The 2014 Baltimore Orioles were the most successful version of the team in a generation. This much we know. However if you ask some people, part of the reason that Buck Showalter‘s team ran away with the division that year was because the AL East was weak.
In essence, they won by default. I don’t buy that, as that team was as solid as anyone else. They won the division at home in dramatic but semi-anticlimactic fashion two weeks before the end of the season. They then swept the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS, a series that included a blowout in game one, and a dramatic bases-clearing double by Delmon Young in game two.
But after that, they were swept in the ALCS by Kansas City. And they looked fairly inept in doing so. Now there are technical reasons why that series swung the way that it did. But…did the success already sustained distract the Birds to an extent?
Sports is a business in which you can’t really celebrate success for too long. Especially in baseball where you play everyday. It’s the ultimate what have you done for me lately sport. If you go 0-for-4 one night, it isn’t acceptable to respond by saying yeah but I hit two grand slams last night. Nobody cares. You have to keep your foot on the gas.
Only the players involved know if they became “overly-satisfied” in that moment. I don’t think they did, because as I said there were technical reasons as to why they lost that series. But the key to sustained success in effect is sustained hunger. If you cease to be hungry, it becomes easier to defeat you.
Again, I’m not saying that happened to the 2014 Orioles. But that is a fact. You have to keep the pressure up in sports, otherwise someone else who’s hungrier will come along.