Atlanta, Boston Baseball Fans Underwhelmed By Season

Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution talk to Melissa Block about disappointed baseball fans in Atlanta and Boston.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Now we're going to check in with the bruised and battered fan bases of Atlanta and Boston. Joining me with a New England perspective, it's Howard Bryant of espn.com. Howard, welcome.

HOWARD BRYANT: How are you, Melissa?

BLOCK: OK. And also on the line is Mark Bradley, a sports columnist with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Mark, welcome to the program.

MARK BRADLEY: Thank you for having me.

BLOCK: All right. I'm going to set you two up for this. Which team do you think had the most epic collapse last night?

BRADLEY: I think the Braves probably are very grateful for the Boston Red Sox today because if you're going to concoct the second biggest collapse in the history of September, it's always nice to do it on the night that somebody else concocts the biggest...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BRADLEY: ...September collapse in the history of baseball.

BLOCK: This is the misery-loves-company theory, I guess.

BRADLEY: This would be the company deflects misery. I was driving home from the Braves game very late last night, and I was listening to the XM baseball channel. And it was 25 minutes before they mentioned the Braves, so I think the Braves will thank them.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: Howard Bryant, what do think? Does it also take the sting out for Red Sox fans a bit to know that, well, Atlanta had a terrible end of the season, too?

BRYANT: No. I don't think the Red Sox, or the city of Boston, or New England is thinking about anything other than the Boston Red Sox right now because this was the greatest collapse, I think, I've ever seen. I made an argument a couple of weeks ago that if they went down this way, that it was going to be as surprising and as amazing a collapse as their 2004 victory over the Yankees. And I got a lot of grief for that because people were saying, well, how can you say that? Because teams collapse every four or five years, but no team has ever come back from three down to win a seven-game playoff series, especially against the Yankees.

And the reason why I say it's the biggest collapse I've ever seen is because normally, when a team comes back, the challenger plays great baseball. And the St. Louis Cardinals played really good baseball. They went down the stretch. They won games they had to win. But the Tampa Bay Rays really weren't very good. It was a singular, self-imposed collapse by the Boston Red Sox. They just gave it away. And at $170 million on payroll as well, this was a colossal, well-deserved collapse.

BRADLEY: Well, speaking as an Atlantan, I have to say that hearing the New England perspective on this has done wonders for my mindset.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BRADLEY: You know, I really do think that, you know, what the Braves did wasn't so horrible after all.

BRYANT: And at $170 million, the expectations are very different, that this team was built for one thing.

BRADLEY: Oh, yeah. The Braves' payroll is only half that, so they got really good value for their fall.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: So you only need to feel half as bad, Mark.

BRADLEY: Yeah. That's true. I think that the Braves can look in the mirror and feel only half as terrible about themselves tomorrow.

BLOCK: Well, Mark Bradley, what happened to the Braves? How do you explain it?

BRADLEY: I don't think you do. This was a team that won its 81st game of the season on September the 1st and never won a 90th game. Its season ended with the Braves winning a total of nine games in September after they had been one of the four best teams in baseball going into the month. And that was probably - my memory of last night was, I was in the Braves' clubhouse, and I heard some stirring that you usually don't hear in a defeated locker room.

And I ducked into a room, and I saw Frank Wren, the Braves' general manager, watching TV. And he was watching the Braves win just as the Red Sox had lost. And he said, you know, Boston and our team, we were two of the four best teams coming into the month. And now, neither one of them is going to October.

BLOCK: How does that leave a fan base, do you think? Mark Bradley, are they just numb - that they thought this was in the bag, and then it's just yanked out from under them?

BRADLEY: Well, we in Atlanta - usually, these things happen in the month of October. This just happened a month earlier.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BRADLEY: The Braves have had a long history. This is - this would have been the 16th time they've been to the postseason since 1991. And they'd only won the World Series one of those years. So we've gotten a little bit jaded here as to the failings of this team. But this one was pretty remarkable in that they came from so far ahead to have it end on the - in the 13th inning of the 162nd game.

BRYANT: Look, this isn't - the Atlanta Braves situation is not the Boston Red Sox. They're not the Philadelphia Phillies. They're a good team. They're on their way. They've got good players. They made the playoffs last year. But this was not a team that was constructed with one goal in mind, which is to win a world championship - like Philadelphia.

The Boston Red Sox were built this year to win a championship - nothing else. They have a $170 million payroll, second only to the Yankees. And for them to go in September and lose 20 games, and to blow a nine-game lead and not even make the playoffs at all, is one of the greatest, most significant collapses in baseball history.

BLOCK: Mark, make you feel any better?

BRADLEY: I'm Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: Well, gentlemen, it's been great to talk to you. Thank you and appreciate it.

BRADLEY: Yes, Melissa.

BRYANT: Thank you.

BLOCK: We heard from Mark Bradley, a sports columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Howard Bryant of espn.com. He also talks sports on WEEKEND EDITION SATURDAY.

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