On September 2nd, the Rays were 9 games behind Boston for the AL wild card. The Braves led both the Cardinals and Giants by 8.5 games. All the ESPN commentators were going on and on about how baseball should add an additional wild card spot in each league to make the races more exciting. They argued that the only quality race was happening in the AL East, where the Yankees were giving Boston more trouble than expected, holding a half game lead.
While hindsight is 20-20, we can now look back and see how ridiculous their claims were. Expanding the playoffs doesn’t create more excitement, it just shifts the excitement from being around the very good teams (the great teams are already in the postseason) to the fairly good teams that would be fighting for a second wild card slot.
Luckily, we only have one wild card so we can spend a few days marveling at these amazing collapses from Boston and Atlanta, before attention shifts to the Yankees battling Justin Verlander.
The Red Sox finished the season on a 7-20 spiral, and as I’m sure you saw, blew a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 9th. Just minutes after Papelbon’s meltdown, Evan Longoria beat the Yankees (much to the Yankees’ own approval) with a extra inning home run. Really, the night was a microcosm of the season. The Rays fell behind an apathetic Yankees team by 7 runs, never gave up, fought their way back, and somehow won in amazing comeback fashion. Meanwhile the Red Sox and Braves were busy blowing ninth inning leads, a fitting way to end month long collapses.
Jonathan Papelbon is one of the most hated players by Yankee fans, and watching him blow the game (and season) adds a schmear of extra satisfaction for us Yankee fans. Somehow it doesn’t feel like the Yankees just got swept by Tampa, it feel like we just swept Boston! Another great thing to come out of these collapses…Jacoby Ellsbury won’t win the MVP!
After the games ended, a commentator on ESPN said, “September baseball has never been better.” I hope that means adding an extra wild card has lost it’s momentum, because this is why “…baseball is the greatest game.” – Tim Kurkjian
Feel free to leave your cheers of joy or angry banter in the comments.