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September 8, 2007 at 9:40 AM

Epic proportions

That’s what this stretch of losses is becoming. A stretch of futility for the ages. I’d mentioned to my collegues that I’d never seen anything like it and I was right. Guess I wasn’t paying all that much attention to the Milwaukee Brewers in September of 1983. After all, I had just started ninth grade, fresh from attending my first summer football camp at Fairfield Univeristy in Bridgeport, Conn., playing with the pigskin hotshots my age from the scary ole’ US of A. Our city football team was embarking on a season that would see us go to the Quebec provincial finals. So, little me had more “important” things to do back then other than pay attention to the AL East race, where the defending league champion Milwaukee Brewers were going 1-12 from Sept. 7 to 19 to seal a pretty impressive collapse.
The Brewers had been 20 games over .500 on Aug. 25 at 73-53. By the time the season ended, they were 87-75 and in fifth place, 11 games behind the division winning Baltimore Orioles.
Why should we care now? Well, up until last night, no other team in the past 24 years that was 20 games over .500 as of Aug. 25 had managed to go 1-12 at any point before the season ended. That is, until this year’s Mariners rollercoaster set up shop. Seattle’s crew had been 20 games over after beating Texas on Aug. 25 of this year. And then, the M’s lost two weeks ago tonight, beginning a 1-12 stretch that now has them nine out of the AL West (an eight-game loss in two weeks) and four back of the wild-card (a six-game drop) with two teams ahead of them.
Egads! That does not look good.
Some other teams that have come close since then? The 1988 Detroit Tigers, were 73-53 and leading the AL East after the games of Aug. 25. But they would go 1-10 through Sept. 6 and wound up losing the division by a game to Boston. In fact, Detroit’s stretch of losses dated back a little earlier than Aug. 25. From Aug. 22 through Sept. 6, the team went 2-13. The Tigers actually went just 3-17 from Aug. 22 through Sept. 11. But they never went 1-12.
Those wacky 1995 Angels of Bill Bavasi lore came closer than anyone to matching the Brewers’ post-Aug. 25 woes before the M’s did. California actually did go 1-12, but its stretch began on Aug. 21 and lasted until Sept. 3 of that year. The Angels did have another stretch of 1-11 from Aug. 25 through Sept. 6. But the M’s have done them one better in the loss column.
Remember, this is all about teams that were at least 20 games over .500 by Aug. 25 like Seattle was. There have been lousy teams that put up lousy records after that date, and other teams (but not many) that went 1-12 or worse before Aug. 25. But the combo of a good team tanking at such a late date is rather rare.
The 1996 Atlanta Braves were a pretty good team, coming within two wins of the World Series that year. Atlanta was so good that it kind of fell asleep in September of that year, going 2-11 from Aug. 31 through Sept. 14. But the Braves still finished 30 games over .500 and won the NL East by eight. Nice cushion if you can buy it. The M’s had no such cushion.
How many teams are we talking about here? How many have been at least 20 games over by Aug. 25 since the 1983 season (not counting the 1994 strike season, obviously)? By my count, there have been 81.
And only two of them — the M’s of 2007 and the Brewers of 1983 — have managed to go 1-12 after Aug. 25.
Epic indeed.



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