The Chicago Cubs have followed up their World Series run by playing .500 ball for 84 games. There is serious cause for concern. Jake Arrieta can’t find his form, Kyle Schwarber is bouncing between the minors and the bigs, and Ben Zobrist has been a shell of his former self.
And with more than half the season gone, some are wondering if time is running out — even though the Cubs are only 3.5 games back of surprising Milwaukee in the NL Central. Veteran Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Morrissey asks the question that was on no one’s mind today: is manager Joe Maddon making a big mistake by resting his players too much? After all, being a baseball player isn’t physically taxing. Why should they rest at all?
Rest from what? Running to first base?
OK, OK, I don’t mean to be so flippant. Just a little flippant. Big-league teams have six weeks of spring training and then play 162 games, more if they make the playoffs. There aren’t many days off in between. It’s a grind, as players like to say. But once the season is over, most have 4½ months off. I’ll bet many of you would take that trade-off, given the opportunity.
If there’s a physically less demanding major sport than baseball (catchers excluded!), I don’t know what it would be. An NHL season is 82 games, and it’s filled with all-out effort and high-speed collisions. Just try telling your typical hockey player, a bone sticking through his skin, that he needs a night off.
NFL players have 16 regular-season games a year in which to beat their brains into something resembling rotting cauliflower. Enough said.
It is undoubtedly true that baseball players sustain brain damage less than football players. If that’s not proof that they are a bunch of frail, pampered babies, then I don’t know what is.
Morrissey continues on, comparing a baseball player’s job duties to those of a basketball player and runner. And guess what? They are totally different! Not content, he then compares what a baseball player does for a living to what you, the reader, must endure every day.
What Maddon likely is getting at, even if he’s not saying it, is that baseball is tedious. Players do the same thing day after day. Some get to the ballpark four hours before a game. They stretch, they hit in the cage, they take grounders. They might lift weights. They play the game. They go home, sleep and do the same thing the next day.
Which, come to think about it, is what 98 percent of jobs are like.
No one worries about the tedium of your job, do they? No one says: ‘‘Wiggins, you’ve got to be tired from licking all those envelopes. Give yourself a four-day weekend.’’ What the boss usually says is: ‘‘There’s no such thing as a strained tongue muscle. Get back to work.’’ Then you walk back to your work station, dreaming of the stamp collection awaiting you at home.
If some baseball fans think the game moves slowly, you can bet some of the players do, too. Cubs pitchers have taken to dancing in the bullpen after the team does something good. They seem to be a happy bunch. It’s also possible that dancing helps them fight the urge to drink from the Jonestown kettle of boredom relief.
No one is going to make the argument that baseball includes the bone-crushing contact of other sports or requires as much running. But to suggest that playing 162 games over a six month period isn’t demanding as hell is too intellectually disingenuous to take seriously. It’s the type of argument you hear from a giant meathead who wants to prove their machismo.
I guess I’m not mad, just disappointed. Especially considering the source here has been covering baseball for decades — and knows damn well the physical demands of the sport.
On the bright side, he did create perfect bulletin board material for players to read up on before his next visit to the clubhouse.