jeff Hamilton, Kara Rose, Walter Stone, Eric Hoffman and Dan Nerdahl appear most likely to total a respectable 12-15 of the possible 30 points from the regular season final standings.  Thereafter, only Kara (CIN, TEX), and Hudson Stone (ATL, TBR) are likely to have both pennant winners even make the post-season.

Consequently, as in year’s past, I don’t believe anyone will win the Rocky without at least one correct individual selection, and that is where a few of you may strike gold (or faux bronze, which is what the Rocky is made of). Jeff and Kara (obviously much smarter than her dad) both picked Miguel Cabrera to win the AL batting title AND the AL MVP.  That appears to be a certain 10 points and a likely 20, unless Cabrera is really hurt and the voters then decide to go with Mike Trout this year.  In that event, Walter (2013 WBC champ) and Tom Marchiando (2010 B.A.B.E.S. champion), would be in great position, having picked Trout as MVP and Cabrera as batting champ.

But what would truly be remarkable if it occurs, and would almost certainly result in a new B.A.B.E.S. point record, would be Jeff Hamilton’s prediction of Cabrera as AL MVP and batting champ and Clayton Kershaw as NL Cy Young and MVP.  That would be the first double double in B.A.B.E.S. history!

I personally do not think Kershaw (or any pitcher) deserves the MVP award, but many commentators are advocating for him and, of course, it was only two years ago that Verlander won the AL MVP.   Clearly it could happen again and would likely ensure that Jeff wins this year’s competition in his first try. If so, I would be tempted to invoke my “best interest of B.A.B.E.S.” powers to deny him his Rocky since he picked TOR to win the Series.  But he wasn’t the only one who made that mistake, and I don’t want to be seen as a “dictator” like Kennesaw Mountain Landis, which brings me back to “Knickerbocker Holiday.”

If you’re really interested, a link to the entire plot line is below, but in a nutshell the show is based on the life of Peter Stuyvesant, an autocratic governor of the former Dutch settlement now known as New York City.  (Could this be where the Boss learned his style?) In his effort to impose his fascist-like policies, Stuyvesant loses not only his office, but also the girl he dreams of. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knickerbocker_Holiday#Plot.

If it doesn’t sound like a great idea for a musical, it wasn’t.  The original run lasted for fewer than six months and despite revivals and movies loosely based on the play, it is mostly known today for one song – “September Song,” of course.  And if you are still with me, I can’t resist carrying this association one step further.

I think the final lines of this song would serve as an appropriate elegy for Alex Rodriquez’s time with NYY.  The Yankees are making a modest run, moving to only 3.5 games out of the second wild card with a win on August 31.  Rodriguez has made a contribution to the surge since his return to the line-up pending resolution of his appeal of the 211 game suspension from baseball.  The appeal is not expected to be heard by an arbiter before November, so he should be with the team till NYY is eliminated or he suffers another injury.

I find it ironic, however, that Rodriguez’ appeal is likely only delaying his service of at least a 50 game suspension and perhaps the full 211.  Either way, delaying the start of the suspension only delays his return date, which could be after he turns 40!  Therefore, I get the feeling that we are seeing the final days of Rodriguez’s career, which reminds me of September Song’s closing lines:

“Oh the days dwindle down to a precious few.

September, November.

And these few precious days, I’ll spend with you.

These precious days, I’ll spend with you.

Stay tuned all through September to see if these precious days include a post-season spot for NYY and Rodriguez.  The thrill of victory?  Or the agony of defeat?  You all know which one I’m rooting for.