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MLB’s New CBA Will Give Players More Rest On Getaway Days

This could mean more afternoon games in more places.

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

One thing Joe Maddon did to help his players get extra rest during the long slog of a major-league season was to give all the regulars days off from time to time.

Even with that, travel schedules can wreak havoc on a player’s rest schedule, with flights through multiple time zones, day games after night games in different cities, etc., all of which occasionally make it difficult for players to perform at the peak of their ability.

Jayson Stark at writes that the new MLB/MLBPA collective-bargaining agreement addresses this issue by requiring earlier starts on getaway days, beginning in 2018, for travel where flights are more than 2½ hours:

Sources told ESPN that the getaway-day changes will apply if a team has a game -- or even an off day at home -- the next day.

The new rules also will prohibit teams from scheduling an early-afternoon game the following day if one of the clubs played a night game in a different city the evening before.

This is a good idea. Stark cites a couple of examples of very difficult turnarounds last year. The first: The Angels played a night game in New York June 9, then were scheduled to play a night game at home the next day. Stark writes:

Under the new rules, their getaway-day game in New York would not be allowed to start later than 4:37 p.m. ET.

There was another egregious example of poor scheduling in August 2016: The Red Sox had to play a night game in Baltimore August 17, then an afternoon game in Detroit the next day. This will be resolved this way:

Under the new rules, the Orioles would not have been required to move up their 7 p.m. start time because the Red Sox did not face a flight of more than 2½ hours. However, the Tigers would not have been allowed to start their game the next day earlier than 5 p.m.

This is all a good thing and will certainly help players get more rest, as will the provision in the new CBA, also beginning in 2018, that will begin the season a few days earlier and put four more off days in the schedule. All of this will likely mean a few more weekday afternoon games in places you might not normally see them. And there’s one more thing, applicable to us as Cubs fans:

The agreement allows for certain special exceptions involving holidays and trips to Wrigley Field, where local laws provide less flexibility in scheduling later start times. However, even those exceptions are restricted to instances in which teams face shorter flights.

The Cubs are currently limited to 35 night games per season (plus any Saturday or Sunday night games. By my count they played 39 regular-season night games in 2016 (and eight more in the postseason), which is about 15 or so fewer than the average count across MLB. What the “exception” involving Wrigley probably means involves teams coming to Chicago for series that begin on Fridays, which by city ordinance cannot be night games. Usually, this would mean that a team playing in another city on the Thursday immediately before coming to Wrigley would play a day game -- but this “exception” might mean teams could schedule night games in those cities, as long as the flight to Chicago isn’t more than 2½ hours.

In the past, this has even hurt the Cubs, who have on occasion played late-afternoon or even night games in other cities before beginning a homestand on a Friday afternoon. In my view, it’s silly for the city of Chicago to still prohibit Friday night games in these cases. We’re only talking about maybe two or three Fridays per year, and it wouldn’t have happened at all in 2016, as the Cubs had no homestands beginning on a Friday that didn’t have an off day immediately preceding. They will have one such date in 2017, the last Friday of the home season, as they play Friday, September 29 at 1:20 CT at Wrigley following a 6:15 CT game in St. Louis on Thursday, September 28. That would be covered by the flight-time exception, as St. Louis is a short flight to Chicago.

Personally, I’d like to see the city of Chicago relent on the Friday night-game prohibition. With the Cubs allowed Saturday night and Sunday night games if they’re on national TV networks, what’s the big deal about adding a couple of Friday nights every year?

Nevertheless, in 2018 we should see less of this, and as a result, more rested players who can perform better on the field.