The many thousands of Atlanta Braves fans here in Kershaw County are no doubt hanging their heads in despair after the team blew a 10-and-a-half game wild-card lead in little more than a month to end up missing the National League playoffs. Ironically, the Boston Red Sox had a similar run of futility, failing to hang on to a nine-game wild-card lead they held Sept. 4. The Braves and the Red Sox share one common thread: they’re both regional franchises, with Atlanta commanding huge hoards of fans in the South and the Red Sox the favorite of nearly every baseball fan in New England. Those two regions, separated by many miles in geography, shared a sense of shock Wednesday night after their teams completed their collapses and missed the playoffs.
When it was established back in 1994 to add some pizzazz to pennant races, the wild card system was criticized by some. It allows the team with the best winning record that is not leading its division to advance into the playoffs. But it’s been a good thing, and it worked especially well this year, when there were several runaway division races. But since its inception, there have never been two teams that blew bigger leads than the Braves and the Red Sox did this year. In Kershaw County, Braves fans were satisfied only three weeks ago that a playoff spot was assured. After all, a team had never given up such a big lead so late in the season. Somehow, Atlanta managed to do it.
So the pennant races and World Series won’t hold nearly as much interest this year for fans in this area. There’s not much bright side to look on, but we can at least say baseball aficionados will probably be able to go to bed a lot earlier this October since they won’t have to wait up to see how the Braves did.