What does the number 14 mean to you? I suppose that it all depends on which sport you follow. I read one rather amazing comment on the number 14 that triggered me to go in search of number “14’s” for this piece, but before I get to the “big” one, here are a few other “14’s.”
* The uniform number of the Hit King, Pete Rose.
* The number of victories for Carl Pavano in 2009.
* The number of victories that Andy Pettitte has in three of his past four seasons.
* The point-per-game scoring pace of Tayshaun Prince last season (well it was 14.2, but if you round off that puppy you got your fourteen).
* The number of points that Rene Bourque has in 10 games with the Calgary Flames this year.
All of those are rather random “14’s” that can be found with a random sampling of sports, and none of the aforementioned “14’s” are what sent me on this kick. What is the “14” that did the trick?
From 1991-2005 the Braves won a division title, you guessed it, 14-consecutive seasons.
If you’re counting and you realize there are 15 years involved you are right. Don’t forget that major league baseball had a strike in 1994 when no divisional champions were officially crowned (the Braves were 68-46 but six games behind the Expos when the season was canceled).
In this day and age of money grubbing athletes, ah who am I kidding I’m just jealous, there is simply no way I can possibly conceive of any team in pro sports ever matching that run with guys always looking to “get mine” making it nearly impossible to set up a dynasty (also the advent of salary caps doesn’t help). Sure the Braves won only one championship in 1995, and they reached the World Series only five times, but honestly, 14-consecutive division titles? I have trouble waking up to my alarm clock 14-straight times. Here are some highlights from the run.
* The NL ERA was 4.21 in this stretch. The Braves’ ERA was 3.53.
* The NL WHIP was 1.38. The Braves’ WHIP was 1.28.
* Obviously the NL winning percentage was .500. The Braves mark was .606.
As you might recall, the Braves had a pretty strong threesome leading the charge to all those pennants.
John Smoltz: 149-99 (.601 Win%), 3.17 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 8.13 K/9, 3.19 K/BB. Was hugely clutch in playoffs, and there may have never been a more devastating slider from a right-handed starter.
Tom Glavine (1991-2002; he joined the Mets thereafter): 209-102 (.672 Win%), 3.15 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 5.77 K/9, 3.09 K/BB. The classiest lefty of the past 25 years. He wasn’t ever as exciting as the other two, but the man could certainly pitch with the best of them.
Greg Maddux (1993-2003): 194-88 (.688 Win%), 2.63 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 6.51 K/9, 4.77 K/BB. Probably the best pitcher of his generation with his only competition being Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens. No one was better at the art of pitching.
Combined, the trio also brought home some hardware.
Glavine: 1991 Cy Young Award
Maddux: 1992-95 Cy Young Awards
Smoltz: 1996 Cy Young Award
So as you can see, the Big-3 was certainly at the heart of pretty much all of the success that the Braves had. Oh, that and the man who has helmed the ship in manager Bobby Cox. Mr. Cox is fourth all-time with 2,413 victories, and though he likely won’t catch Tony LaRussa (2,552) for third overall, you can’t do anything but throw mad props at Cox who has been the Manager of the Year four times (1985, 1991, 2004-05) as the guy who captained the organization to every one of those 14 division championships.
One other “14” by the way… my brother Jeff used to wear the number while slugging homers on the diamond before be turned to soccer where he had a fair amount of success going on to become All-State in Junior College at the keeper position.
By Ray Flowers