September 26, 2008
Two teams look to cure playoff sicknessIt's the middle of September, and things are beginning to look all too familiar for baseball fans.
The leaves are changing color, the air is getting cooler and the New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers are collapsing again. After building a sizeable four-game lead over their division rival the Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets have gone 4-6 during their last 10 games, while watching their bullpen give up 29 blown saves this season. Mets nation can't help but collectively sigh, "Here we go again".
Memories of last year's historic collapse have never been as vivid, and rather than gearing up for a playoff run, most Mets' fans have their hearts in their throats, hoping that they can find some way to hang on.
Brewer fans share similar sentiments as they watch helplessly while the Brewers free-fall for a second straight season. After bursting out of the gates, the Brewers seemed to establish that they were bent on redemption, keeping pace with the Cubs for the division lead well into the summer and enjoyed a 5.5 game lead in the wild card race as the calendar flipped to September.
Since then, however, the Brewers have struggled while trying to keep pace with the Mets atop the wild card standings.
What these two teams have proven to the sports community is that being the victim of a late season collapse costs more than just a playoff spot, it does serious damage to the psyche of a fan base and impacts the way front-office executives make decisions.
After attributing much of last year's blame to a tired, fragile pitching staff that fell apart at the end of the season, the Mets invested millions of dollars into the left arm of Johan Santana, hoping he would provide some stability to the rotation.
A slow start to the season, however, had the New York media labeling the season a failure, which led to the mid-season firing of former manager Willie Randolph.
With Jerry Manuel at the helm the Mets saw immediate success, climbing back into the race and claiming the divisions lead by the middle of August. Another collapse would surely result in big changes throughout the organization as the team looks for answers.
The Brewers saw their front office make decisions of similar magnitudes this year, as they traded for the flame throwing C.C. Sabathia midway through the season, bolstering their pitching staff and proving to the league that they were serious about contending for a pennant. Their recent slump, however, has sent the organization into a panic and cost its manager his job.
This type of drastic decision-making evidenced by both teams is a product of desperation, but it proves how damaging a collapse is to a franchise. The season is not over yet, but the remaining games at the end of the season are going to be critical for each team.
A playoff berth will do a lot to quiet the criticisms and doubts of the media. A failure to advance will add fuel to the fire, and guarantee more casualties within the organization. Buckle up, it's going to be a wild finish.
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