The Royals are slumping, no doubt about that. The team has now dropped eight of its last ten, but still holds the top record in the league at 84-59 and a nine game lead on the Twins in the Central with 19 games to go. Even including the slump, since July 31, the Royals have the fourth-best record in the league at 23-17 (and can surpass the Indians for third-best record with a win tonight).
Despite this lead, the losing has induced some major concern from some fans that the Royals are about to encounter a collapse of epic proportions.
Truly, this swoon begins & ends with the starting rotation. Those 5 suck it up or #Royals may pull a 1968 Cubs collapse.— Mouse in catspeak (@Meouse) September 15, 2015
Royals about to be 9 up, Yost is having flashbacks to his Brewers Choke season— ⚾️NIK© (@NikRitter) September 15, 2015
Methinks we are witnessing the beginnings of an epic collapse by the Royals - see '64 Phils, '69 Cubs & '14 A's for reference.— Tom Westervelt (@TFWestervelt) September 8, 2015
@McCulloughStar Feels like Milwaukee circa 2008.— Ringneck85 (@Ringneck85) September 15, 2015
Royals are starting to implode like 2014 Oakland A's— Bobby Jones (@looperbobby) September 12, 2015
Twins are winning, the Blue Jays won, are the Royals turning into the 2014 A’s? Depressing. Bet the Chiefs get beat, to top it all off.— Mark Orr (@MarkHunterOrr) September 12, 2015
I think the Chiefs had something to say about that.
Its easy to panic and make allusions to famous choke jobs throughout the years. But where do the Royals stand in relation to some of the biggest collapses in baseball history?
2014 Oakland Athletics
The Athletics collapse began in early August, with the team going 16-30 over their last 46 games, the worst record in the league over that time. By game 143, the collapse was already mostly complete with the A's already eight games back in the division and trying to hang onto a Wild Card spot.
2014 Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers were up 3.5 games on the division in late August, then won just three games over the next three weeks. They lost 16 of 19 games, falling to six games back in the division by mid-September. By Game 143 they were just 74-69, and chasing a Wild Card spot they would not achieve.
2011 Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox had the best record in the league as late as August 16, but "fried chicken and beer" in the clubhouse would doom them. By Game 143, they had blown the division lead, but still held a firm 6.5 game lead on the Wild Card spot. They would lose 14 of their final 18 games and miss the playoffs by one game, costing manager Terry Francona his job.
2011 Atlanta Braves
The Braves could not keep up with the behemoth Phillies team in the division that lead, but as of Game 143 they still had a substantial 7.5 game lead on the Cardinals for the Wild Card. They had a walk-off loss in St. Louis that led to a sweep, that would snowball into the Braves losing 13 of their final 18 games. They would lose their final five games to miss the playoffs by one game.
2008 Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers didn't really have a collapse, just a bad stretch that cost them a division title. They were 80-56 heading into September, but dropped 12 of their next 15, enough for them to fire Ned Yost with just two weeks remaining. By game 143 they were still in pretty good shape, with a four game lead for the Wild Card, but would drop 10 of their next 12 to fall 3.5 games back. They would storm back to win six of their last seven games to take the Wild Card, but lose in the first round of the playoffs.
2007 New York Mets
The Mets had the best record in the league by Game 143, and led the division by six games. They would win just six games the rest of the season, dropping 13. They lost six of the final seven games, including the season finale against last place Florida, to lose the division by one game and miss the playoffs.
1995 California Angels
With 19 games to go in the shortened 1995 season, the Angels had a five game lead on the Mariners. They lost nine in a row to fall behind Seattle, but rallied to win six of their final eight to force a one-game playoff for the division title. They would lose.
1978 Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox had a 8.5 game lead in late August, but by Game 143 they had already squandered that lead and were locked in a neck-and-neck race with the Yankees. They fell to 3.5 games back of the Bronx Bombers, but rallied to win 12 of their final 15 to force a one-game playoff that would make Bucky Dent a household name in New England.
1969 Chicago Cubs
The Cubs held a nine-game lead in August, but they dropped 18 of 26 at one point and by mid-September were already well behind the Mets for the division lead. They still clung to a half-game lead by Game 143, but were in the midst of an eight game losing streak while the Mets were winning ten in a row. The Mets would win the division going away, by eight games.
1964 Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies were up six games by Game 143, but a ten game losing streak would cost them the pennant to a hard-charging Cardinals team.
The Royals can perhaps relate to some of these teams, but in most of these cases the collapse occurred well before September, or the team had a much smaller lead than the Royals to fritter away. That's not to say there shouldn't be real concern if the Royals finish out poorly. Craig Brown at Royals Authority shows that playoff success usually is preceded by a good September. However he also shows that its not an absolute pre-requisite, as a few teams with losing streaks in September went on to post-season success.
It is right to be concerned about the Royals, but let's keep things in perspective. They have been the best team in the league over 143 games, and a nine game lead with 19 games remaining is nearly impossible to lose. The Royals are not due for an epic collapse. What they need to be concerned with, is getting things right by October.