It is rare to see a professional coach or manager be as transparent as Phil Nevin was about why Shohei Ohtani did not play against the Mets on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.”
The interim Angels manager was asked about the reigning AL MVP’s absence from the lineup by Buster Olney during the broadcast.
“Hey, this is something that we’re gonna have communication on as the year goes on. He came to me in the eighth or ninth inning [Saturday] night, and we kind of discussed that [Sunday] would be a good night,” Nevin said.
“I know it’s not good news for the ESPN family out there, but a healthy Shohei means we’ll be better later on. You guys will see him a lot.”
This is an archetypal issue that came to prominence in sports when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich used to rest stars like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili during nationally televised games. These are the platforms for leagues to market their stars to national audiences, and it’s brutal for the networks — and the viewers — when the biggest talents sit out games if they are healthy.
To be fair, Nevin is relatively new on the job, having just taken over the ballclub last week when Joe Maddon was fired.
However, organizations should seek to be better at long-term planning.
It was not a surprise that this nationally televised date showed up on the Angels’ calendar. There should be communication at least several days in advance about when rest days are optimal for the product.