We've never seen anything like this before.
You might think we have.
We have not.
The Wild Cards have been around since 1995 -- ancient history, to some of you -- but never in 17 seasons of Wild Card action has a team blown a 10-game lead in the Wild Card standings.
Until this season.
According to researcher Frank Vaccaro, the 2011 Boston Red Sox are the first team in the Wild Card era to blow a 10-game lead; on the morning of August 17, the Red Sox (and the Yankees) led the Tampa Bay Rays by 10 games.
On the morning of September 27, the Yankees lead the Red Sox by eight games and the Red Sox lead the Rays by zero games.
Nobody's ever blown a 10-game lead before; nobody's blown a nine- or eight-game lead, either. As I said, we've never seen anything like this before.
Mind you, the collapse didn't begin on the 17th of August. On the 1st of September, the Red Sox were actually in first place, 1½ games ahead of the Yankees and (still) nine ahead of the Rays. On the 1st of September, though, is when everything started going to hell. The Sox lost that day to the Yankees, 4-2, and really haven't stopped losing since; their record in September -- counting Monday night's loss to the Orioles -- is 6-19. Which of course is sort of supernaturally terrible.
The ultimate fate of the Red Sox is, at this point, utterly unknowable. They seem to have the easier schedule, facing the bottom-feeding Orioles while the Rays take on the Yankees. But the Red Sox are on the road and the Rays are at home, plus the Yankees have nothing to play for except their dislike of the Red Sox. At this point, you might as well flip a coin because Bill James's shit doesn't work with two days left in the season. You just pays your money and takes your chances. We're not supposed to be here, but we are and regardless of how you feel about the teams involved, this is why we watch. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are either going to become just another postseason team or they're going to add to their considerable legend.
As Vaccaro also points out, the Braves once held a 9½-game lead over the Cardinals for the Wild Card in the other league. The Braves haven't quite blown that lead yet, but if they do they'll take second place behind the Red Sox in this dubious category.
All this in one season.