My favorite times on the baseball calendar

This was originally going to be a top-ten list. Then I thought I would be cute and have one item for each month of the year. Unfortunately, the only notable annual occurrence on my baseball calendar for May is “Royals go on a long losing streak and consign themselves to another wasted season”, which is a more fitting item for this list’s opposite.

January: Lead-up to Hall of Fame vote
I love learning about baseball history, and the discussion about the merits of various stars, newcomers, and last-chancers on the ballot is a great way to learn about baseball of yesteryear. I enjoy all the preliminary discussion much more than wondering afterwards why the BBWWAA didn’t elect Tim Raines.

February: Pitchers and catchers report to spring training
This is a calendar favorite not so much for any particular event that happens. Instead, it’s about the hot stove league talk simmering down and actual baseball getting underway along with the related discussions about who’s gained or lost three mph on their fastball, who’s added a new sinker or cutter, who’s lost weight or added muscle or going to try stealing more bases this year, and who’s going to win the second base job or the last spot in the rotation. Even if the games don’t start or count yet, hope springs anew for the Royals and 28 other non-World-Champion teams.

March: Fantasy league auction day
I know I’m not as rotisserie-crazy as some folks, but I enjoy the one league in which I participate, and March is a time for evaluating and projecting players, choosing keepers, and drawing up a list for the auction. When auction day finally arrives, it’s a day my wife graciously takes the kids and lets me spend eight hours glued to the computer (maybe one of these days I’ll have an in-person league again) and the rest of the weekend mentally processing my roster and the chances for my team.

April: Opening Day
This one speaks for itself. “Play ball!”

June: Amateur draft
It’s a grand celebration of over-hyping prospects, but everyone knows that here is where the vast majority of the stars of tomorrow find a major league organization to call home for a while. It’s interesting to hear about up-and-coming prospects, even if many of them won’t ever make The Show. It’s also a revealing time for the business of baseball.

July: Annual PITCHf/x Summit
July baseball has a lot of goodies, but I chose this as a personal favorite. To me, it’s a SABR convention on steroids–a highly specialized geekfest hosted by Sportivision, one of the coolest companies in America, and attended by some of the sharpest minds in baseball physics, engineering, and analysis.

August: SABR Post-convention recap day
We arrive at the occurrence that prompted this list. Every year I look expectantly for the online recaps of the convention. One of these days I am going to make it in person. I love baseball history and research. What better way to spend a weekend than with a bunch of other people who think the same way? And what better consolation prize for those of us who can’t to read about it from those who do?

September: Pennant races
One of these years this is going to credibly involve a Royals team again, and it will quickly shoot to the top of the list. The last time that happened was 1987 (we’re not going to talk about 1994, are we?). The Royals swept the Twins in a bittersweet season-ending series that didn’t matter behind Bret Saberhagen, Charlie Leibrandt, and Mark Gubicza to finish two games behind the eventual World Series champions. The Royals had also been only two games back of the Twins and A’s on August 29. They stayed in the race as late as September 17, when they split a four-game series with the California Angels (who were also part of a tough four-team division race) to stay within three games of first. However, a three-game sweep at the hands of Oakland and their new closer, Dennis Eckersley, quickly dashed the Royals’ (and my) hopes. It’s been a long 22 years…

October: World Series
Baseball on the grand stage for all the marbles. American League versus National League. Managers dueling. Outstanding pitching performances. Yep.

November: Hardball Times Annual arrives
Okay, maybe I’m a little biased. But the last two years as my childhood sabermetric interest has reawakened, this has come the closest to that moment when my brother or I would first find the new Bill James Baseball Abstract available in the sports section at Waldenbooks.

December: Winter meetings and Rule V draft
The Rule V draft is where gems like Joakim Soria and Johan Santana come from. The winter meetings themselves are lots of baseball-related sturm und drang at a time when everyone is talking about the BCS or some other non-baseball-related nonsense. Apparently they’re also becoming quite a meet-and-greet. Who’da thunkit?

Honorable mention:
January: Next-season projections released for CHONE, Oliver, Marcel, PECOTA, etc.
Oh, yeah! You know you love it, too.

June: College World Series
Even better when my Oklahoma Sooners or the local Texas Longhorns are involved.

July: All-Star Game
This would be high on the list if it didn’t involve a three-day cessation in real baseball games. That’s a serious drag on an otherwise fun event.

July: Non-waiver trading deadline
See my previous comment on the winter meetings and substitute “twitter” for “meet-and-greet”.

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