Entering September, the Red Sox were in first place in the American League East. Not only did the New York Yankees catch them, the Sox also squandered a nine-game Wild Card lead over the Tampa Bay Rays. With their fate in their own hands, they lost their slot in the Playoffs. Is this the worst collapse ever?
As a Yankees fan, I still shudder in shame at my team's embarrassing choke-performance in 2004, when they were up 3 games to none on the verge of going to the World Series, but crumbled in shocking fashion to the Red Sox who went on to "Reverse the Curse" and win their first title since 1918. Yet, that was a four-game swan dive. This year's collapse was a month-long funeral march. The New York Mets also experienced a similar end-of-season disintigration in 2007, but they were never hyped to the level of the Beantown champions-in-waiting.
Who is to blame for such an utter failure? Right or wrong, manager Terry Francona is now out of a job. The guy who finally brought not one but two world championships to the title-starved Boston Red Sox will now be seeking another managerial position. Baseball is cruel sometimes, my friends. Who will step in to manage the Sox next? Joe Torre? Bobby Valentine? Will they have a significantly different team next season or try their luck with the same cards they had now, praying that the Major League Baseball Fates treat them differently in 2012?
I won't rub salt in the wounds of my Boston frenemies as they mourn their team by implying that this is the universe's way of correcting for the unexpected turn of fortune half a decade ago, or by suggesting that this sports nightmare will build character for the new generation who may grow up not remembering those dark days before 2004. The collapse of the Red Sox provides lessons for us all.
The greatest thing we can learn from this is the importance of victories at the start of the season. The Red Sox, as some of you may recall, began with a horrible losing streak. Had those losses in April been victories, they would have had a cushion in September and they very likely would still be playing October baseball, even with the end of year stumble that they endured. So if we ever hear anyone saying, "It's still early" during those first few weeks of the National Pastime each year, or suggesting that pre-All-Star-Game match-ups are somehow less vital than post-All-Star-Game competitions, remind them of the Great Red Sox Collapse of 2011.