In the pantheon of unpopular topics among Chicago Cubs fans, the “problem” of too many day games is right up there with bunting and the Milton Bradley deal.
But, in the eyes of many current and former Chicago Cubs players (most recently, Alfonso Soriano), it’s a real issue. And you can add another bit of support to the idea that the Cubs’ unique schedule – more day games than other teams, much more body-clock resetting over the course of a season – is not helping the team.
“Through the years I’ve talked to a lot of friends of mine that have played for the Cubs,” David Ortiz told Jesse Rogers in Boston this week. “The one thing that everyone talked about was the schedule in Chicago …. Believe it or not that’s one of the biggest issues for that organization to become a winning ballclub. When you come down to the Cubs’ schedule it’s a game-changer, believe it or not. They play so many day games at home and then they have to travel to another city and adjust themselves to the night games.”
You can read Rogers’ piece for more thoughts from Ortiz, who’s been around a long time, is not a soft guy, and often says the things that other players will not. It’s easy to tune out a lot of what he says, but this? You know he’s hearing it from other players.
The Cubs did get a bump in night games last year, as part of the renovation plan, but they’re still well short of the Major League average. The Cubs are permitted to schedule 35 night games, with the possibility of 11 more being added when requested by MLB. The average MLB team is at 54.
I know all of the responses to the day game issue: toughen up, it should be an advantage for the Cubs, day games are better, etc. To each his own, but the evidence keeps piling up (and I didn’t even mention how much more revenue the typical night game generates over the typical day game).
When an opponent visits Wrigley, they have to reset their body clock once – as in, adjust to the day game schedule once. The Cubs have to do it repeatedly throughout the season. For anyone who has little kids, you know: resetting your clock once or twice a year is not a big deal. Doing it repeatedly over a stretch of months? It grinds you down until you are no longer yourself. It is a cumulative effect, and it’s just something the Cubs have to deal with that other teams do not. How big of a hurdle is it? Maybe not huge. Can the Cubs overcome it in a given year? Sure. But that doesn’t mean the issue doesn’t exist, and this one is painfully unique to the Cubs.
The solution, as lamentable as it may be to the history of the Cubs, is more night games. Unfortunately, given how much sparring it took last year to get the Cubs a modest bump, it doesn’t seem likely that another increase in night games is coming any time soon. Best guess? The Cubs will have to put together a few years of quality baseball, earn back some goodwill in the community, and then come back to the well.