Baseball BeatOctober 06, 2009
Blowing a Lead in the Last Week of the Season
By Rich Lederer

According to a post by David Smith, the founder of Retrosheet, on the SABR-L message board yesterday, "If the Tigers lose to the Twins in their playoff game (today), they would become the first team to lead by 3 games with 4 to play and not win the division (or league). There have been five previous instances of a team having a lead greater than 2 games with 7 or fewer games to play and not being able to finish it off. They are:

Team      Lead  Date      Games Left   Winner
Dodgers   2.5   9-24-1951    7          Giants
Dodgers   3     9-24-1962    6          Giants
Blue Jays 2.5   9-28-1987    5          Tigers
Dodgers   2.5   9-25-1996    4          Padres
Mets      2.5   9-23-2007    7          Phillies

A lifelong Dodgers fan, Smith notes that "you will hopefully excuse me for seeing a depressing pattern here."

While the Dodgers have been prone to blowing leads in the past, it's all on the Tigers this year. For the sake of avoiding infamy, I hope Detroit wins.

On the other hand, my fantasy baseball team is in first place by the slimmest of margins (0.25 points over second and 0.75 points over third), the closest finish in our league's 30+ year history. Our league uses CBS Sportsline and our commissioner was informed in an email exchange by an apparently ill-informed staffer last weekend that the site's fantasy season ended on Sunday, irrespective of makeup games and tiebreakers. I was proclaimed the winner after the final out was recorded in the last game of the "regular" season and received congratulatory emails from several competitors.

However, it all changed yesterday afternoon when CBS Sportsline posted the following missive on its message center.

Tiebreak Game

The Twins and Tigers will be playing a game on Tuesday October 6th to decide who will go to the MLB playoffs. This game will count in our leagues as a regular season game for all scoring types.

Daily leagues will be able to set a lineup for this game, while Weekly leagues will use the same lineup from the final scoring period.

As a result, I'm going to have to sweat it our for another day. There's good news and bad news for me. I have Scott Baker in my lineup. As such, I will pass the team directly ahead of me in innings and pick up a full point if he can complete three innings and jump ahead of the team two above me and record two points for 6 2/3 IP. However, my team's WHIP currently stands at 1.273, .001 ahead of the third-place club. As such, I could easily lose a point if Baker allows too many hits and walks in too few innings.

Stay with me here. Although the team in second place doesn't really have any skin in today's game (unless Justin Verlander or Nick Blackburn pitch in relief), the club in third place has Michael Cuddyer and is close enough in doubles/triples, home runs, runs scored, and RBI that he could gain enough points to leapfrog me if Cuddyer goes off.

Did I mention that even the fourth-place team in our standings is within striking distance and has Jason Kubel and Brandon Inge? He could pick up a point if they combine for two runs scored and perhaps catch me should Baker falter.

If you're not a Tigers or Twins fan, please root for me. I mean, I don't want to pull a Detroit and blow the lead.


The Twins are going to win this one tonight. Then they'll be so pumped up that they'll give the Yankees a run for their money.

All can now rest easy, knowing you DID NOT pull a Detroit. Let the 3rd-place team, who DID NOT pull a Twins, be the first to congratulate you.

Thanks, Mark. You could have won it just as easily. It was truly that close. Five teams battling all the way to the finish, the closest race in our league's long history. 'Twas fun. We'll get after it again next year. In the meantime, I'm sorry (cough, cough) your Tigers didn't advance to the ALDS.