May 18, 2012

Where are all of baseball’s iron men?

by Dan Bilicki In: Baseball

It wasn’t too long ago when it was certain that we’d see more than a handful of baseball players actually play entire seasons. The best guys would be out there every day and never breakdown.

When Matt Kemp sat on Monday with a hamstring strain (that landed him on the DL, much to my fantasy team’s chagrin), it snapped a streak of 399 consecutive games played. That was the longest active streak in baseball.

What’s up with that?

This season, by my unofficial count, only two first basemen have played in every one of their team’s games: Adrian Gonzalez and Joey Votto. That’s first base, one of the least taxing positions to play next to designated hitter, which I’m sure Gonzalez might have played a few games at. There are probably fewer than 40 players that have suited up and played every night for their team.

While players like Cal Ripkin and Lou Gehrig were both one-of-a-kind type players, what happened to guys like Miguel Tejada or Craig Biggio? Both held incredibly long iron man streaks with little notice, but at least they cracked a thousand games apiece.

Baseball has become a bit wussified in this regard. We’ll never see another true iron man like Gehrig or Ripkin for a couple of reasons.

First, players seem to get injured a lot easier these days. Despite having better training and medical staffs than ever, we seem to have more and more guys land on the DL every year. If you can make it through an entire season without a trip to the DL, that’s a badge of honour.

Second, managers try to get everyone rest every once in a while. I can understand this for pitchers and catchers, but majority of time guys are just standing around on the baseball field. This is like soccer where players are constantly moving, I’m sure the average third baseman doesn’t need a day off after playing seven games in a week.

Also, managers can be tempted to sit a guy if he’s in a bit of a slump just to take the pressure off the player. I don’t believe this works at all. Wouldn’t you rather have your guy try to work through his issues rather than sit and think about it?

It’s all these reasons that Cal Ripkin’s record of 2,632 games played in a row may now be one of the hardest records to ever break. It’s certainly right up there with 30 wins, a .400 batting average and a 56-game hitting streak. Just add one more to all of baseball’s unbreakable records.

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