As any baseball fan knows, the Boston Red Sox are in need of someone to give them the Heimlich. They have lost again tonight, leaving them a 2.5 game lead in the AL Wild Card over the LA Angels and the Tampa Bay Rays. They have company in the choking department as the Atlanta Braves now lead the St. Louis Cardinals by only 1.5 games, with the San Francisco Giants only down 3.5 games. As we watch both teams unravel and see if either of them can salvage their seasons' and reach postseason play, let's look back at all the history of collapses, with a twist. I'm going to measure all the times a team has blow a huge lead and determine how much of the loss was because of a comeback by 2nd place or a choke by 1st place. Let's get started.
1964 Philadelphia Phillies: Remains as the holy grail of baseball chokes. Up 6.5 games with 12 games to play, they lose 10 games in a row to cost themselves the pennant. It was that inexplicable, even the World Series programs for the 1964 World Series were set. Choke-O-Meter: 10
1951 Brooklyn Dodgers: I never blame the Dodgers for losing this one. The reason, if the Giants go 32-15 in their last 47 games, Brooklyn still makes the World Series easily. They were an ordinary 27-24 down the stretch, but not bad enough to lose, except the 2nd place Giants finished 39-8 to reach the World Series, including the win in the 3 game playoff. Choke-O-Meter: 4 (for giving up "The Shot Heard Round The World")
1962 Los Angeles Dodgers: Not nearly as famous as '51, but in my eyes, more of a choke by the Dodgers here. Leads to another 3 game playoff which they lose to the Giants. The reason why the 3 game playoff takes place is because the Dodgers finished the year 3-10 after a 7 game winning streak seemingly won the pennant for them. Choke-O-Meter: 7 (points taken off because their lead was only 4 games before the downturn).
1969 Chicago Cubs: The Cubs were up 9 on August 16 over the surprising Mets. Then, the Mets finished with a 36-11 surge, while the Cubs slumped to a 17-26 finish and is a symbol of the 100 years of futility of the franchise. Choke-O-Meter: 7 (yes, the Mets played great, but the Cubs could of at least stayed alive until the final weekend had they not choked).
1978 Boston Red Sox: Falls into the '51 Dodgers category as they were done in by a hard-charging team, rather than their own ineptitude. The thing no one remembers is that the Yankees were in 4th place when they were down by 14 games. Lost 14 of 17 to fall out of 1st place, then won 12 of 14 to force the famous one game playoff. Choke-O-Meter: 5
1987 Toronto Blue Jays: They were riding high after a 7 game winning streak, the last 3 against the 2nd-place Tigers to take a 3.5 game lead in the AL East. Then they lost all 7 of their final games, capped by a 3-game sweep by those very same Tigers. Combined with their loss in the 1985 ALCS after leading 3-1, they earned the label as "chokers" until they finally won in 1992. Choke-O-Meter: 8 (Loses 2 points because they never held a big lead, despite the epic finish).
1993 San Francisco Giants: Very much like the Red Sox in particular, because the Braves caught them and the Giants needed to rally. San Fran finished the year 38-27 after reaching a 10 game lead out West, while the Braves soared to 49-16 after trading for Fred McGriff. While they did play well, the Giants were hurt by an 8-game losing streak which knocked them out of 1st. Choke-O-Meter: 5 (followed the losing streak by winning 14 0f 17 at the end).
1995 California Angels: This team peaked with an 11 game lead on August 9th, then everything went wrong. The Angels slumped badly for a month and a half, finishing 18-31 and couldn't overcome the Mariners 30-19 finish and lost in a one game playoff. It never gets the attention of the Dodgers or Yankees, but this I believe is the worst of the mid-August collapses because bad play opened the door, not super play by 2nd place. Choke-O-Meter: 9 (avoids 10 because they won 5 of 6 to force that playoff).
2007 New York Mets: The Mets were swept in a memorable series to the Phillies that cut their NL East lead to 2 games on August 30th. They won 10 of their next 12 and brought their lead back to 7. Then, they proceed to finish 5-12, while the Phillies won 13 of 17 to win the East and signal a change in fortune in both teams. The Phillies suddenly became the class of the NL, while the Mets became the class clowns of the league. Choke-O-Meter: 9 (and the effects are still felt).
2009 Detroit Tigers: The Tigers were sailing to the playoffs, and led the AL Central by 7 games on Sept 6th. Then, the Twins rode a 18-8 finish into a one-game playoff, as the Tigers finished 11-15. What puts them here is they were up 3 games with 4 games left. They lose the final game of a series with the Twins, then lose the first two to the White Sox, before salvaging a playoff with a win on last day (a game which Justin Verlander needed to pitch because they were tied). Choke-O-Meter: 6
Just so you know, both the Red Sox and Braves easily reach a 7 on the choke scale, and the Red Sox scale might well be 9 if they finish this collapse through to the end. Should be a fun final week of baseball ahead, something I didn't think would happen.