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For whatever reason, some folks still have trouble accepting that the Chicago Cubs’ frequent day games – which are a great thing for a number of reasons – put them at a disadvantage over the course of a season. Players in recent years finally admitted that the constant readjustment of their body clocks is a strain that opponents have to do, at most, just once or twice during the week in a given season. Cubs players have to do it again and again.

Still, some won’t buy it, and call the day game problem a mere excuse.

Shrug. I “buy it,” but I also recognize that day games are special – even sacred – and I’m not necessarily pushing for the Cubs to do away with them entirely. But they’ll have to continue to do things at an institutional level to address the competitive disadvantage that comes along with day games. And, even if you don’t buy the body clock problem, you can probably understand one problem that inarguably comes along with a day-time schedule: the temptation to party at night.

I’m not excusing late night shenanigans, mind you. I’m simply stating that it’s understandable that young men, with a lot of money, in a big city, and with a free night, would go out. The problem, of course, is that those young men have to play baseball the next day (instead of, for example, sitting head down at a desk sipping water and trying to look busy/lucid).

Well, the Cubs, from the top down, are trying to do something about the issue. Namely, the late night partying is going to be a serious no-go. From the Tribune:

“It’s been a factor in ruining some careers,” [Theo Epstein said of players staying out rather than getting a good night’s sleep]. “And I’m sure it’s been an impediment to the Cubs in winning. … The approach we’re going to have is the opposite of laissez faire. We’re not just going to say, ‘Oh, that’s the way it is. This is Chicago. Boys will be boys. I’m sure they’re going to get enough sleep and I’m sure they’ll show up the next day ready to play.’

“That’s a failure on the organization’s part. We have to take a very proactive approach in setting a high standard.”

The “Cubs Way” of doing things on the field has been compiled in a pamphlet and eventually will be distributed to every player in the organization. But the Cubs’ way of addressing off-the-field behavior is a little trickier, since there’s no way to police employees away from the ballpark.

The new Cubs brass hopes common sense prevails, but that’s easier said than done. Young players getting their first taste of fame may be prone to staying out late, especially in a city like Chicago where there’s plenty to do and 4 a.m. liquor licenses.

It’s yet another small, simple, and yet so-obviously-necessary change. If the Cubs truly take this approach, don’t be surprised if, from time to time, you see someone having a seat on a day when you didn’t otherwise expect it. Over time, this kind of policy could even lead to a surprise trade or release. Obviously, that would be the extreme.

No one wants to say that Cubs player can’t have fun. But there are limits, and there is an appropriate time for varying levels of “fun.” When it impacts job performance, the Cubs are going to draw a line. I dig that.

And it’s not just because a fuddy-duddy for whom 10pm is a late night out…

  • Boogens

    Hey Brett,

    One of the great benefits of having kids, especially young ones, is that they provide an automatic built-in excuse for avoiding some of the late night train wrecks that we know are bad for us. That doesn’t make you a fuddy-duddy, but using that term really pushes it. ;-)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Ha. Thanks.

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      Thats why the beer gods have given us the growler so I can enjoy fresh craft beer after the kid goes to sleep. I always have a clean growler in my trunk so I can stop at Founders and get a fill after work.

      • Katie

        Lush!

        • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

          I’m your huckleberry ;)

      • Karen P

        Good choice! I love Founders. And Bells. The Brewery Vivant. And New Holland… I think this constitutes as a problem? haha

        Though, I have no small kids to keep me home at night… darn. ;)

  • Pat

    I would love to see them start scheduling the allotment of night games they have when it would benefit the team the most. Use the night games in summer when it’s cooler at night and easier on the players. Use the day games in spring and fall when it’s actually nicer during me day than at night.

    Until they attempt to do that, I’m unlikely to believe it’s more about the product on the field than the returns at the box office, regardless of other changes made.

    • Shawn

      I agree. I don’t know if there are restrictions on when they can have night games at Wrigley. But, it would make more sense to bunch those games in June, July and August when the weather is nicer.

      • Pat

        I may be wrong here, but I believe that Mon – Thurs can be day or night and weekend games have to be day, with a few special exceptions. I do not believe there is any restriction on which Mon – Thurs games are at night, other than total night games cannot exceed 50.

    • Chris84

      I agree with this. A couple years ago, my sister and I went to the first night game of the season and while the Cubs spanked the Nationals, it was so freakin’ cold outside. May in Chicago can either be amazing or terrible all in the same day.

