Baseball’s everyday players are a dwindling breed – Chicago Tribune
Williams, whose NL record Steve Garvey later broke, understands why so few of today’s players are interested in being in the lineup 162 games.
“With today’s travel and the excitement and the pressure, with so many things that are going on, managers give players rest now,” Williams said. “Once a manager sees someone struggle, not swinging the bat well, he takes him out of the lineup. It’s better for the player and better for the team.”
Williams felt like he could’ve continued his streak in 1970, but he told Cubs manager Leo Durocher late in the season it was finally time to take a break.
“I’d said I was going to play until they tore my uniform off,” he said. “But I just got tired. I wasn’t going to break Lou Gehrig’s record. One day I just told Leo, ‘We’re going to break this damn streak.'”
Physical fatigue and daily wear and tear on the body have always been obstacles for baseball players to overcome, even if they avoid the disabled list. And mental fatigue has been and always will remain an issue, and managers such as Maddon often prefer players sit and “clear their heads” on occasion.
Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu, one of the 14 who has played every game in 2017, admitted earlier this month he was “grinding” at the plate. But LeMahieu insisted on staying in the lineup, even as he admitted rest isn’t such a bad thing.
“I take pride in being healthy and playing every day,” he said. “I just don’t think that (playing 162) is a big deal anymore, which is fine. People want to see production. Honestly, with 162 games, I don’t know if playing every one of them is good. Some guys need a couple days off, and they come back from that and play a lot better.
“I’m sure most guys want to be out there every day, but it’s not always the best for them in the long run. It is cool to see guys do it. I always have a lot of respect for those guys.”
What’s left unsaid is many players no longer care about playing all 162 games because they’re paid an exorbitant amount of money either way. It’s nice to have the respect of your peers for being an “everyday” player, but you don’t get a ring for it, and your chances of getting “Wally Pipped” are slim these days.
“When I came up to the big leagues, you were concerned about someone taking your damn job,” Williams said with a laugh. “You wanted to put up numbers, and remember, there weren’t all the long-term deals with all the (guaranteed) money back then.
“You were fighting for your next year’s contract every day. Now that was pressure.”
Most consecutive games played
2,632 — Cal Ripken Jr., May 30, 1982-Sept. 19, 1998
2,130 — Lou Gehrig, June 1, 1925-April 30, 1939
1,307 — Everett Scott, June 20, 1916-May 5, 1925
1,207 — Steve Garvey, Sept. 3, 1975-July 29, 1983
1,152 — Miguel Tejada, June 2, 2000-June 21, 2007
1,117 — Billy Williams, Sept. 22, 1963-Sept. 2, 1970
1,103 — Joe Sewell, Sept. 13, 1922-April 30, 1930
895 — Stan Musial, April 15, 1952-Aug. 22, 1957
829 — Eddie Yost, Aug. 30, 1949-May 11, 1955
822 — Gus Suhr, Sept. 11, 1931-June 4, 1937
798 — Nellie Fox, Aug. 7, 1955-Sept. 3, 1960
745 — Pete Rose, Sept. 1, 1978-Aug. 23, 1983
740 — Dale Murphy, Sept. 26, 1981-July 8, 1986
730 — Richie Ashburn, June 7, 1950-Sept. 26, 1954
717 — Ernie Banks, Aug. 26, 1956-June 22, 1961
Source: Baseball Almanac