By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — In 1969, then-Cubs manager Leo Durocher faked a stomach illness and left Wrigley Field in the third inning of a game. He and his wife, Lynn Goldblatt, caught a flight for northern Wisconsin to attend his stepson’s summer camp parents night. The truth of Durocher leaving for the camp outing eventually leaked back to owner Phil Wrigley, and some stories and reports insist Wrigley almost fired the Durocher on the spot.
Back then, the Cubs were in the midst of a special season that had them in first place until September. The Durocher-led team was eventually overtaken by the eventual 1969 champion New York Mets. Contributing to the collapse was Durocher burning out his starting pitchers, bullpen and position players during the hot summer of 1969. Mental and physical days off in that macho era — when the Cubs played all their home games in the afternoon — were viewed as a sense of weakness.
Maybe a day or two off for Durocher would have made sense too. In this day and age of mental health coaches and more studies into the benefits of rest, more days off for players and even days off for managers and coaches could be the wave of the future.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon has given his players varied time off since the team clinched their division title late last Thursday night. Taking it a step further, what’s he think of some time off for managers and coaches during the grueling baseball schedule of 162 games in 180 days? It’s a conversation Maddon’s had with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.
“Actually Theo brought that up recently to me,” Maddon said of taking a day off himself. “I have not thought about that a lot, but I did on a bike ride think about giving our (players) a couple of days off. Maybe let (bench coach) Davey (Martinez) manage for a couple of days. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. I really don’t. It would be hard to shut it down for a couple of days, I think. Again, I have to think about that.”
Usually, the only time a manager misses a game in season is because of sickness or a child’s graduation.
“(Theo) brought it up out of the clear blue sky,” Maddon said. “It has been banking around up there (in his head). I don’t know — that is interesting. My first impression is if you feel like you do need it during the season, just do it. Interesting thought — at the same time somebody else will be getting some good experience managing. It is not crazy by any means. The players are going to win or lose the game anyway. So interesting. I don’t think that is impossible.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.