The 5 Biggest September Collapses in Baseball History
On July 18 the New York Yankees held a comfortable lead in the A.L. East and seemed destined for a deep playoff run. Since then, the Bombers have somehow managed to blow a 10-game advantage over the Orioles, leading to a scramble for first place and an extremely rattled New York fan base. Still, this is hardly the first time that a team with a comfortable lead has suffered a late-season collapse.
Let’s take a look at some of the worst September meltdowns in baseball history:
2011 Boston Red Sox
Last fall’s collapse by the Boston Red Sox provided a tragic ending for a group of players that had won two World Series rings together. The Terry Francona-led squad entered the season’s final month in cruise control, holding a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays. Over the next 26 games, the Sox flamed out in spectacular fashion, losing 19 times as its starters combined for a 7.15 ERA. In the end, not even the team’s $161 million payroll could save them from missing the playoffs. Add in the allegations that some players had been drinking beer and eating fried chicken before games, and you have one of baseball’s unmitigated disasters.
2011 Atlanta Braves
The Red Sox weren’t the only team to crash and burn during the last month of the 2011 season. As of August 26, the Atlanta Braves held a 10-and-a-half-game lead over the Cardinals and were poised for a postseason run. Instead, Atlanta struggled with late-season injuries, fatigue, and a sputtering offense, resulting in an 8-18 September record. Their troubles came to a head near the end of the month, as the team dropped five straight games and missed the postseason entirely. Meanwhile, St. Louis snuck into the playoffs and went on to win the World Series.
2007 New York Mets
Fans of the New York Mets are used to the occasional losing streak, but nothing could have prepared them for the team’s monumental collapse in 2007. On September 12, the Mets held an 83-62 record and a seven-game lead over the Phillies. Over the next few weeks, the veteran team came unglued, losing 12 of 17 games thanks largely to some truly abysmal pitching. Their struggles were punctuated on the final game of the season, in which “ace” Tom Glavine surrendered seven runs in the first inning, ensuring that New York would miss out on both the division and the wild card.
1995 California Angels
How bad was the September crash of the ’95 Angels? According to Baseball Prospectus, California (they weren’t yet called the Anaheim Angels or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) had a 99.99 percent chance of making the playoffs at the peak of the strike-shortened 1995 season. Instead, they suffered through not one but two nine-game losing streaks, squandering a 10-and-a-half-game A.L. West lead. The Angels tried to make things interesting, winning five straight games near the end of the month to force a one-game playoff that would determine the division champion. In that game, though, the Randy Johnson-led Mariners trounced the Angels 9-1, completing the disaster.
1964 Philadelphia Phillies
For decades, the collapse of the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, known as “The Phold,” was the standard by which every late-season meltdown was judged. Philadelphia had run roughshod over the National League for most of the year, led by its dominant pitching and 1964 rookie of the year Dick Allen. On September 17, the Phillies were 30 games over .500 and held a six-and-a-half-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. Unfortunately, late September proved to be the team’s undoing, as they recorded a 10-game losing streak that cost them the division crown. Since the majors had yet to install a wild card (or the three-division system), the Phillies missed the playoffs altogether.