Joseph Pugliese – Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox in my opinion flat out collapsed, going 7-20 in the month of September. The Red Sox did not win consecutive games all month. The Rays also did not have what someone would say is a historic month. They went 18-10 for the month of September, which for a playoff team is the average month that one would have, but it was not special to the point where they couldn’t be beat. They simply got hot and won games when they needed too. The Rays must be given credit though, they were left for dead after Pena, Crawford, Garza, Soriano and the rest of their bullpen left last year, they have a $41 million payroll compared to the Sox $210 million payroll. The Cardinals definitely took it from the Braves more than the Braves collapsed; the Cardinals had an all-time great comeback going 23-8 in their last 31 games down the stretch. The Cardinals were a team with expectations early on which is key, the Braves simply ran out of steam. They are a very mixed team with a lot of very young players and a young manager mixed in with some very old veterans.
The Red Sox completely lost control in every way; some key injuries to players like Kevin Youkilis, mixed in with the divide in the clubhouse and $150 million players not performing made the perfect storm. The last night of the season is the perfect example. Up 3-2 on the Orioles going into the 9th; with one of the best closers in baseball Jonathan Papelbon, on the mound, the game should be well in control. Papelbon is paid $12 million a year to close a game out, and he fails to do so. In the outfield, Carl Crawford signed a seven year $142 million contract before the season and down the stretch made four errors in the last three games, two would single handily lose them the game. Terry Francona lost control of his clubhouse. He allowed pitchers to drink beers in the locker room on off days; there were cliques and divides between players who probably just stopped listening to him. This teams collapse wasn’t so much about the numbers as it was about the expectations. They were picked by everyone to win the World Series and automatically the best team in baseball after the offseason. This is by far the worst collapse in MLB history that I have ever seen. In fact, we should refer to this as a Boston Massacre 2.0.
Justin Franiak – Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves got Tomahawked, and suffered one of the worst downfalls in recent MLB history. On Sept. 1st the now golfing Braves were 8.5 games up in the Wild Card, and yet still didn’t make the playoffs. Being a Phillies fan it was very sweet to eliminate a team who has caused me much heartbreak in my short 20 years. That being said, the Braves capped off one of the most abysmal endings to a season. Dan Uggla had a very impressive hitting streak throughout the middle of the season, and I commend him for that, but the Braves depended on this streak way too much. Uggla raised his hitting average from .173 to .231 during his 33 game streak, but faded soon after. The pressure was then put on rookie Freddie Freeman. Freeman had a decent year hitting .277, but to depend on a rookie as your offense is a mistake in itself. Atlanta did receive amazing play from their bullpen with Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel, who will also most likely be rookie of the year. The closer had a 2.10 ERA and compiled 46 saves over this past season. Kimbrel was having a 2008 Brad Lidge season, until his collapse against the Phillies on “The Greatest Night in Baseball.” Overall the Braves hit .243, which ranked them 13th in the National League. When looking at the Braves other statistics, one of the only top five finishes they had was a fourth place hold on strikeouts. So not only were the Braves hitting way below the league average, but they were striking out almost eight times per game. With the Phillies having a stronghold on the division for what seems like the entire season, the Braves knew they had to work extra hard to obtain the wildcard. Up until Sept. 1, Atlanta looked like the odds on favorite to win the last playoff spot. The Braves then opened up a season ending series with the Phillies.
The worst part about the Braves collapse was who they faced on the last game of the season. The Phillies started Joe Blanton, who had been on the disabled list the whole season, and every pitcher after him that entered the game had played a majority of their season in the minor leagues. So not only did the Braves lose that game, but they essentially lost to the Phillies Triple-A affiliate the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.