Sam Miller is a smarter person than me, and the most recent example of this came in an episode of Effectively Wild this week. The topic was the invent of a week off, a “vacation” of sorts for every player on the MLB roster. Sam happens to think that this would be a net benefit for players for a variety of reasons, and I think the Yankees in particular would benefit from a program like this.
Mandated time off is a concept that has picked up momentum in the private sector. The last job I had before starting my Masters program had a policy that every full-time worker had to take one full work week off in vacation each calendar year. Aside from being an added benefit to help retention, there’s lots of evidence that employees taking fully-allotted vacation time leads to a less-stressed, more creative and dynamic work environment, as well as promoting overall health among the workforce.
It’s that last point that should be particularly salient to Yankee fans. 2019 was quite literally historic in the injuries the team suffered, just look at our archive tab under “injuries.” Mandated rest couldn’t stop Tommy John, or freak incidents like Aaron Judge’s broken wrist in 2018, but I think it could help in other areas, physical and mental.
Where mandated time off would really improve a player’s health is when they deal with that bum hamstring or wonky bicep, the injury that’s not serious enough for an injured list trip but something that either saps production or leaves a player unavailable for two or three games. Think about Giancarlo Stanton’s leg injury in August 2018 - the slugger carried the team in Judge’s absence despite playing on one leg himself. A mandated week off, properly scheduled with a team’s off day, could have been exactly what Stanton needed to get back to 100%.
In a lot of ways, this proposal is similar to the load management strategy you see NBA teams adopt, MLB teams have discussed internally, and I proposed for the Yankees back in the spring. When you have a team as deep and talented as the Yankees, it’s better to have your players as close to 100% for 80% of the games than playing at below that level of production every single day.
The other area I tend to think fans underrate when it comes to rest days is the mental break it gives to players. Baseball is unique in that it’s played every single day, and the mental wear is as difficult to overcome as the physical. Think about the slumps Aroldis Chapman or Gary Sanchez seem to fall into at least once a year; two of the most talented players in baseball completely fail to execute when nothing is wrong with them physically. Mental drain is a real issue and a mandated “vacation” from baseball could help alleviate that.
The difficulty in this idea is scheduling - how do you give all 26 guys on the 2020 roster a week off, without missing key games against division or playoff rivals or backloading their games played?
Mandated time off has picked up in the private sector for a reason - giving employees time off to rest and relax has tangible benefits in production. As the Yankees look for solutions to their 2019 injury crises, they could do worse than adopt a practice now commonplace in the corporate world.