There Are No Off Days In Baseball

**ORIGINAL POSTED DATE 8/09/12**

Growing up, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I loved baseball (still do), and I was pretty decent at it, so I thought it’d be the perfect profession for me. I never really got all that close to being a baseball player though. I imagine there are a lot of great things about being a baseball player. For one, you get to play baseball for a living. Not only that, but you get paid gobs of money to play baseball. There is also the fame that goes along with it, if you’re into that sort of thing. On the other hand, there are downsides to being a baseball player. People will boo you sometimes. Everyone tells you how to do your job. If you screw up, everyone sees it. But perhaps worst of all is the schedule.  
There is no season as long as the MLB season in professional sports. You know that it is 162 games. You may not realize that it is 162 games played in 181 days (or at least that’s what it is for the Texas Rangers this year). That’s 19 off days in a 25 week span, and four of those off days were bunched together at the All-Star break. Most people have 50 off days in that time frame, and since it’s the summer probably took a little vacation too. Not baseball players. They have to report to work nearly every day, and if they give anything less than 100% on the job, newspapers and blogs and Twitter will crucify them for it. Even if you’re playing a sport for your job, it’s still a job, and doing your job that many times in that short a time frame would get old. 

Baseball players don’t get enough credit for doing their job as well and as often as they do. After all, they’re millionaires playing a game. They also don’t get enough slack for when they aren’t performing at their top level. The proximity of the games in the schedule is brutal, but so is the travel, and the small amount of time with families, and the injuries, and much more. The Rangers haven’t played their best brand of baseball for the last six weeks, but in the dog days of summer, I can’t blame them. It is more important that they do play their best brand of baseball when it counts, not in July and early August. If losing a bit of their edge in the summer is the price to pay for peaking in October, it’s a sacrifice worth making.


The toughness of the MLB schedule is about to get a little more concentrated for the Rangers. After an off day on Thursday, they will play 20 games before their next off day. Those 20 games will come against the Tigers, Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles, Twins, and Rays. The Rangers just finished up in Boston, taking two games out of three. They fly home to Texas for three against Detroit, only to fly back east for the New York and Toronto series, and then back home for the last three. The opponents and the travel will be taxing for the Rangers.


Texas had a stretch in May in which they played 20 games in 20 days. They compiled a 10-10 record in that period. If the Rangers are able to post a similar result in this hellish stretch of the season, I am sure they will be satisfied. That may only be good enough to tread water, but treading water isn’t such a bad thing when the division lead is a comfortable five and a half games. 


The Rangers aren’t exactly on fire coming into these next 20 games. While they have gone 6-2 in August, and the offense has come alive to score 59 runs in those eight games, the pitching has not been dependable. Rangers starters have a 6.44 ERA in August, and have been plagued by inconsistency. In baseball, momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, which means that currently it’s difficult to feel like Texas has built up much momentum in August. 


Division rivals Oakland and Los Angeles do not have the same stretch of difficulty over the next three weeks. If ever the Rangers were going to lose some ground in their first-place lead, this may be the best chance for the Athletics and Angels. On the other hand, if the Rangers are able to keep their current division lead or improve it after going through such a difficult stretch of games, it may be enough to begin the process of closing the book on another AL West title.  
Peter Ellwood is a Senior Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can email him at Peter.Ellwood@shutdowninning.com or reach him on Twitter @FutureGM 
Peter Ellwood

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