Boston Red Sox star David “Big Papi” Ortiz thinks he has the explanation for why the Chicago Cubs have had such a long losing streak: they play too many day games.
Ortiz points out that it is difficult for Cubs players to juggle that many day games at home with the nearly all night games they play on the road.
The Cubs have traditionally played a large number of day games because Wrigley Field is smackdab in the middle of a residential area of the city and residents have always been unhappy with the idea of having hundreds of fans milling about the area during night games. In fact, the team played no night games at all at Wrigley Field until the Cubs finally installed stadium lighting in 1988–and even that caused political controversy in the city.
Ortiz says that he’s talked to several Cubs players and according to him they tell him the day games pose challenges.
“Through the years I’ve talked to a lot of friends of mine that have played for the Cubs,” Ortiz said on July 1 at Fenway Park just before the Red Sox-Cubs game. “The one thing that everyone talked about was the schedule in Chicago. They get excited walking into a city that’s based on baseball, but once they start dealing with the schedule it kind of mentally wears you down.”
“Believe it or not that’s one of the biggest issues for that organization to become a winning ballclub,” Ortiz continued. “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.”
The Red Sox slugger points out that flying from the West Coast after a night games to Chicago to play a day game runs down a player’s system. Ortiz went on to say that “once you play day games for about a week and next thing you know you have to go into a city and play night games, then the next thing you know you have to go to the West Coast and adjust to the time there, then you have to come back home and start playing day games, it’s too hard for baseball.”
After decades of nothing but day games, in the late 1980s, the owners and managers of the Chicago Cubs jumped into a fight with City Hall and local residents over putting in stadium lighting. Citing a loss of TV revenue, the Cubs insisted that the team would have to fold up shop without night games.
For well over a year the Cubs threatened to leave the city and build a suburban stadium where there would be no argument over night games.
Despite the continued political uproar over the idea, by 1988 Chicago Mayor Harold Washington sided with the Cubs and allowed the lights to be installed but in deference to political concerns the team was still limited in the number of night games it could play. This stayed true for decades but in recent years the city has allowed more and more night games.
Last year, for instance, the city gave the ball club permission to schedule as many as 35 night games a year at the “Friendly Confines.”
Still, even today the residents object to some of the new rules. Complaints were raised last year to city licensing department plans that would allow the Cubs to continue selling beer and wine up until 11 p.m.
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