Last week's Texas Rangers' collapse, first ousted from the division lead on the last day of the season, then from the playoffs two days later, was a stunner.
Everyone knows the details by now. The Rangers were in first place for all but three days of the season. The first two outside of first occurred in April, the last one - well, we know when that happened. For most of the season, they were on top by a bunch. Then, systematically, the lead disappeared. Back came the Oakland A's, 13 games behind at the end of June, five games out with nine to play.
The Rangers were the trendy selection to return to the World Series, after falling just short last year against the St. Louis Cardinals. In the course of a couple of weeks, they were suddenly clearing out lockers. What happened? A better question - why does this continue to happen?
It may have started with the New York Yankees' mind-boggling collapse against the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 American League Championship Series, blowing a 3-0 game lead. Then the New York Mets blew two consecutive divisions to the Philadelphia Phillies, tossing away a 7½ game lead with 17 games to play, then a 3 ½ game lead in less time. Last year, of course, the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox simultaneously collapsed, an unspeakable, uncommon double play. Now the Rangers join the ignominious club. Oh, and let's not forget that the Chicago White Sox, in first place for much of the second half of the season, completely unraveled in the last two weeks, generously handing the division title to the less than deserving 88-win Detroit Tigers.
Each evaporation has similar characteristics. The first place team loses focus, then starts to hear the footsteps behind them picking up speed, getting louder. They determine it's time to re-start the generator, but the ignition switch is frozen - sometimes in fear. There is some validity to the theory these teams have seen this happen now a number of times in the last few years. They are no longer invulnerable. When they hear the oncoming freight train, it's more believable now that they'll be run over. It never occurred to them before.
It does now, again and again.
Glenn Vallach has been a New York Mets fan since foolishly abandoning the mighty Yankees in his youth after Mickey Mantle retired. Since the fond, fleeting memories of the Tom Seaver, Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee years, he sits quietly yearning for a fraction of the success enjoyed annually by the team that inhabits the borough in which I was born...waiting and hoping...waiting and hoping.
- · Yahoo! Sports New York Mets page
- · Yahoo! Sports Texas Rangers page
- · Yahoo! Sports Atlanta Braves page
- · Yahoo! Sports Boston Red Sox page
- · Stephen Hawkins, The Associated Press, Abrupt ending to Rangers after 2 World Series