If there's any negative about awarding an Atlantic League team a playoff berth for winning its first-half division title, it's the 70-game stretch that follows.
In the case of the York Revolution, it must now navigate the final 60 games of the Atlantic League regular season while trying to muster up the same daily motivation it had during the first half, when it clinched the Freedom Division title, booking a spot in the postseason. In that span, York spent the majority of the first 70 games atop the Freedom Division, ultimately clinching it by five games. Now, theoretically, the Revs could lose the rest of their games during the rest of the regular season and know that they still have postseason baseball to look forward to.
That's obviously the most extreme case and almost certainly will not happen. After all, these are professionals. Regardless of the circumstances, winning is in their blood.
"We've all been competing for decades, pretty much. A decade or more," York infielder Andres Perez said before last Wednesday's Atlantic League All-Star Game in Lancaster. "We know what it is. Every time you put your uniform on and every time you step on the field, you go out there to win and you go out there to compete."
But, it's also easy to see how complacency can creep into the equation, with not as much attention being kept on how the team is faring in the standings on a day-to-day basis.
Even leading up to the All-Star Break, the Revs were struggling to find the same consistency that they had during most of the first half. During the first half, rarely was there a time when you could count York out of a game, regardless of how far behind it was. The second half, however, was a different story. York lost five of its first seven in the second half. Coming out of the All-Star break, however, York swept away New Britain to get back to .500 at 5-5.
The All-Star Break served as the perfect time for the Revs to step back from a grueling stretch of games, clear their minds and gear up for the season's final stretch.
"We played a lot of games on the road," Perez said. "...So, it's good for a lot of the guys to get a break and then come back rejuvenated for the second half."
Playoff tune-up: The rest of the season can be used as an extended tune-up for the playoffs.
The Revs can put an emphasis on trying to get a batting order and rotation set in stone, so that come playoff time, players will know their roles and York can just focus on winning games. In order for that to happen, performances during the second half need to be consistent, which can ultimately comes down to winning.
It's hard to maintain the same level of intensity over the course of a full professional sports season, especially one as long and grueling as baseball. We see it all the time from teams in the major leagues that build large leads late in the season, but collapse down the stretch, whether it's because they think they already have a playoff spot secured, or just can't quite keep up the energy to finish the job.
Due to the ever-changing rosters in the Atlantic League, it offers teams the opportunity to break the season into two, 70-game highly-paced jogs, as opposed to one drawn out, 140-game marathon. The Revs took advantage of this and are now rewarded by knowing playoff baseball is in their futures.
"You try to keep the energy up," outfielder Travis Witherspoon said during the All-Star Break. "What you don't want to do is get lackadaisical playing the game because we already clinched. You want to keep that momentum going, that energy going and just try to keep the team chemistry there and try to make sure everybody is going out and doing their job, day-by-day, because when the playoffs do start, you want to be able to roll right into it."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org