Poll Position: Was this the Braves’ worst collapse?

On Wednesday night in Atlanta, “Thank God for Mississippi” became “Thank God for Boston.” It was only the slightly more egregious collapse by the Red Sox, with their loftier expectations this season and higher national profile, that pushed the Braves’ own cliff dive a little lower in the sports headlines.

As my AJC sports colleagues chronicled in painful detail, September 2011 might have been the most excruciating month for Braves fans since before the 1991 turnaround. The Braves let an 8.5-game lead evaporate in the space of 23 calendar days, which is almost impossible to do. Almost. They completed the unpleasant trick in Wednesday’s season finale.

But if you’re a longtime Braves fan, this was hardly your first pow-wow with disappointment.

I’ll skip the pre-1991 years, which in most cases never offered much promise to begin with. And I won’t even get into the mostly lackluster histories of Atlanta’s other pro sports teams. (Although I will give a special citation to the 1993-94 Hawks team, which tied a franchise record with 57 wins but accomplished the mean double feats of trading the best and most popular Hawk of all time [Dominique Wilkins -- with a first-round pick! -- for Danny freakin' Manning] and failing once again to reach the conference finals. That season effectively killed my interest in the Hawks.)

Was this the most disappointing end to a Braves season?

  • Yes (153 Votes)
  • No (97 Votes)
  • Baseball? I prefer football -- or knitting (24 Votes)

Total Voters: 274

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No, in the past two decades, there are a few other tomahawk flops to rival this season’s September to un-remember:

  • There was the 1993 team, which won 104 games in a thrilling pennant race against the Giants, but followed that up by petering out in the playoffs to the Phillies.
  • There was the 1996 team, which was one strike away from going up 3 games to 1 over the Yankees in the World Series, all but assuring a second straight championship, only to have Mark Wohlers give up a three-run homer to Jim Leyritz; the Braves didn’t win another game in the series.
  • There was the 1997 team, which finished nine games ahead of the second-place Marlins in the regular season, only to lose to them in the playoffs and watch the five-year-old franchise win the World Series.
  • There were the 2002 and 2003 teams, each of which won more than 100 games in the regular season but couldn’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs. The 2003 team was particularly disappointing, falling to a Cubs team that finished 13 games back of the Braves — and eventually watching the Marlins win a second world title.

Yep, we Braves fans have experience at being disappointed.

So, a not-so-chipper Poll Position for this week: Was this the worst finish to a once-promising Braves season? The choices in the nearby poll are limited, so explain your answer in the comments thread.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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64 comments Add your comment

JF McNamara

September 30th, 2011
5:58 am

1996 was torture.


September 30th, 2011
6:55 am

I don’t mind the playoff loses over the years, because anything can happen in a short series. I measure the Braves by making the playoffs, which they let a big lead unimaginably slip away this year. It was the lack of hitting and intensity that seemed missing, so I’d say yes, this was a greater disappointment than any playoff loss.


September 30th, 2011
7:00 am

Also, Derek Lowe is still an excellent pitcher and should not blame himself (or take full blame) for the way the Braves finished. It always a team effort. Looking back, there were many great performances by all the Braves this year! No team can win it every year, so don’t take not making the playoffs too hard. There will be other years!

Phil Lunney

September 30th, 2011
7:17 am

If the worse thing that happens to you in September is the Braves collapse, life is pretty sweet. In 1964, my dad bought World Series tickes for the Phillies when we were 10 games up. I still have the ticket frame, since the Phillies really collapsed. I love sports, but I no longer give my heart to any team, it is a distraction and life goes on. I have a Dream (remember that women’s basketball team), they are in the WNBA finals, which will start shortly after the Falcons game on Sunday, 8:30 PM on ESPN.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward)

September 30th, 2011
7:35 am

I watched almost every game in 1990 and it became sort of a running joke that I was tuning in “to see how they’d screw up tonight”. Well, this past month felt exactly like that.

Yeah, this is their worst choke ever, because it wasn’t just one short series where anything can happen. It was sustained suckiness.