      I actually really like going to day games. I get to take a day off of work, where as with night games, I have to rush from work on the deep northwest side, clear across the city in rush hour in order to get to the game. Not into that.

  • Spencer

    How is it a constant readjustment on their body clocks if they play day games again and again throughout the season? Wouldn’t that help them get used to it, and be an advantage over teams that come in and aren’t used to a 1:20 start – especially if the opposing team is coming to town after a night game the night before? Plus, how many spring training games are at night? Every guy on the roster starts the season out with a month straight of day games to further help them get their body clock in the groove.

    Maybe the day games explain the slow start some guys have, or maybe that’s just the cold, crappy weather in Chicago in April. But, I have a real tough time buying that over a full season guys aren’t used to playing day games. Maybe some folks have a tough time accepting day games have nothing to do with the Cubs’ struggles.

    And, I just checked: Not once this season do the Cubs play a night game on the road then play a day game at home on back to back days.

    Last point – playing a day game on the last day on a homestand allows the team to get out of town sooner, so they can hop on a plane and get to the next city sooner and hopefully get a good night’s sleep in the hotel.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      From the linked Tribune article (this is but one of many examples in recent years):

      Asked what the hardest obstacle to overcome is in the first year as a Cub, outfielder Marlon Byrd replied, “Definitely the day games. And it’s not even like starting off (in April), because when you come out to spring training you’re on a morning schedule. It’s when you start going on the road and have night games and then come back and you’re trying to figure out how to get that sleep, when to go to bed and all that.”

      Byrd said it takes a whole season to get acclimated to the schedule, and “it shows in the second half of the season, when your legs get tired and your body is worn.”

      “I was lucky to have D-Lee that first year,” he said. “He told me, ‘When we go on the road, wake up every morning and go to breakfast, stay awake, come home and take a nap. Try and stay on the same schedule.’ I tried, but I got worn out by the end of the season just trying to make that adjustment. The second year it’s a little bit easier.”

      Players don’t say things like that lightly – they don’t want to seem like they’re making excuses.

      • DocWimsey

        Guys like Matthews, Cey, Dawson, etc., who played on competitive teams in other cities thought that the day games really put the Cubs at a disadvantage. It’s hard to say that these guys were making “excuses”: they had first hand contrasts and were (in a sense) admitting that their prior success had been *easier* because of schedule differences.

    • Frank

      I remember this being brought up in an interview with Steve Stone last year or the year before, and he said the problem with the argument against day games is that the Cubs have (or had over the course of that year) a better record in day games than in night games.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        … which is a plainly flawed counterargument, given that the alternating schedule could just as easily hurt the Cubs in night games as in day games.

      • DocWimsey

        The problem with Stone’s counter-argument is that he is treating day:night records as independent of home:road records. However, the vast majority of teams do better at home than on the road. So, if your day-night splits overlap heavily with your home-road splits and if teams do better at home than on the road, then you’ll get the day-night split as a side-effect.

        • Joe

          Nice, concise assessment, Doc.

  • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

    A bigger issue maybe the toll on the body to play all these extra day games during a hot, humid, and sunny summer games. I would think there is also dramatic adjustment between getting your batting eye adjusted to sun vs. artificial lights. The important part is the lack of consistency all the day games Cub players have to deal with. It’s time to cut the day games in half it just makes sense.

  • DocWimsey

    “Last point – playing a day game on the last day on a homestand allows the team to get out of town sooner, so they can hop on a plane and get to the next city sooner and hopefully get a good night’s sleep in the hotel.”

    Many years ago, Bill James showed how bad Cubs’ players stats were on the first game of road trips, which were almost always night games after a series of day games. Hall of Famers like Banks, Williams & Santo had utility infielder stats in those games. However, they were not particularly bad at the first home games after a road trip: their numbers were in line with the career numbers.

    Cub players at that time had a simple explanation: after a home series, they were falling asleep by 9:30 pm every night, or in about the 7th inning of a night game. They might have been a little off coming home: but in that case, so was the other team, so it cancelled out.

    Regardless, I would think that the herky-jerk schedule is another reason why the large number of day games is detrimental to the Cubs. No other team has to deal with such “unscheduled” life over long periods of time.

  • HR Trucker

    I think I felt the tears of Harry Caray and Mark Grace.

