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Wednesday
Aug022017

Does a day off help a ballplayer?

While researching and writing my new book about baseball’s Ironman record, THE STREAK: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Baseball’s Most Historic Record, I found that several fundamental questions inevitably barged their way into the narrative. Of those questions, none is more central to the Ironman concept than the enduring issue of whether a day off helps a major league player.

Does it?

Should all players take a rest now and then because a respite from the game’s daily grand freshens their bodies and minds and enables them to perform better going forward? Or are the advantages of rest just a myth?

Ripken, who played in 2,632 straight games for the Baltimore Orioles, obviously has a clear-cut opinion. When we discussed the subject during our interview for the book, he said, “I never thought I could solve any problems by not playing.”

I think it’s safe to say that most of today’s players disagree. Ironman streaks have all but disappeared from baseball, and one of the many reasons for that is players, managers, and front offices now believe occasional rest is essential. Many other players I interviewed for the book, including Prince Fielder, Dale Murphy, and Tim McCarver – three players from three different eras – agree that is the case.

But the body of opinion I uncovered on the subject is far from unanimous. Frank Robinson, a Hall of Fame player, told me he never benefitted from taking a day off. Brooks Robinson, another Hall of Famer, said there were times when he came back better from a rest but also times when he came back playing even worse.

What do you think? Is the Ironman credo out of touch with reality? Does every player benefit an occasional day off?

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