Where 2013 Texas Rangers Would Rank on All-Time September Choke List
Another September, another collapse for the Texas Rangers. Unlike last year's team, which had built up a big enough lead in the first five months to make the playoffs as a wild card, the 2013 version is on life support after seven consecutive losses.
Entering play on Tuesday, the Rangers (81-68) have the smallest of edges over the Cleveland Indians (81-69) because the latter has played one more game. Baltimore (79-70), Kansas City (79-71) and New York (79-71) are also hot on their heels.
This is a far cry from where the Rangers were on Aug. 31. After defeating Minnesota 2-1, Texas was 79-56 with a two-game lead over Oakland in the American League West.
A 2-12 stretch in the 14 games since the end of August has all but eliminated the Rangers from the division race as Oakland has built up a 6.5-game lead.
Considering the amount of talent on the Rangers roster, both in 2012 and 2013, this is a sign of bigger problems that will need to be addressed in the offseason. But for now, we wondered where this year's collapse ranks on the list of worst September choke jobs ever.
These are strictly one man's opinion, so feel free to interject your own as fandom and loyalty will certainly play a role in what you think.
Note: All records courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.
10. 2013 Texas Rangers
Record (Through Sept. 16): 81-68
It's difficult to put the Rangers any higher on this list, just like the 2012 team, because they still control their own destiny and have a better-than-average chance to make the postseason. Even last year, they did technically make the playoffs, even if it was the one-game Wild Card showdown with Baltimore.
What's interesting about the 2013 collapse is not so much that it's happening again, but what preceded it. The Rangers came into September with all the momentum in the world following a 20-7 record in August, tied with Atlanta for the second best in baseball.
Granted, an easy schedule that included 20 games against Houston, Milwaukee, Seattle, Chicago and Minnesota played a huge part in that success. But they also won two out of three against Oakland at the beginning of the month.
September started well, as the Rangers took another series against Oakland. Everything fell apart after that series, as they have won just once since Aug. 4.
Even if Texas was playing .500 in September instead of 2-12, the A's 11-4 record would still put them up by three games in the division. The Rangers would be sitting prettier in the wild-card chase with a 5.5 game edge over Tampa Bay.
9. 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers
Final Record: 97-60 (Second in National League)
Collapse: Held seven-game lead over New York Giants on Aug. 31, lost three-game pennant series vs. New York
One of the great things about baseball is the way some of the best/most memorable moments in history have come from the good fortune of one team's charge at the end of the season.
However, in the case of the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers, it is also a reminder that those moments come at the expense of someone else.
New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thompson gave the baseball world what is known as "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" on Oct. 3, 1951 to give them a 5-4 victory and spot in the World Series against the New York Yankees.
That home run came in the third game of a three-game pennant playoff series after the Dodgers blew a seven-game lead in the final month of the season. The only reason this collapse doesn't rank higher is because it was more about what the Giants did than what the Dodgers didn't do.
The Dodgers didn't play great baseball in September but were far from terrible, going 15-15 down the stretch. The Giants just went on a ridiculous 22-6 run in the final 28 games to force this three-game playoff.
8. 1995 California Angels
Final Record: 78-67 (Second in American League West)
Collapse: Held 7.5-game lead over Seattle Mariners on Aug. 31, lost one-game playoff vs. Seattle Mariners
The 1995 Angels didn't have much pitching at all, boasting a team ERA of 4.52 and only two starters that made more than 20 starts with an ERA under 5.00. But their offense was one of the best in baseball, ranking second in the AL with 801 runs scored.
They fit right in with the new offensive era getting ready to take over baseball, but weren't quite good enough to make the postseason thanks to a woeful September that saw them go 10-15 and give a Seattle franchise that, at the time, was coming out of being a laughingstock after failing to make the playoffs in its first 18 years of existence.
But the Mariners found an outstanding core of talent that included Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey, Jr., Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and Joey Cora to make an October push.
The Angels still had a chance to make the postseason despite their collapse in a one-game playoff at the Kingdome, but that lack of pitching cost them as the Mariners exploded for four runs in both the seventh and eighth innings.