  • Eric S

    Does no one remember Mark Grace and is famous slumpbusters? Gracey was infamous for being out until 2,3,4 AM usually at a strip club and back in the clubhouse by 10AM the next day. Never affected his performance. I’m sure that Gracey staying out until 4 meant that he wasn’t going to sleep until 5-6 AM. Granted he was more of the exception rather than the rule.

    • DocWimsey

      heck, Mickey Mantle was still hungover at game time routinely: and that was for night games!

    • EQ76

      Yessir I do! Jim Rome still brings it up on a fairly regular basis!

    • jstraw

      QED, hire Gracey as the Party Coach.

      • Frank

        QED! I haven’t seen that since Philosophy class in college!

      • Joe

        YES. That’s hysterical to think that Gracey was a party animal. I was too young to be on top of that side of the news — he always looked like a consummate pro, never would’ve guessed he would’ve been the one hitting the bars. And strip clubs, no less!??

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      The problem is that Grace was an extreme exceptions and lucky enough to be able to function on little sleep and a hangover. Sadly there are many young players that may believe they can party like Grace and still preform but few can.

    • Smitty

      Some of us are blessed with the ability to “tie one on” and not have it effect them the next day. Most athletes cannot do that because their job is directly connected to how their body handles it. Let’s be honest. Grace wasn’t the best “athlete.” He was a terrific first baseman and a wonderful hitter. I have argued repeatedly that he should be in the hall of fame.

      He was able to do what he did with his “slumpbusters” because it didn’t effect him and he didn’t need to worry about the amount of physical exhertion he would have to go through the next day. THe most running Gracie had to do was during his one double and one single a game he would hit. Then it was often him getting stranded on first or second. If he had a chance to score the adrenaline would kick in and he would have the energy to get home.

  • die hard

    Cubs should follow the tenets taught in kindergarten. Have a snack and take a nap before each game. Jim Bouton and others revealed that many ballplayers played hung over or drunk and did well. Mickey Mantle comes to mind. Its not recommended but one wonders how alcohol affects short term? it definitely affects over time. More importantly is sleep and eating habits. If get good sleep and eat well, effect of alcohol and other partying may not be as great.

    • Cubbie Blues

      I propose an experiment.

      • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

        I’m game I’ll take a nap now and drink a fifth after I wake and report back to everyone how I performed.

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      So drink as much as I want as long as I take a nap? Excellent I now have a dream I can actually accomplish!

    • Deer

      How do you take a nap before a 1:20 game though? It’s not really possible. Naps are common by athletes across sports when the games start at 6 or 7pm. Not sure how Theo is going to police this, maybe spies at the popular bars around Chicago? Where do I apply?

  • chris margetis

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate and call bullshit on this one. No one can tell me that the team who plays regularly this way has a competitive disadvantage over the team who comes to town and doesn’t normally play day games. And if anyone thinks the opposing players aren’t taking advantage of being in Chicago and it’s social life is nuts. Head to Messner’s in Southport during the season around 11pm, I can name a laundry list of non Cub players I used to see there when in lived in Chicago.

    I’m not saying it isn’t a good idea to have these safeguards in place at all. I actually think it would be quite helpful. But to imply that the Cubs are at the disadvantage is ludicrous if nothing else based on the fact that they are more used to it. Granted there are the exception such as travel back from a road trip with a day game following, but I’d argue again the opponents are regularly subjected to that as well.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      So you’re calling bullshit on Marlon Byrd, Derrek Lee, and on and on, the players who’ve themselves admitted it is harder to play at peak physical condition throughout the year for the Cubs than other teams?

      I tend to believe them, and the many others who’ve hinted at the same. Knowing that bystanders will call it an “excuse,” they’ve still admitted it. I think they probably know better than we do.

      • chris margetis

        That’s not what I said at all. I didn’t say it wasn’t more difficult on the players. I just don’t think anyone can say it’s more difficult on the Cub players. Last I checked, two teams are playing in those day games correct? If anyone should be at a disadvantage it should be the team staying in a hotel, which also happens to be the team with a lot less options at night besides going out late to dinner, etc. For anyone to imply the team who is more accustomed to performing that way is at a disadvantage is exactly making an excuse.

        I’ll buy every bit of what Byrd is saying that it is physically more difficult than playing regularly at night. What I won’t buy is that the Cubs are somehow more impaired physically than the team on the other side of the diamond while playing that way.

