ST. PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 04: Infielder Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers celebrates his team's victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game Four of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field on October 4, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
The Red Sox' collapse in 2011 will forever be remembered as one of the darkest chapters in Red Sox history, in line with '78, '86, and '03. There is, sadly, no way to really forget a let down of this magnitude.
But it could have been so much worse than it it, and we have the Rangers to thank for that.
Speaking completely objectively, September 28 was one of the most amazing days in the history of baseball. Two wild card races coming down to the wire, two incredible comebacks-and-or-collapses being completed, and one of them coming in storybook fashion. If you are a fan of any team but the Red Sox and Braves, it's the sort of finish that sets the bar for all seasons to come.
The story, of course, does not end there, but moves on to the playoffs, where things could have gone so very much worse for the Red Sox.
Imagine the scenario: the Rays, fresh off of their amazing comeback against the Yankees, take Game 1 of the ALDS 9-0, and fulfill their role as the "team of destiny" by rolling all the way through to their first ever World Series victory. It's a story that seemed all-too-possible just one week ago, and which we should be thankful remained a fiction.
After all, that Rays' story could be one of the best all-time baseball stories. It's the sort that would constantly be recalled by ESPN and baseball fans everywhere, always bringing back the old pain much as Super Bowl XLII might for the Pats fans amongst us today. Can you imagine spending a month with previews for the resulting movie? Or seeing the book on store shelves?
Thanks to Texas, we don't have to. Instead, the collapse will remain primarily in our collective consciousness, free to be stowed away only to be brought back when we're feeling particularly masochistic or in need of a good bout of complaining.
Ultimately, you want your successes to be the best stories--prime drama to be recalled and retold to children as a way to pass on the tradition--and your failures to be footnotes. Does it suck that we're not in the postseason, fighting for the 2011 World Series? Yeah, definitely. But when it comes down to it, regardless of who wins now, we'll just be a curious side story, and not the $200 million villain of the main story arc.
So that's something.