I am not one to rejoice in the pain of other sports nations a lot. I live in a city where the hockey team hasn’t won a cup since the sixties, the star player of the basketball team left for warmer temperatures, and the baseball team is stuck in the most competitive division in the entire sport. I have a certain animosity towards franchises that have a history of winning. Maybe it’s because I am not used to it personally. Cities such as Atlanta and Boston have had plenty to rejoice about this year in basketball, football and especially in baseball. Going into the month of September, the Braves and Red Sox both had leads in the AL and NL Wild Card races that had many fans thinking that it was a given they would be heading to the playoffs. 9 game leads in baseball, especially going into the last month of the season, are usually safe and secure. But what happened next would lead to 2 of the biggest collapses in the history of professional baseball.
7 – 20 in September for Boston after holding a 9 game lead
8 – 17 in September for Atlanta after holding a 8 1/2 game lead
Never before in any sport have I seen such a drop-off in production over such an important period of time. Both team’s should be humbled and horribly disappointed by this major blown opportunity, but one team’s failures does overshadow the others. The magnitude of Boston blowing the lead resonates more around the league than Atlanta. The Braves hid in the shadow of Boston’s inaptitude. It’s like no one really noticed that the Braves screwed up just as badly as the Sox. This is because the Boston Red Sox are one of the most recognized franchises in professional sports. They have a payroll and a roster that can match the New York Yankees any day of the week. With the amount of talent and money that this organization possesses, it is only a natural thought to think that the team will be in post-season contention on a yearly basis. From Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellesbury to Jon Lester and Josh Beckett on the pitching staff, this team has all-world talent. They have a huge bank account that was used this past summer to sign star outfielder Carl Crawford. Crawford was non-existent this year. 11 home runs and 56 RBI’s are not the expected totals of a $142 million dollar star. However, all of the blame should not be solely placed on the shoulders of one player. Maybe it was all Papelbon’s fault. Maybe it was Crawfords. In reality, this was a TEAM collapse, not an individual one. To lose 7 of 27 in September doesn’t equal a cold spell or bad luck. This team has problems that were exposed in the worst way at the worst time. Does a collapse like this equal a cleaning of the house? I don’t believe so. Everyone should be held accountable for their part in this mess, but for a good portion of the year, this team was one of the elite teams in baseball.
Which is exactly why I have ZERO sympathy for the Sox, Braves or any team who has every chance in front of them to succeed, and then they squander it in a matter of weeks. Professional athletes are paid millions and millions of dollars to perform at the highest level on a nightly basis. The Sox and Braves forgot that. They gave up. They threw in the towel. They didn’t produce. Both teams had ONE LAST CHANCE to win their Wild Cards. It was right there for the taking. Boston had a lead against Baltimore. The Braves had every chance imaginable against the Phillies. Both teams lost. They choked, plain and simple. No excuses. No remorse. They will remember this for the rest of there professional careers. Which they should. The Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves should be in the 2011 MLB playoffs. There not. They have no one to blame but themselves.