Why do Braves have back-to-back days off? Team president explains

Braves President and CEO Derek Schiller speaks at an event in The Battery Atlanta last month. (File photo courtesy of Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves)
Caption
Braves President and CEO Derek Schiller speaks at an event in The Battery Atlanta last month. (File photo courtesy of Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves)

Credit: Kevin D. Liles

Credit: Kevin D. Liles

It’s a question many Braves fans are asking this week: Why does the team have back-to-back days off, an extreme rarity in an MLB season, Wednesday and Thursday?

The answer, according to Braves president and CEO Derek Schiller, is that this “abnormality,” as he described it, was preferable to the other option MLB presented.

The first draft of the 2021 schedule that the Braves received from MLB, Schiller said, would have given them off-days on Monday and Thursday this week and home games against the New York Yankees on Tuesday and Wednesday. “That wouldn’t have looked as weird as successive days off,” Schiller conceded, but it would have presented a different issue that the Braves wanted to avoid.

The Yankees play at Oakland on Thursday, meaning that travel provisions in baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement would’ve required that if they had a Wednesday game in Atlanta – or anywhere else more than a 2-1/2-hour flight from Oakland – it would’ve had to be played in the afternoon.

The Braves didn’t want a late-August home game against the Yankees to fall on a weekday afternoon, especially with schools back in session, because they knew the game could draw a much larger crowd at night.

“When we do scheduling, and we look at first drafts with the league, we look at it from a business perspective and a baseball perspective,” Schiller said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We sit with (general manager Alex Anthopoulos) and try to figure out what’s ... the best possible outcome for all sides of the equation.

“The discussion was, would it be better for us to have a Monday off-day followed by a Tuesday night game, a Wednesday afternoon game and a Thursday off-day, as in the first iteration of the schedule? Or would it be better to do Monday and Tuesday night games followed by two successive off-days?”

The Braves communicated to MLB their preference for the latter. MLB obliged when the schedule was announced last year, setting the Braves-Yankees series at Truist Park for Monday and Tuesday and, as a result, off-days for the Braves on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Because the Yankees don’t come in here that often, it gave more fans the chance to come and watch the Yankees games,” Schiller said. “For that reason and baseball reasons, we decided that the best thing to do was to try these two successive off-days. We’ll see how it goes. … If this was (earlier) in the summer, with schools not in session, we may have come to a different conclusion.”

According to Elias Sports Bureau research, this is the first time in at least 30 years that the Braves have back-to-back scheduled open dates in a season except during the All-Star break.

As the home team for the series against the Yankees, the Braves had “discretion” to request the adjustment from the unannounced first draft of the schedule, Schiller said.

If the two-game series had remained Tuesday-Wednesday, as contemplated in the first draft, the finale would have had to start no later than 5 p.m., based on a CBA provision that took effect in 2018, because of the Yankees’ game in Oakland on Thursday.

“We likely wouldn’t have started (an afternoon game as late as 5 p.m.) because that puts the other team in a bad spot, and we try to work together as best we can,” Schiller said. “Late afternoon also is a terrible time because of traffic. My guess is we probably would have done a noon start, but we didn’t get that far.”

Other than the All-Star break or rainouts, MLB teams usually have no more than one off-day per week during the regular season. But the Braves had two weeks earlier this season – one in April and one in May – in which they had two scheduled open dates, although not on successive days. In both of those cases, the Braves were off on Monday and Thursday.

Those cases came in weeks, like this one, in which the Braves were scheduled for a two-game interleague series and a three-game weekend series. But in the April and May examples, the interleague series were on the road (against the Yankees and Boston Red Sox).

A May 28 rainout of a scheduled road game against the New York Mets, following a May 27 open date, resulted in the Braves going back-to-back days without playing, the only time that has happened previously this season other than during the All-Star break.

Another way for MLB to have avoided scheduling successive Braves off-days this week would have been to pair the two-game series against the Yankees -- the longest that series could be under this season’s interleague scheduling model -- with a four-game series against another opponent. Instead, the Braves’ other series this week is a three-game weekend set against the San Francisco Giants, starting Friday at Truist Park.

Schiller said moving series around on the calendar goes beyond the scope of changes that teams can suggest after receiving the first draft of the schedule from MLB.

“There would be a domino impact if you did that,” he said. “There’s a million factors that go into scheduling. Especially in baseball, the scheduling process is probably one of the most complex things that the sport does.”

And occasionally it produces something weird -- such as back-to-back off-days.

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