Tea Party Hobbit

September 30th, 2011
7:36 am

This is the only time Atlanta has collapsed to not make the playoffs though. However, not sure it stings as bad as if we’d made it but then just lost in the first round again. Maybe it will be enough of a wakeup call to shake up a few things and get the team ready for a real run (target=Phillies) for next year. Don’t like settling for wild card race.


September 30th, 2011
7:45 am

For my money 1996 was the worst…this one was a function of injuries as much as anything else.


September 30th, 2011
8:12 am

After another entire season’s worth of trash talk from my teenaged neighbor about how awesome the Braves are and how sucky the Phillies are, I’m actually glad it happened exactly the way it did. It helped to illustrate the age-old lesson about keeping your words sweet just in case you end up having to eat them.

ragnar danneskjold

September 30th, 2011
8:22 am

This was the most disappointing failure because it took an entire month of weak hitting by good hitters to accomplish the feat. While the failure was preceded by season-ending injuries to Jurjens and Hanson, the only bouying element of the team that last month was the staggeringly good performances of rookies Beachy and Delgado. Failure without hope would have been worse, but The Four suggest 2012 could be really good.


September 30th, 2011
8:22 am

Maybe Florida had a good reason to fire Gonzales.


September 30th, 2011
8:52 am

In general, Atlanta has been known as Loserville, USA since the 60’s. Looks like things haven’t changed much.


September 30th, 2011
9:50 am

the only thing more pathetic then the Braves collapse is the Braves fans…watching tv during crucial at bats and you can hear two ladies having a conversation? i swear sometimes you can dudes farting…place is like a damn library.

Braves blow

September 30th, 2011
9:52 am

The braves are among the worst franchises ever. Truly pathetic. Waddya expect from a bunch of southern bumpkins, however?

Jimmie Crackedkorn

September 30th, 2011
10:02 am

Just love how the Cardinal fans are crowing about coming in 2nd place. This”collapse” is nothing compared to how far the Braves fell behind the Phillies and how in the second half of the season the Braves played like a AA team head to head against said Phillies. Maybe we can get Francona.


September 30th, 2011
10:09 am

Was this the Braves’ worst collapse?

I wouldn’t know. I’m not a fan of watching grown men adjust everything but their attitudes.

Now if you wanna play the game, I’m your girl (a fast and furious sidewinder).


September 30th, 2011
10:12 am

Wish Ted still owned the team.

Jimmie Crackedkorn

September 30th, 2011
10:14 am

@@. Like your attitude.


September 30th, 2011
10:20 am

I didn’t vote because I’ve really only been a Braves fan since I moved to the ATL area in 2008.

If you took this collapse and swapped it with the period in the middle of the season when the Braves were on a tear, it would look an awful lot like the Cardinals’ season. There are only 4 teams in NL that finished with better records than the Braves, and, for that matter, only 5 in the AL. This was not a horrible season. Gonzales is NOT a horrible manager. A baseball season is 162 games long and every team (except the #$%#@ Phillies) had slumps. It just sucks that the Braves’ carried the expectation of the Wild Card for most of the season & the horrible drop-off came at end when it really mattered, and coincided with the Cardinals ridiculous 14-5 run.

I’m sorry, but – Loserville, USA? Have you talked to any Cubs fans lately? Or how do you think it feels to be a Kansas City Royals fan year after year, season after season – knowing any prospect like Zach Greinke is only going to be around for a year before he gets traded off for assorted parts. Or the Baltimore Orioles, who had a shining moment the other night, but what do they have to look forward to from here on out?

I doubt one of those teams can look back on this season and remember a game when a player the likes of Brian McCann came up in the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs & was down to his last strike before he knocked a game saving home run out of the park. And then came up 2 innings later to do the same darn thing to send the Braves to a walk-off win. Sure, flags fly forever, but to me, those are the kinds of moments that baseball is about, and that’s what we have here. The Braves play well, and, with the exception of the last few weeks, they have been so much fun to watch and root for.