Johnson also stymied that vaunted offense by throwing a complete game with three hits, one run and 12 strikeouts.
7. 2009 Detroit Tigers
Final Record: 86-77 (Second Place in American League Central)
Collapse: Held seven-game lead on Sept. 6, lost one-game playoff vs. Minnesota Twins
This is another case where we, as baseball fans, benefit from a collapse because we got to witness one of the most memorable games in history when the Minnesota Twins defeated the Detroit Tigers in a one-game, winner-take-all playoff in 2009.
The Tigers looked like a lock for the postseason after holding a seven-game edge over the Twins one week into September. They didn't play badly in the final month either, racking up a 16-12 record, but this was a season that ran long because of the World Baseball Classic.
In four October games, prior to the one-game playoff, the Tigers went 1-3 with the lone win coming on the final day of the season to force a showdown with Minnesota. By contrast, the Twins went 4-0 to force a tie atop the AL Central.
Then we got a terrific back-and-forth game between the Tigers and Twins in the Metrodome that saw Detroit take a 3-1 lead early. Minnesota took a 4-3 lead after the seventh, only for the Tigers to tie it in the eighth and both teams score a run in the 10th before Alexi Casilla ended it with a walk-off single in the 12th.
6. 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers
Final Record: 102-63 (Second place in National League)
Collapse: Lost 10 of last 13 games, blew four-game lead with seven games remaining
One of the reasons that Major League Baseball adopted the wild card in 1995 was to take advantage of the new six-division format and get a little more revenue from the postseason. But you could also point to some wildly successful teams that missed out on the playoffs because of a limited number of spots.
The 1993 San Francisco Giants won 103 games, but Atlanta won 104 games to keep the Giants out of the playoffs.
Then we go back to 1962 to see the Dodgers win 102 games and not get a chance to play in the World Series because, interestingly enough, the San Francisco Giants won 103 games. They lost seven of their last nine games, including two out of three against the 64-96 Houston Colt .45's to finish with the same 101-61 mark as the Giants.
The Giants would go on to win a three-game series against the Dodgers to make the World Series before losing to the Yankees in seven games.
5. 2011 Atlanta Braves
Final Record: 89-73 (Second Place in National League East)
Collapse: Held 8.5-game wild-card lead over St. Louis on Sep. 6, lost 18 of final 26 games
These final five collapses could be placed in any order without much argument from me. It's just how I felt in the moment writing these up, which is why the 2011 Braves are only the fifth-worst September collapse.
In fact, if we were only going based on the size of the lead and the date it all started to fall apart, the Braves would be in the No. 2 or 3 spot. But this one actually flies under the radar because of what happened to another team in a bigger market that September we will get to later.
The Braves fell apart thanks mostly due a variety of injuries and an overworked bullpen in September. Derek Lowe couldn't get anybody out in the second half, which contributed to Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty making a combined 242 appearances in 2011.
They had four players in the starting lineup with an OPS under .708 (Alex Gonzalez, Michael Bourn, Martin Prado, Jason Heyward).
When you look at all those factors, it's a wonder the Braves were able to hang around in the race as long as they did. But they still had a chance to claim the wild card on the final day of the season, with a win over Philadelphia and loss by St. Louis against Houston. (The latter was never going to happen, so the best Atlanta could have hoped for was a one-game playoff.)
Kimbrel's overuse caught up with him in the final game, he gave up three walks and allowed the game-tying run before the Phillies won the game in 13 innings.
That loss, combined with St. Louis' win over Houston, allowed the Cardinals to get in the playoffs and capture the 11th World Series in franchise history.
4. 2011 Boston Red Sox
Final Record: 90-72 (Third Place in American League East)
Collapse: Led AL East by .5 game entering September and wild card by nine games on Sept. 2, went 7-20 in final month
Given the ramifications of this collapse, with Terry Francona being fired and the "scandal" involving chicken and beer, this might be the most damning end to a season in recent baseball history. Add to that the debacle that came after hiring Bobby Valentine to manage in 2012, you have a Titanic-sized disaster.
