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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

August 27, 2009 at 4:13 PM

Are the Rockies in the midst of the greatest comeback ever?

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The Rockies have been slowed down a bit the last two days, losing 6-1 to the Dodgers yesterday and 3-2 today.

But they are still one of the best stories in baseball this season. And depending how the next five weeks go, they could be one of the best stories ever.

The greatest comeback in baseball history was pulled off by the 1914 Boston Braves, who were 15 games behind the New York Giants on July 4 with a 26-40 record, and went on to win the pennant. The Braves went 68-19 after July 4 to finish first by a crazy 10 1/2 games.

On June 3, the Rockies were 15 1/2 games behind the Dodgers. Thus, if they were to finish first, it would be the greatest comeback ever. After beating the Dodgers on Tuesday, they pulled within two games of L.A., but they have fallen to four back after these two losses. Still, the Dodgers have been reeling a bit. The Rockies have a shot. They close the season with three games at Dodger Stadium.

As Jon Weisman points out, the website CoolStandings.com, which rates a team’s playoff chances on any given day (and currently has the Mariners at 0.4 percent for winning the division, and 0.3 percent for winning the wild card), had the Rockies at 0.4 percent for winning their division on June 3. Now they are rated as having a 15.8 percent chance to win the division, 52.6 percent for the wild-card, and 68.4 percent of making the playoffs.

The Mariners, as you well know, had a part in one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history — tied for third best. They were 13 games behind the Angels on Aug. 3, 1995, with a 44-46 record, and went on to win the AL West title in a one-game playoff over the Angels (“Everybody scores!”) The 1978 Yankees trailed the Red Sox by 14 games on July 20 and went on to win the AL East in the Bucky Dent game. Another team that overcame a 13-game deficit (on Aug. 12) was the 1951 New York Giants, capped by the epic Bobby Thomson homer (we won’t get into how the Giants cheated that year — read this book).

Surprisingly, the 1995 M’s rate just 68th on Coolstandings list of the greatest comebacks in history, based on their percentage ratings of hopelessness.

One thing that’s changed the nature of comebacks rather significantly is the advent of the wild card in 1995 (actually, 1994, but there was no postseason that year because of the strike). The Rockies, who lead the wild card race, could fail in their effort to catch the Dodgers and still make the playoffs. Would that diminish the stature their comeback? Absolutely, in my mind. It would still be memorable, but not the best ever.

(Photo by Getty Images)

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