        • Joe

          I think — I think — that it’s less about the night-to-day or day-to-night flip, and more about the day-day-night-night-night-day-day-day-night-night-night-day-day-night and so on, building up until by the end of the season (as Marlon said in the Tribune article Brett quoted higher up in the thread), you’re just dead exhausted. Guys on the other teams, sure, they gotta weather a single flip day-night or night-day, and being on the road and all that, but then they go home or continue on the road and it’s back to a more consistent night game sequence. They have time to recover. Not so for the Cubs.

          That said, is it really true that only Wrigley has a significant number of day games? Anybody know where to get data on that? I’m curious…

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I feel like you’re not reading what folks are saying. It’s not about that one game. It’s not about getting “accustomed” to it. It’s about the toll that alternating your body clock so many times takes on your body over the course of a season. That happens to Cubs players ONLY.

          • chris margetis

            What I am arguing is the Wrigley Field “day game” advantage. What I am saying is that the Cubs should be at a distinct advantage while playing said games. I’m not saying it should carry over to when they are on the road or any other scenario. In my original post I said that I would imagine it would be much harder to arrive home late from the road and rebound to a day game, which would be much rougher if the visiting squad had a travel day before, but that isn’t always the case. I understand that the constant jumble may be rough to adjust to. That said, I find it difficult to buy that elite athletes can have that big of an issue getting ready to do something at 1:20 in the afternoon, regardless of how much sleep they are working on. Let’s not forget, the exertion level of the sport we are discussing as well.

            • Pat

              So being put at a disadvantage more often is actually an advantage?

              • chris margetis

                When Tampa Bay goes to Lambeau to play a late season game against the Packers, check their record and let me know the answer. And please don’t try to tell me the Packers prefer playing in 7 degree weather vs 60 degrees.

          • Eric

            Now I understand. That explains why the cubs are always in the hunt through August and then fall back in September and October.
            There is no data to support the supposed disadvantages

            • TWC

              NOW you understand?!?! It took you one year and ten days from the time this article was originally posted to come up with a response?

              Crikey. You’d probably starve to death if anyone asked you what you want for lunch.

              • MightyBear

                Eric was pontificating the possibilities. You can’t rush genius.

      • Bric

        I agree to your point about it being an unspoken fact around the league. The thing I don’t get is what the big mystery is around how to solve it considering those who’ve pointed it out. Lee, Byrd, and all the other guys who haven’t given their names are all the wrong side of 30.

        That’s the age when you start noticing the heat a little more, pacing yourself, and doing crazy things like continually hydrating that the younger guys don’t bother to or complain about. The problem is the guys who the heat wouldn’t get to are the younger guys who aren’t in bed by 10.

        Solution: Just as Theo says, stop staying out all night. If and when that idea can take hold then the Cubs would be at a distinct advantage to play at Wrigley for playing a majority of their games in the sun and heat.

    • DocWimsey

      This is backwards. The Cubs have a completely irregular schedule. The other team does this for 3 or 4 days. It’s like having a baby who doesn’t sleep: it’s irritating but endurable at first, but if the kid does not adopt regular sleep habits within a few weeks, *then* you start really suffering. (And, yes, I speak from personal experience there!)

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        That baby analogy is perfect. When you have a kid that won’t sleep, and you’re up throughout the night, it’s not like you get “better” at handling it. You get worn down.

      • chris margetis

        I’ll again argue this theory. Having children as well let’s me know the importance of a routine with their sleep. As anyone with kids knows, even a “routine” sleep wise with a baby pretty much means having your sleep interrupted every 4-5 hours, but of course, after awhile when that becomes your routine, you get used to it. Now imagine passing off your infant to your parents for 3-4 days who by all accounts are accustomed to waking up at 5 am when your infant normally feeds. Does that put them at an advantange? Or does the completely different schedule of the other feedings affect them more?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I have a one-year old who still does not sleep through the night. She’s up at least a couple times each night (the last two nights she was up every hour, on the hour … ). I can say with absolute and total confidence that I don’t get “better” at handling my lack of sleep. I simply get more worn down as time goes along, and I yearn for a day or two when I can recover (sometimes my wife and I will sleep in different rooms, one of us downstairs, away from the baby’s room, so at least one of us gets a full night sleep).

