The first rule of September callups league-wide appears to be that the needs of the big club come first, regardless of any postseason action elsewhere.
When the Red Sox traded away infielder Nick Punto as part of their blockbuster with the Dodgers, they needed infield help right away. Shortstop Jose Iglesias, who was hitting very well at Triple-A Pawtucket at the time, was pulled away from a pennant race and back to the big leagues, where the Major League team is trying to avoid a last-place finish.
Like Reno, Pawtucket is in its league's championship series. If things had gone differently for the Sox, Iglesias could still be there.
But in situations where need might not be so clear cut -- say, for a team out of the playoff hunt -- the decision to keep a team together or bring guys up enters more of a grey area.
"I think it depends on the situation at the ML level," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington wrote via email. "If there is a specific role for a player to play, then there is value to calling a guy up no matter the Triple-A situation. If a player is only going to be in a bench or emergency role, it can be more beneficial to keep playing in meaningful games."
Major League teams value winning in the Minors. Whether or not they keep the entirety of their Triple-A teams intact at the start of September, they value winning down there.
That's why a guy like White Sox left-hander Charlie Leesman, who's with Triple-A Charlotte, Pawtucket's opponent, was waiting before a potential call-up. That was before he reportedly hurt a knee in Wednesday's playoff game.
No one's guaranteed to come up, but Leesman, unlike Kansas City's Wil Myers, is at least on the 40-man roster. Myers is with Triple-A Omaha, Reno's championship series opponent.
Typically from the player perspective, the best place to be is the Majors, as amazing as a title at any level is.
"I mean yeah, it's definitely tough, obviously I'd rather be in the big leagues than Triple-A," said Myers, who may well not come up this year because he's not on the 40-man. "But I figure it's definitely cool to still be here with the team, we got a good group of guys on this team. It's definitely cool to be here winning with them. You know, obviously the playoffs I think is the best that you play all year, because it all comes down to wining. I'm really enjoying the experience. Obviously I'd rather be in the big leagues, but I'm still having fun."
"I really don't know, I don't know what's the best for you," Myers continued. "The big leagues could be really good for you, get some experience up there. But I feel like [this is] the next best thing."
There is an argument to be made that finishing off a playoff race at Triple-A is not as valuable as a week and a half in the Majors, for the player or the team. Maybe the player, a top prospect in the team's plans, has never been to the Majors before -- and he's played well enough to deserve the chance.
Maybe, too, there's a player that a team could use a real up-close look at ahead of Spring Training.
John Farrell, the second-year Blue Jays manager, was the Indians' director of player development from 2001-06. He said it's important to remember the switch platitude: there's no on and off position.
"Cause the one thing about player development first and foremost is the individual development of the player," Farrell said. "But to think that when you bring up a player who hasn't been asked to do things to win a ballgame at the Minor League level, and all of a sudden you're going to ask him to do that here, you can't just flip that switch on. I think you condition players to win. Yet, you have to balance that with the individual needs.
"September evaluations have to be looked at probably on par with Spring Training evaluations," Farrell continued. "They have to be tempered that it is September. There's a different air about the game from April to August than there is September and Spring Training."
The reality could well be that a cup of coffee tastes best after winning a title.
"It's definitely cool to be around the same group of guys that you been around all year," Myers said. "You build relationships with the guys, so it's definitely cool to be able to be with these guys and be able to win. But obviously, I really don't know, I don't know what's the best for you. I feel like the big leagues could be really good for you, get some experience up there. But I feel like this is the next best thing."