Once in a while when reading the box score of a Major League game the fan of a given team will note the absence of a famous player’s name. Immediately, his heart will begin to thump because the first thought is likely to be that his favorite has been injured and the fortunes of his rooting interest might be compromised.
But upon further review, scanning the game roundup, he will learn that Miguel Cabrera or Andrew McCutchen is really OK. They were not injured, but granted a “scheduled day off.” In essence they were benched for a day, not used by their manager. In the NBA when a player is healthy, but not inserted in a game the box score reads “DNP-Coaches Decision.”
What's that about?
Scheduled day off? The schedule says there is a game so if you are healthy and one of the linchpins of the team, you play. Old-timers are probably rolling on the floor in hysterics each time they read the phrase “scheduled day off.”
It used to be a point of pride that a player did everything in his power to play as long as he could walk – and sometimes, as in Mickey Mantle, or Kirk Gibson – even when he could only limp. That came with the job description. The stars knew their teammates counted on them and it was their role to show up and be ready to go even if they felt punk, or blah.
Imagine someone in the 9-to-5 world calling in saying he just didn’t feel like showing. Not that it doesn’t happen, but whether it is skipping school or skipping out on work decency demands either a doctor’s note, or the pretense of illness. Scheduled day off? Try that argument on mom if you want to avoid some February Tuesday at school.
New York Yankee legend Lou Gehrig played in 2,130 games and earned the nickname “Iron Horse” because the first baseman played day in and day out for years. For many it was thought to be the record that would never be broken. But along came the Baltimore Orioles’ Cal Ripken. Ripken obviously had other things going for him as a shortstop and third baseman, but rode his fame as the most durable player in history into the Hall of Fame.
Ripken played in 2,632 consecutive games to set a new, post-Gehrig Major League record, and it is unlikely anyone will ever approach it. When the streak ended it was at Ripken’s discretion. It was not a “scheduled day off,” but more a spur-of-the-moment choice.
Little did we know when Ripken sat out a game after 16 years of trotting onto the field that players would stop trying to play in every game of a single season.
Short-changing the fans
It is unseemly when the biggest stars blow off a game. We are told that every game on the regular-season schedule matters equally. We buy full-priced tickets based on the likelihood that the team will field its best players except in circumstances beyond the manager’s control. You don’t find teams offering half-price discounts for those scheduled days off when the buyer was certain he was going to see Andrew McCutchen or Miguel Cabrera out there giving their all.
Just the other day Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura gave second baseman Gordon Beckham a day off. But that was because Beckham had one hit in his prior 30 at-bats. When Cabrera took a scheduled day off he was batting around .315. When McCutchen had a scheduled day off he was batting about .320.
Randomly benching guys like that make it seem as if a team isn’t even trying to win.