As a freshman at Clemson I wrote for a school newspaper. It was at the end of September four years ago, and the Mets had just wrapped the biggest baseball collapse of my lifetime. Seeing something pretty special in the Phillies comeback, to end what otherwise was a disappointing year where Boston won the AL East and World Series, I wrote an article for the school paper. After last nights historic collapses/comebacks involving Tampa, Boston, St. Louis, and Atlanta, I was inspired to go back and reread my article and share it here.
For Braves and Red Sox fans, this may put it in perspective and take a little pain away.
The New York Mets head into their final 17 games with a hefty seven game lead. They won the division last year (2006), and have been in first since the early in the season. Of their remaining games only one series is against a team with a winning record. To not win the division at this point would require the greatest collapse in the history of baseball or maybe even all of sports, and collapse is exactly what the Mets did.
As the Mets lost at an almost unrealistic pace (losing 12 of their last 17 games) the Phillies seized the opportunity and won 12 of their final 16 games. The Mets superstar leadoff man, shortstop Jose Reyes, went 2-for-23 (.087) in the final five games of the season. Mets closer, Billy Wagner, did not record a save after September 12—with still over two weeks left in the season. He blew his final save opportunity of the season on September 23 and allowed more runs in his next appearance. Despite all the losses, the season still ended up coming down to the final day. The Mets and Phillies were tied, each with one game left to play. The Phillies sent veteran Jamie Moyer to the mound. Moyer did not allow an earned run and the Phillies won the game 6-1. The Mets also sent a successful veteran to the mound in Tom Glavine, but his start became a total disaster. He recorded just one out in the first inning before allowing seven earned runs and being pulled from the game. The Mets could not mount a comeback and Glavine took the loss that capped the Mets demise.
For the first time since 1993 the Phillies captured the NL East crown, a title which was exclusive to the Atlanta Braves for 10 years before the Mets won it last year (2006). The heart that the Phillies showed down the stretch was remarkable. Most teams would have given up with the Mets holding an imposing seven game lead, but the Phillies under manager Charlie Manuel, did not. Instead they went to New York, swept the Mets, and shoved the Mets into their tumble.
Now the only question is where this collapse fits in sports history. It is certainly more astounding than the Red Sox ALCS comeback against the Yankees in 2004. That was simply 4 games of a 7 game series. Statistically the probability of a Red Sox comeback was much higher. This was an entire regular season coming apart at the seams for the Mets.
The famous disaster of the 1978 Red Sox may be the only one even comparable to this one. In 1978 the Red Sox had a 14 game lead over the Yankees and allowed the Yankees to come all the way back and take the division from them on Bucky Dent’s famous home run in a one game playoff. Still, the 14 game lead was in July with over two months left in the season. The Mets had just 17 games left to lock up their division title.
When asked how he felt, one dedicated Mets fan said: “Disgraced,” “Ashamed,” and “Humiliated.” David Wright said he was “embarrassed” about the debacle. If you’re a Mets fan, luckily the offseason is short in baseball.
After reading my old article, and seeing the finish to this season, where do you rank this season’s collapses in baseball history?
From Y! Sports: “Boston finished 90-72, one game behind the Rays and seven behind the archrival New York Yankees; the nine-game lead was the biggest ever held in September by a team that failed to make the playoffs.”
When that fact coupled with this: “The Red Sox lost their first six games and opened the season 2-10, but they went a major league-best 81-42 from then through Aug. 31 to take a comfortable lead in the playoff race.” I think Boston’s collapse is worse than The ’04 Yankees, ’07 Mets, ’11 Braves, and even the ’78 Red Sox that blew a 14 games (in June) with the famous Bucky Dent shot.
A less famous collapse from the 1964 Phillies could be in the top 3.
Leading by six and a half games on Sept. 20, with just 12 games left in the season, the Phillies lost 10 in a row and dropped into third place in the National League. They won their final two, but Bob Gibson (left) and the Cardinals advanced to the World Series and defeated the Yankees in seven games. The Phillies hadn’t won a pennant since 1950, and didn’t win their next until 1980.
Going even further back…a late 14 games lead blown.
The Dodgers’ 1951 season ended with Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard ‘round the world.” After leading the league by 14 games on Aug. 11, the Dodgers wound up tied with the Giants on Sept. 28. After both teams won their final two regular season games, they began a three-game playoff. Despite winning the coin toss, the Dodgers chose to host Game 1 opposed to the final two. The series went to a third game, and Thomson (center), a utility player for the Giants, smashed his team into the World Series with a home run to left field.