One of the things Major League Baseball players got from the new labor agreement is a common-sense approach to travel. If that sounds like a small thing, it's not.Virtually every veteran player has a horror story about playing a night game on one coast, flying through the night and playing
One of the things Major League Baseball players got from the new labor agreement is a common-sense approach to travel. If that sounds like a small thing, it's not.
Virtually every veteran player has a horror story about playing a night game on one coast, flying through the night and playing two time zones away the next afternoon.
Players say you need to check into a hotel at 6 a.m. and ask for a 10 a.m. wake-up call only once to understand that there needed to be a better way. Players have long believed that this kind of scheduling contributes to lethargic performances, if not injuries.
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Tony Clark, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, had seen it firsthand during a 15-year playing career and called it "fundamental to the health and performance of players."
Here's how the new labor deal will make life better. For one thing, the regular season will begin midweek in 2018 to give players an additional four days off per season.
Also, beginning in 2018, teams will not, say, play a night game in New York, then a night game in Los Angeles the following day, as reported by ESPN's Jayson Stark on Friday. That's the situation the Angels faced in June. Instead, beginning in 2018, that game in New York would have to begin 2 1/2 hours earlier.
Here's another example. The Red Sox played an August night game in Baltimore, followed the next day by an afternoon contest in Detroit. Under the new rule, the game in Detroit could not start earlier than 5 p.m. local time. In theory, the Red Sox will have time to play in Baltimore, fly to Detroit and get close to a regular night's sleep.
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This change will mean more afternoon games for teams on getaway days if a team has a day game scheduled in another city the following day. (There'll be some exceptions for holidays and games at Wrigley Field.)
All of this is a larger statement on the game. Once players and owners began pulling on the same end of the rope, baseball underwent a breathtaking transformation.
Some of this transformation can be traced to players and owners listening to one another and attempting to find a solution instead of drawing lines and daring the other side to cross one.
Many managers have made managing rest a significant portion of the job. The San Francisco Giants consulted sleep experts to come up with the optimal time to travel -- that is, whether to fly right after a game or the next day.
Many teams fly the next day's starting pitcher ahead of the club to give him a full night of sleep.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon has long advocated that his players do less on-field work late in the season to remain as fresh as possible. Studies have shown (perhaps logically) that player performance suffers because of a lack of sleep.
Not all will be perfect in 2018. Extra-inning games, holidays and restrictions on game times at Wrigley will still mean some short nights of sleep at times.
In the end, though, this new labor agreement reflects a desire for the owners and players to understand one another's concerns. For that, the game is better.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice.