The Yankees are on the verge of an epic collapse, the worst regular-season meltdown in the storied 110-year history of the franchise.
At the end of play on July 18, the Yankees found themselves 10 games in front of the Orioles and 10.5 in front of the Rays in the AL East. They were cranking up the presses to print playoff tickets. Instead, they seem to be cracking under the pressure.
Since that high-water mark, the Bronx Bombers have played more like the Bronx Bumblers, squandering nearly all of that 10-game advantage. Their homer-happy lineup has failed to hit in the clutch, and the pitching staff has coughed up leads on a regular basis. To put it kindly, they've been playing a listless brand of ball for two months.
The Yankees have never blown a double-digit lead and failed to finish in first place.
According to STATS LLC, their biggest cushion in a season in which they failed to finish first was six games in 1933. That year, the Yankees led the Washington Senators by six games on June 6, but eventually slipped to second while Washington won the AL flag. Incidentally, that was Washington's last playoff appearance.
Since divisional play began in 1969, New York has advanced to the postseason each of the last 15 times it has been in first place on September 1. In fact, only at five times in their history have the Yankees been in first place anytime in the month of September and failed to make the playoffs.
The Highlanders, as they were known back then, found themselves in first place after beating the Boston Americans (now the Red Sox) 3-2 on October 7. The next day, Boston swept a doubleheader from the Highlanders to capture the lead with two games left in the season.
After an off-day Sunday (Sunday baseball was not permitted in New York at that time), Jack Chesbro's wild pitch gave the American's a 3-2 win and the American League pennant. Chesbro won 41 games for the Highlanders that year, still a major league record, but will forever be remembered for that fateful wild pitch.
The Yanks were tied with Cleveland with 12 games to play, but lost to the White Sox the next day while Cleveland beat Washington. The Indians went on to their first World Championship, beating the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1920 World Series.
Tied for first in mid-September with eight games remaining, the Yankees lost to Detroit the next day. Washington won its first and only title, beating the New York Giants in seven games in a dramatic World Series.
With seven games left in the season, the Yankees found themselves in a three-way tie with Cleveland and Boston. The Indians eventually beat the Red Sox in the American League's first playoff, and then knocked off the Boston Braves for their second—and last—World Championship.
Playing their home games at Shea Stadium while Yankee Stadium was being refurbished, the Yankees were in first place with eight games remaining. However, the red-hot Baltimore Orioles overtook the Yankees to win the AL East.
In 2010, the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays battled down the stretch for the AL East crown.
The two clubs were tied going into the final day of the season. That day the Yanks lost to Boston 8-4 while Tampa beat Kansas City 3-2 in 12 innings. However, both teams were already assured playoff spots.
So, even though they failed to win the division, the Yankees still earned the wild card.
Look on the bright side Yankee fans: Nothing could be worse than 2004, when the archrival Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the ALCS—the only time in baseball history that's ever happened.
Yep, Boston snapped the Curse of the Bambino and their 86-year championship drought, while the Yankees were left to ponder their fate.
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