Game 162 of the MLB season proved to be an amazing one for baseball enthusiasts everywhere. While the fans in Tampa and St. Louis were rejoicing as their teams' clinched playoff spots, those in Atlanta and Boston were left shell-shocked with their teams' completed late season collapses.
While the Mets are certainly not going to the playoffs, finishing eight games below .500, there were still reasons to celebrate on the last day of the 2011 campaign. Although some might question what the Mets could possibly be happy about, they would have to understand what it means to be a Mets fan.
In brief, it generally means heartache. In their 50 seasons of existence, the Mets have won just two World Series while setting numerous records for ineptitude. One of those was the monumental 2007 collapse where the Mets had a seven-game lead in the NL East on September 12th and then went on to lose 12 of their last 17 games. To make it even more painful, the Mets left it to the last game of the season to really give their fans the total package of heartache. Needing a win to stay alive, "ace" Tom Glavine surrendered seven runs in one-third of an inning and pretty much saddled the Mets with the prize of having completed one of the worst chokes in baseball history.
Although it's not polite to take pleasure in others' heartache, yesterday the Braves and Red Sox did the Mets and their fans a great service. Each completed their own late season collapses on the last day of the season and have taken their places in "greatest choke history."
The Braves had an 8.5-game lead in the Wild Card race on September 5th. They then went 9-18 the rest of the way, culminating with a blown save in the ninth inning and a loss in the 13th inning on the last day of the season. With the Cardinals' victory, the Braves were out and the collapse was complete.
In Boston, the Red Sox had a nine-game Wild Card-lead on September 2nd and were a lock for the playoffs. Instead they went 7-20 in September. Still they had the chance to clinch at least a one-game playoff going in to the season finale. Playing the lowly Baltimore Orioles, the Red Sox held a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and none on. Closer Jonathan Papelbon, needing just one more out, blew the save and then the game.
Adding to Boston's misery is the fact that they were forced to root for their arch enemies, the New York Yankees, who were playing Tampa. Tampa Bay had a great September, while the Sox were reeling and the two teams went in to the last game of the season tied. The Yankees had a seven-run lead in the eighth inning and it looked as if the Red Sox would at least have the chance to meet Tampa in a one-game playoff. Somehow, the Rays came back to tie the game and then win in extra innings. Another choke completed.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, the Mets were closing out the season with what was a relatively meaningless game in Queens. However, for the first time in Mets history, one of their players had the chance to win the National League batting title. For a team that hasn't had much to cheer about, this would be a monumental feat.
Reyes went in to the last game of the season with a slim lead over Milwaukee's Ryan Braun for the batting crown. In his first at bat, Reyes laid down one of his signature bunts and reached base safely. Reyes was then removed from the game with his final season batting average at .337. While many fans are criticizing Reyes for leaving the game after one at-bat, the fact was his season was over and Ryan Braun would be playing later in the day.
The Brewers were facing the Pirates at home to close out their regular season before heading to the playoffs. Braun played the entire game, however he went 0-for-4 and finished the regular season with a .332 batting average. Reyes had officially won the NL batting title.
While the eight playoff-bound teams get ready for the post season, Mets fans can at least take solace in the fact that their choke has been eclipsed and one of their own has won a batting title for the first time in franchise history.