Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wild Finishes

Yesterday was truly one of the most exciting ends to a Major League Baseball season ever. The Braves should feel lucky that their historic collapse was eclipsed a mere moment or two later by the Red Sox even more historic collapse. Coupled with the Red Sox history of collapses, the Braves get to be an also-ran in the news today.

In case you missed it, the Braves held a 8.5 game lead over the Cardinals earlier in September. The Red Sox had a 9 game lead on the Rays and actually had the best record in the AL as September started. Both teams had terrible Septembers while the Rays and Cardinals had amazing Septembers. Both teams needed to win last night to advance or force a tie for the Wild Card. Both teams were winning 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs (and Boston had two strikes). Both lost.

The Cardinals, who also get to be an also-ran today, won earlier in the day easily. The Rays on the other hand, a few minutes after the Red Sox stunning loss, capped an amazing comeback of their own. After being down 7 to 0 heading into the 8th, they rallied to score 6 runs. Then one strike away from losing, they tied it up and went on to win it in extra innings.

Phew. The whole time I kept thinking, if this were next year, none of this would matter. MLB plans to add another Wild Card team next year. Had they done so this year, all 4 teams would have already been in the playoffs heading into the final day of the season. I'm sure if you asked Red Sox or Braves fans, they'd bemoan the fact that it hadn't been implemented this year. Whereas the rest of us got to enjoy that it hadn't.

Yesterday was a particularly unique convergence of circumstances. The NY Times has good article on the one in 278 million chance the Red Sox had of not making the playoffs. This wouldn't happen again even if the playoffs weren't expanded next year. We won't be missing anything. Instead, this year we missed the chance to see the Red Sox/Rays and Braves/Cardinals duke it out head-to-head. That certainly might have been just as exciting.

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