          If I had to do it just for a night or two, and then resume my regular full-night sleep for the rest of the year, I’d be just fine.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          And, here’s the thing, chris: your theory sounds palatable. It has an internal logic to it.

          But the problem is, the very players who have played for the Cubs and for other teams say your theory is wrong. I’m not really sure how you can argue with them.

          • chris margetis

            I understand also where you are coming from Brett, but I’m certain (without provinding quotes but I’d certainly research it) that many players have claimed it’s an excuse as well. If the majority of former players stampeded forward after playing for the Cubs and said it put them at a distinct disadvantage I’d agree with you 100%. I just don’t see that happening. You’re an attorney, would you take a sample set of three people out of thousands and take their opinion during a deposition as gospel?

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              I can think of reasons guys would say it’s just an excuse, even if they thought it was a problem. The biggest reason? They don’t want to be thought of as pussies.

              I can’t, for the life of me, think of why a couple tough guys like Lee and Byrd would say it’s a legit problem, if it’s actually just an excuse.

              • DocWimsey

                Also, think back to guys like Gary Matthews and Ron Cey. They both had been on winning teams in other cities. Both of them (as well as others) stated flatly that the Cubs were at a huge competitive disadvantage by playing only day ball. All of the data show that this must be the case: guys who play for the Cubs and for other teams show bigger September fall-offs as Cubs than they do when playing for other teams.

                So, really, we have to stop making excuses for disregarding the obvious and simple explanation for why players tail off so much more drastically when they are Cubs than when they are not Cubs.

                • chris margetis

                  It appears via the arguments that age is much more of a determining factor than anything else. Cey and Sarge spent their later years as Cubs. Byrd, DLee, etc all aging guys. Is it possible the downsides of their careers have more to do with it?

  • Levo

    I can say that this will particularly be pointed to specific players. When I see players out late it’s generally Wells, Russell, Soriano and Castro.

  • FromFenwayPahk

    This is a “Cubs way” that may require more education and communication of expectations than having “Theo police this.”
    Baseball is in an arms race of baseball knowledge. More is known about how to win than was known in 1950. Today’s average players and managers would cream yesterday’s stars. (Lots on this in Full House by Stephen Jay Gould.) One thing that is known is how to maximize what a player can get out of his body, both in the short term and over a career.
    Players on winning teams can’t keep behaving irresponsibly with a their health because it is traditional. Non-traditional 21st century teams will show up and eat their lunch.

    (Especially if it is a lunch of beer and fried chicken eaten in the clubhouse during the game, like Theo’s last team.)

    • DocWimsey

      If this were true, then the ’04 Sox (who made the ’11 Sox look like choir boys) should never have made post-season, never mind winning it all!

      • FromFenwayPahk

        Hey Doc, take it easy on a guy trying to work in a reference to an evolutionary biologist.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Darwin Barney?

        • DocWimsey

          lol, hey, anybody who can work in a Gould reference is good by me! (But as he cited my work very favorably in his magnus opus, well, maybe I’m biased!)

          And Gould is always relevant here: last I read, Bill James still touts Gould’s explanation for the demise of the 0.400 hitter as the best one out there.

          And, quite frankly, the ’04 Sox probably won despite their frat-boy ways! Still, they did win.

  • die hard

    Then Bud should issue edict mandating number of day and night games for each team be same and also that this be done by months. April, May and September only day games and other months only night games. Problem solved.

    • Pat

      While Bud has more power than is good for him ( or the game), he can’t just overrule Chicago city ordinances. Should the Cubs try to get more night gams from the city? Absolutely. It would probably help if they actually built the triangle building which was promised in exchange for more night games last time they added them.

      • die hard

        If the Cubs would agree to compensate every adversely affected bldg owner and business owner within 3 block radius in a manner that is based on the same factors used in today’s BP settlement (of course on a much lower scale ie thousands not billions of dollars) this could be done fast. However, many businesses could see a spike in revenues and those would not get a penny.

        • TWC

          [insert blank stare here]

          • ty

            Die–let me handle that spread—One more payday for the old man.

  • Benjamin Raucher

    The author makes an important point I had never thought about

    BENJAMIN MARCUS RAUCHER

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  • Jason

    It’s just excuses. Anyone hear west coast teams complaining when then hit the east coast or vise versa?

  • Morgan

    OK, can you guys do us Tigers a favor and play poorly this series?

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