Atlanta Braves Will Not Coast to Season's End

By Rob Holden
Jason Heyward
Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

It happens all too often when the season is winding down and a team has a seemingly insurmountable lead: they simply coast to the finish line.

It is not a phenomenon particular to baseball; the epidemic crosses over sporting lines and I daresay to call it a “phenomenon” at all anymore is simply a misnomer. It’s common practice, something we have come to expect.

And it is something Atlanta Braves fans have come to expect more so than many others.

The Braves won a record 14 consecutive division titles from 1991 to 2005, claiming a birth in the World Series on five of those occasions. That, most would say, is a stretch of utter dominance. And it was, certainly; but for Braves fans, it left them with quite a bitter taste in their mouths.

14 consecutive division titles, the so-called “Team of the 90s,” and yet, only one World Series championship. Perhaps Braves fans are a little bit spoiled, but that’s enough to turn any fan into his or her namesake: something fanatical.

More often than not, the Braves would have a comfortable lead going into the last 20 or 30 games of the season – comfortable enough to where they would coast to season’s end, harkening T.S. Eliot the whole way down:

This is how the season ends

This is how the season ends

This is how the season ends

Not with a bang but with a whimper.

Those teams were used to success. They were comprised of veteran players who had been there before: won the division, clinched a playoff spot early, won the NLCS and played in the World Series. I’m not suggesting that those teams became complacent or disillusioned, or even that they lacked a certain passion. I’m simply stating the undeniable fact that those teams tended to shift into a lower gear in the latter few weeks of the season.

Perhaps this current Braves team will do the same. Certainly with a 14 game lead and only 42 to go, Fredi Gonzalez will begin resting his most important players in preparation for the playoffs. But there is reason to believe the Braves of present won’t fall victim to the coasting bug.

For one, the team is largely inexperienced when it comes to the playoffs. Combine that with the fact that the Braves are the second youngest team in all of baseball at an average age of 26.6 years (they trail only the lowly Houston Astros who average 25.6 years), and you can expect that the team will maintain their passion and thirst for success right up through the last game and on into the playoffs.

Youth and inexperience tend to breed an overabundance of passion. It’s unlikely that this Braves team will get complacent in any way – I expect they want to keep their foot on the throttle and continue to push themselves. Some cite their age as a potential undoing in the playoffs, but I disagree. This team is mature for its age, and I expect them to make a very serious run at a World Series championship.

Rob Holden is an Atlanta Braves writer for Follow him on Twitter @RobMHolden, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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