What made Boston's collapse so memorable is the offseason that preceded it. Theo Epstein was a genius in December when in a span of four days he traded for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford.
Who knew that would turn out to be the beginning of the end for Epstein in Boston?
Tampa Bay passed Boston for the wild-card spot in the AL on the final day of the season when Evan Longoria's walk-off homer against New York came just minutes after Crawford let a ball drop in front of him that gave Baltimore a victory over the Red Sox.
But the Rays didn't light the world on fire that September, going 12-10 in the first 22 games before winning their last five games against a battered Toronto team and a Yankees squad that had nothing to play for after clinching the division earlier in the week.
It's just the Red Sox were so bad they were willing to hand a playoff spot to any team that wanted it.
3. 1969 Chicago Cubs
Final Record: 92-70 (Second Place in National League East)
Collapse: Held 9.5-game lead over New York Mets on Aug. 14, went 8-14 in September to finish eight games behind Mets
There are collapses and collapses. The 1969 Cubs certainly fall into the latter category because not only did they fall apart in the final month of the season, but didn't even come close to winning a division title.
Fans of curses and supernatural things will point to the moment on Sept. 9 in a game against the Mets when a black cat ran across the on-deck circle where Ron Santo was standing as a sign that something was off.
Of course, what those people fail to realize is that the collapse already started long before that moment because the Mets had already trimmed the Cubs' division lead to 1.5 games. But why let facts get in the way of a good story?
Even if the Cubs didn't collapse, it would have been difficult for them to maintain such a huge division lead because the Mets went 44-17 in August and September. New York's hot play is a big reason this collapse doesn't rank higher on the list.
Plus, the final two collapses are really, really noteworthy.
2. 1978 Boston Red Sox
Final Record: 99-64 (Second Place in American League East)
Collapse: Held 14-game division lead in July and led by eight games on Aug. 12, went 14-15 in September and lost one-game playoff vs. New York Yankees
Bucky (Bleeping) Dent is all you need to know about this one. It's something Red Sox fans still talk about, though probably not with the same level of vitriol they once did since 2004 and 2007 has made it impossible for Boston to remain bitter about much of what happened during the "Curse of the Bambino."
But the 1978 collapse was one that really stuck in Boston's craw because that team held as big a division lead as a team realistically could hope to in July and was still eight games up nearly halfway through August.
If the Red Sox put things on cruise control, they would have gone to the playoffs and possibly ended their "curse" 26 years before it actually happened. In fairness, falling apart wasn't completely on them because they won their last eight games of the season prior to the one-game playoff.
It's just Boston took its foot off the gas for a couple of weeks from September 1-16 that led to a 3-13 stretch that the Yankees were able to climb back in the race.
1. 2007 New York Mets
Final Record: 88-74 (Second Place in National League East)
Collapse: Held seven-game lead in NL East with 17 games to play, went 5-12 to close the year
I included the image of Carlos Beltran striking out in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS because it feels like a moment where everything was altered in the National League.
The Mets were supposed to become the Yankees of the NL after spending loads of money to bring in Beltran, Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine in the years leading up to 2006. They also developed David Wright and Jose Reyes to form one of the best left sides of the infield in baseball.
Then Adam Wainwright's curveball had to break Beltran's knee, the Cardinals would win the World Series and the Mets have been spiraling down ever since.
But September of 2007 is when the downward spiral took full effect, because the Mets held a seven-game lead over Philadelphia with 17 left to play. Not even trying they should have been able to win the division and make the playoffs.
Of course, when you get swept in a series by the team directly behind you, swept again by a Washington team that finished 73-79 and lose two out of three to the 71-91 Marlins, it's hard to maintain your position atop the division.
To add insult to the injury that was 2007, the 2008 Mets warrant a mention here because they held a 3.5-game lead over Philadelphia with 17 games to play. They finished 7-10 to let the playoffs slip away once again.
The Mets have spent the last six years trying to decide what direction to go and appear to have some things figured out with a nucleus that will include Matt Harvey (health permitting), Zack Wheeler, David Wright, top prospects Noah Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud.
But that 2007 collapse is going to sting for a long time.
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