And they will be next year, too. And for years to come.

You’ve got a great, young team Atlanta. Here’s to starting over again in April.

Karl Marx

September 30th, 2011
10:20 am

Then there was the 1991 worst to first season which I still have not caught up on all my lost sleep. Shake it off Braves next season is just around the corner. Go Braves!

Hillbilly D

September 30th, 2011
10:51 am

I’d have to cast my vote for the ‘96 Braves. I’d still have to say the ‘64 Phillies had the worst fold of all time. Gene Mauch never did win it all because he overmanaged. You’d have to give honorable mention to the 1914 NY GIants, who lost out to the “Miracle Braves”.

The braves are among the worst franchises ever. Truly pathetic. Waddya expect from a bunch of southern bumpkins, however?

The vast majority of members of every professional sports team aren’t native to the area that they play in,
but don’t let that get in the way of your prejudices.


September 30th, 2011
10:59 am

I’m not a fan of watching grown men adjust everything but their attitudes.

For real. All that twitching and grabbing makes me think they need to de-louse those locker rooms.

Hillbilly D

September 30th, 2011
11:05 am

@@, Aquagirl

If y’all had one, you’d understand. :lol:


September 30th, 2011
11:09 am

Most disappointing since the “bad old days” without a doubt. Still, the NL isn’t the Brave’s doormat that it used to be. The Phillies have I think, the best pitching in baseball, and the Cards have all those monsters hitting at or over .300.

If anything the Braves have, over the last 20 years, helped to make the NL, maybe, the more competitive of the two leagues now. Yeah, I’ll keep watching.


September 30th, 2011
11:21 am

Kyle, in 1996, the Braves were up 2-0, winning two in New York, came home and lost three straight, then went to New York and lost game six.

John Ellison

September 30th, 2011
11:24 am

The Braves need someone to motivate their lackadaisical asses!

markie mark

September 30th, 2011
11:31 am

Thanks Debbie….as a 52 yo native Atlantan who has seen the Braves down, up, and down again, you have restored my faith….


September 30th, 2011
11:44 am

As one of the rare Atlanta Natives I have been watching these guys since Jerry Royster and Mike Lum were playing the corners. (God I’m old. Anyone else recall those names? How about Ralph Garr and Darryl Evans).

In all that time I can think of only one moment that comes close to the deflating feeling I got when we gave up the lead in the 9th…..

Seventh game of the World Series. Lonnie Smith is on first and TP is at the plate. TP lines a double to left and Smith takes off ONLY TO GET HEAD FAKED BY A ROOKIE Chuck Knoblauch and never makes it home.

I realize that was an instant play and this was a gradual collapse but it took me weeks to get that bitter taste out of my mouth. Not sure how long this one will last.


September 30th, 2011
11:50 am

My agent just called me and said I made 1.6 million dollars everytime I won!
Maybee if you losers were paying me 2 million a win I would have gotten you to the playoffs.

Bye Bye .. I’m gettin’ on my jet now… Freddie told me to get ready ’cause i’m gonna have a BIG role next year!

ragnar danneskjold

September 30th, 2011
11:57 am

Dear Filter @ 11:44, it is worse than you imagine. I mentioned Eddie Matthews to a young friend, who had never heard of him, much less Rico Carty or the historic hitter Tony Cloninger (look that one up, sports fans.)

ragnar danneskjold

September 30th, 2011
11:59 am

Dear Filter, I once attended a game where Gene Oliver, playing on Joe Torre’s off-day, hit three home runs. Great night. I once saw Felipe Alou take second on a routine single hit to Roberto Clemente.

bob lynn

September 30th, 2011
11:59 am

don’t know why but had a tear in my eye and trouble going to sleep after the loss

Mr. October

September 30th, 2011
12:05 pm

With the exception of 1995, this team has consistently disappointed – not winning when it mattered most. Unfortunately, the mindset in Atlanta is just making the playoffs is a successful season. In other cities, cities where winning matters, anything short of a championship is a failure. That is the disconnect with this team. The only difference in 2011 from all the many earlier disappointments is that the Braves didn’t wait until the playoffs to fold. I feel bad for all the fans that got sucked in and bought playoff tickets and now must wait until December to get their money back.

