Tigers manager Jim Leyland wanted to give his team an offday - Doug Pensinger
Here's why MLB has World Series workout days. Do they truly matter?
DETROIT -- Workout days. They are the lifeline for the media, and the bane of most players and coaches. But they happen each postseason, and each World Series. And Friday, there was a workout day at Comerica Park, but some members of the Tigers were less than thrilled about it.
"The only reason we're here is because you guys are here," one Tigers player said to me, jokingly, but also underscoring the fact he'd rather be at home recovering than at the yard.
And he's right. The genesis of workout days began during of the 1997 World Series. That year, on an off day with no access to players or coaches, the media largely focused on the dismal television ratings. Since then, MLB has instituted workout days for the sole purpose of giving the media access, and therefore providing a channel to report varying story angles.
"It's definitely a media function," an MLB spokesman said.
With the Tigers down 0-2 and having flown cross country early Friday morning, many members of the team would have preferred to have the day off for recovery. And on the eve of Game 3 here at Comerica Park, both teams approached Friday's workout day very differently.
For the Tigers, it began a few hours before Game 2 of the World Series, when manager Jim Leyland called over a baseball official around the batting cages. Leyland was less than thrilled about Friday's mandatory scheduled workout for both teams in Detroit, and he wanted the commissioner to know.
"I'm not trying to duck that responsibility," Leyland told SB Nation, "If you have that responsibility, OK, but I think it's a little overboard when you get home at 6 in the morning and you're playing in the World Series and you have to come out for another media day."
The issue is that MLB makes workouts mandatory, and the Tigers thought there was no flexibility. But since they were flying back east, arriving in the early morning hours, they wanted to give players the option of not attending. And when baseball officials heard rumblings on Thursday that the Tigers were displeased, they approached general manager Dave Dombrowski. Together they worked out a plan to have Leyland, Game 3 starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and two players, Austin Jackson and Alex Avila, available in the interview room. The rest of the team had the option to work out; many players did, but among those who were absent were Prince Fielder, Jhonny Peralta, Jose Valverde and Octavio Dotel.
"We can work with the teams," the spokesman said.
Leyland, known as one of the most accommodating managers in the big leagues when it comes to speaking to the media, repeatedly stressed he had nothing against the media. On Thursday, for example, he spent a huge portion of his day with lined up interviews -- nearly nonstop -- with various national outlets before addressing the interview room prior to the game. His approach is just more old school.
"I have nothing against the media; I know we have this responsibility," Leyland said. "This [World Series] is a huge thing, but I think it can get carried away."
Players opinions vary; some would give anything to have a day off, while others don't mind coming in and getting extra work in.
Clear examples of that were Jackson and Avila. Both men walked into the room promptly at 3:30 p.m. Jackson was dressed ready to go hit, Avila was dressed ready to go home. I told them I didn't want to read too much into their different wardrobe choices, but asked what their feelings were on the workout.
"I think it's optional for most guys," Jackson said. "At this point in the season, you've taken so many swings, you've thrown so many pitches that you're ready. I think most guys like to come in and maybe take a few swings. Some guys would rather take a day off just to rest the body a little bit. It definitely was a long flight."
Avila's answer was brief.
"We got in at 6 , 7 in the morning," he said. "We're pretty exhausted."
Jackson worked out, Avila did not.
San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, on the other hand, said he wanted his players on the field even if it wasn't mandatory. Instead of flying right after Game 2, the Giants slept in their beds and flew on Friday, arriving in Detroit after 5 p.m. and taking the field two hours later. In essence, their schedule remained very similar to how it's been all October. Since the Giants have faced six elimination games and have been playing nearly every day, it was no surprise Bochy wanted to keep them in the same mode.
But his view of the workout was only different because his team was on the road.
"We need to," Bochy said about working out. "We have not been on the [Comerica Park] field since last year. It's a little different. For the home team, they don't need to get acclimated to their field. That's the big difference there. After the St. Louis series I really didn't want to work out, I really wanted to give them a break."
Yet there was no way that would happen. It was the day before Game 1 of the World Series, teams and players had no choice. Still, if Bochy had the option, he would have opted out.
"As a manager there's time when you want to give guys a day off," Bochy said. "And you're forced to do some things you may not like."
In the end, it's difficult to determine whether the different approaches to the workout day -- with the Tigers' more lax and the Giants' more aggressive -- will factor in this series. Perhaps we will find out on Saturday night.