Over the course of the next 18 days—during which time the Mets went 5-12 in their final 17 games—the Mets blew their first-place lead and eventually lost the division by one game to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Since then, the Yankees' lead has slowly but steadily dwindled. The Yanks began September with a three-game margin over the O's. Four days later, the two teams were tied for first place. During the past 24 days, the Yankees haven't lost their division lead but have had to share it seven times.
Though the Yankees are still in excellent position to make the playoffs, what if they blow this thing? Would it be the worst collapse in recent New York baseball history? Would it let the 2007 Mets off the hook?
On a national basis, the Mets already should be off the hook. The Boston Red Sox went 7-20 last September and blew a nine-game lead in the AL wild-card standings. The Atlanta Braves blew an 8.5-game wild-card lead in the NL with a 9-18 September. Those collapses were far worse.
But let's narrow our focus to New York here.
Before continuing, I should point out what might already be apparent: I am not a New Yorker.
But based on what I know from many visits to friends living there—and just being a sports fan—I know that the Yankees hold a far more prominent place in the New York sports scene than the Mets do. I realize that's a Captain Obvious statement.
So if the Yankees somehow squander their AL East lead and lose the Wild Card as well, by virtue of the Yankees simply being more popular and pervasive, that collapse will be viewed as a far bigger meltdown than what the Mets experienced in 2007.
Higher profile aside, the Yankees will have blown a bigger first-place lead over the course of the season if overtaken by the Orioles for the AL East title and the A's and Angels for a wild-card playoff spot.
Speaking of the Wild Card, the Yankees also have that second bid as an additional safety net, a luxury that the 2007 Mets did not enjoy. (If there had been two wild-card spots in the NL playoff field in 2007, the Mets would have lost out to the San Diego Padres.) That would make a Yankees collapse even worse.
But could this thing really happen?
Ten days remain in the 2012 MLB regular season. The Yankees' schedule looks pretty favorable with series against the Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox. Of course, the Red Sox will surely enjoy playing spoiler to the Yankees if they have the opportunity. But the Yanks are 10-5 versus their archrivals this season.
The Orioles also have to contend with the Blue Jays and Red Sox in their final nine games. But a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays to end the season looms large. The Rays could end up helping the Yankees with a series win there.
It's highly unlikely that the Yankees will blow a playoff spot over the next 10 days. That just has to be emphasized.
Coolstandings.com lists the Yanks' chances of making the postseason at 99.3 percent. Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees' chances at 99.7 percent. (If only we knew what the Mets' odds were on Sept. 24 of 2007, when the Mets had a two-game lead.)
When I wrote an article listing the odds of each current playoff contender making it to the postseason, the Yankees weren't included because I grouped them among the teams that were assured of playing past Oct. 3. The Yankees are going to make the playoffs.
Of course, all of this just fuels the talk of how epic a collapse this would be if the Yankees actually were to blow this.
The guess here is that the Yankees blowing a 3-0 lead to the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS is seen as the biggest collapse in recent New York baseball history. (Please correct me if I'm wrong, New Yorkers.) Does anyone besides Mets fans remember their 2007 implosion at this point?
Maybe so. Blowing the NL East in 2007 is certainly something Yankees fans can hold over Mets fans—and surely do.
But Mets fans would have a big rock to throw back at Yankees fans if they can't hold onto a playoff spot this year. And Yankees fans would probably be too shell-shocked to put up much of a fight.
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