Logical Dude

September 30th, 2011
12:05 pm

At least those other years there WAS playoff. Not even making it to the playoffs? By blowing 8.5 games in the last month?

Yeah, that’s pathetic!
At least the new manager can only go up from there! (or can he??)


September 30th, 2011
12:11 pm

1996 changed the entire future of the franchise. Of course that was the worst.

The mediocre team that lost two days ago just wasn’t very good. They were as good as anyone in the 90’s and failed at the end consistantly and often.


September 30th, 2011
12:13 pm

Screw this team 20 years as a die hard fan. I can’t take it no more. I’d rather we be like the Marlins and win every once in a while then win all the time and hopes up then choke. Its like waiting 162 days to bang the greatest woman on earth then when the time comes to perform you pre-ejaculate. THE Braves are pre-ejaculators!!! I want a clutch team in Atlanta. JUST ONE TIME IN MY LIFE. PLEASE. NO more acceptable. Go all out or go HOME!!


September 30th, 2011
12:15 pm

The biggest problem with the Braves this year is that they had a few decent players but no team. They couldn’t hit a bull in the ### with a bass fiddle with runners in scoring position.


September 30th, 2011
12:23 pm


So you should remember the days of $1.50 bleacher seats at AFCS.


September 30th, 2011
12:25 pm

@ Debbie You have seen the Braves only for 4 years. I have seen them for 20. 16 of which where winning seasons with playoff appearances. We should have at least 8 titles. Cubs never win. If the Cubs won and made it to the playoffs 16 straight years its fans would be apathetic or fair weather as some say. Screw this org and its just make the playoff attitude. We want championships. uk the Braves!!!


September 30th, 2011
12:30 pm

The fault lies right on top of Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez and maybe Shueurholtz to an extent.

This team needs a power hitting left fielder. Martin Prado is not that guy. We have not been stable this year in Center Field until Michael Bourn arrived. I blame the problems in the outfield on Frank Wren. Kawakami has been a total bust, Mclouth was a bust. Combine those two ballplayers who we saw zero production from this year and we have that outfielder. Huge mistakes by Wren.

Fredi looks like a cuban deer in headlights. (do they have deer there) The fact is we signed the wrong Bobby Cox protege. We should have signed Yost. At least he has some fire within him and he has been to the World Series as a player and understand the importance to make it.

Terry Pendleton has to be smiling ………….Larry Parrish was a flop. Hiring a hitting coach with no experience except is .265 lifetime batting avg. was not a bright idea.

It is management…….I know that Jurjens and Hanson were down. Still the pitching did pretty good. There was zero hitting. In this case Fredi should have played ABC baseball the entire month of September. With Bourn on the team that should not have been hard. They did it in the 1st inning of game 162 and then did not do it the rest of the 12 innings. One more run would have meant a world of difference.

What are the BoSox going to do ?? Get rid of some coaches like the Braves should have.

Could Eddie Haas have done better?

September 30th, 2011
12:30 pm

1996 was most disappointing. It was my son’s first World Series game – and the last he has attended. But we’ll have another together some day.


September 30th, 2011
12:32 pm

Could be worse. I’m a lifelong Cubs fan.

Rafe Hollister

September 30th, 2011
12:43 pm

I can’t claim credit for this, but read a post by the wise one, Sonny Clusters, that I agree with, and will expound on.

The reason the Braves always underachieve is they set their goals too low. For them, a successful season is making the playoffs. Their goal should be fielding a team capable of winning the World Series. Sonny says, this year, ALMOST making the playoffs, is being spun as a successful season.

When you set your goals too low, you always underachieve. Kinda like some minorities whine and complain about wanting equality of outcomes. If they were success oriented achievers they would be shooting for better than the equality of average.


September 30th, 2011
12:43 pm

Tired of the Braves: Not all of us choose to be armchair critics. If you allow any one team to upset you that much I suggest you find another hobby. The Braves continually disappoint me as far as post season play goes, but if I cared enough to do anything about it I would try out for the team. The team doesn’t sit back and criticize you for the way which you go about your day job. Sure, they are in a much brighter spotlight with much higher expectations to perform, but at the end of the day, it is just a game, but for them it is a job. They have just as much disappointment as anyone on these blogs. I for one am glad to have them here.


September 30th, 2011
12:55 pm

1996 was bad but at least we made the dance…This year was the worse by far

I forgot

September 30th, 2011
1:02 pm

No its not the worst. THOSE TEAMS(’96,’97,(*1998*needs to b there.. talk about choke!!!!)’02,’03) LISTED ARE THE WORST. Because……… we WERE GOOD!!!
This team -You could tell they were no good cause of Heyward no show,slower Hoss,no show Prado,and DREADFUL DAN. WE were awful @hitting all year.
Our pitchin was mostly supreme and when it got tired and broken….. the truth showed up.
There is no hope for next year unlesss the entire pitching staff can play and bat as well.
Nice guys finish out of the money.

I forgot

September 30th, 2011
1:07 pm

I gave up on them after that disgusting loss at the end.
The Braves are only summer entertainment. Like movie night.
They will never b anything else.
And will never win another ring.

godless heathen

September 30th, 2011
1:09 pm

Braves fan since they came here. Two greatest disappointments were the 1996 World Series and what happened in 1995. 1995?? My boss had tickets to the clinching game, I think it was Game 6 and we were all pumped to go. His brother was sending the tickets by Fed Ex and Fed Ex failed to deliver the tickets on the day they were supposed to. At game time we were at the Fed Ex place at the airport trying to get the tickets but it was futile. We drove home and listened to the Braves finally win a championship on the radio.

After 1996 I came to expect failure and they don’t disappoint.


September 30th, 2011
1:25 pm

Baseball season ended at 11:30 Wednesday night. Football season started at 11:31. Talk to me next March about baseball.


September 30th, 2011
1:31 pm

To understand the current emotional feelings for this year’s Braves, you have to understand the pre-91 Braves. Many of us – problably millions of us have experienced every single emotion there is to have with our team since they moved here. It’s because of the hopes and thoughts we had with each edition of Atlanta Braves baseball – that this would be the year. It’s because we all hoped, prayed, asked the baseball gods, anyone who would listen to please give us a winning team, for once – and our one shot for a World Series championship –

The baseball gods smiled on us and gave it to us.

I, along with most every other longtime Braves fan is spoiled with all the success that we were blessed with – we made baseball history – in a good and not so good way during all these great years – spoiled because the bet every year for those pre ‘91 years was to see how far out we were at the All Star Break – and whether we were already eliminated from playoff contention LOL. I’m afraid the baseball gods have decided to give us a decent team, but we are going to be dealt heartache every year – this one was probably the worst one yet. To have a bumbling bunch like Florida win two series – and not even care – with all the issues that franchise has – ought to prove the baseball god point perfectly.

We can’t give up – look on the bright side – we had a chance all the way up to game 162 – the pre ‘91 Braves would have been folded up by game 62 – hopefully we get another chance, next year.

We got our World Series – we got our town rallying around our team – finally – but it came at a price – one that the baseball gods cash in every year – let’s hope we get one more chance – we may appreciate that first World Series much more if and when we get that opportunity again.


September 30th, 2011
1:40 pm

93 and 06 were worse – those two teams were clear and away the best in baseball. Not winning the World Series with those teams was more of an underachievement than not making the playoffs with this team

97, 98, and 99 were as bad and more embarassing – Blaming Eric Gregg in 1997, simply not showing up in 1998, and then being clowned by the Yankess in 1999 – the series was supposed to be for bragging rights for the decade and all it did was definitively show the difference between championsw and pretenders who won a lot of meaningless games