Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Night Moves

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Listening to Lou talk about giving his regulars more rest this year is just another reminder of what must be the biggest home-field disadvantage in big-league sports. Twenty years after turning on the lights at Wrigley Field, how about using them a little more than once in awhile?

The Cubs play just 26 night games at home this year, with three stretches of at least five straight day games and another six stretches of four straight -- counting road games that run into either side of those stretches, it's seven streaks of four or more and at one point there's a seven-game run.

I know it's an old, tired argument to a lot of people, but with the 100-year anniversary of the Cubs' last championship at the doorstep and the expectations on the North Side as high as they've been in years, isn't it time to find a way to even the day-night playing field for the Cubs?

Double the number of night games. Do what Oakland typically does -- day games both Saturday and Sunday and then on the occasional getaway day during the week.

This is one of those cases where it really is legitimate to say, ``Everybody else does it, so we should, too.'' Visiting teams get to come into Chicago, endure two or three day games and move onto the next city and catch up on their sleep -- while the Cubs grind through the early wakeup calls for another series then often hit the road grind.

It's not impossible to overcome, and there are worse injustices and imbalances in the game. But this is an unecessary competitive disadvantage that has endured for too long.

You can bet that whoever winds up buying the team is going to apply a lot of pressure to get it changed. But it shouldn't take a new owner. And the change should be made now.

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If you (or new owner) push for more night games, the neighborhood will push for a new stadium out in the boonies. The real disadvantage of day games is the players staying out too late the night before a day game (see: Kyle Farnsworth). It takes a little more discipline, but when you are paid millions you should be ready to play in the day!

Are you paid by the Cubs? They just got an increase from 18 to 30 night games. Day baseball isn't the reason they choked in the playoffs in '03 and '07. Get real.

The Cubs should have more night games if nothing else to get them in sync with the rest of the Major League. This crazy notion of doing things the "Cubbie" way has got to stop. To heck with the neighborhood. The Cubs have bent over backwards to accommodate the neighborhood and it's time to put winning in front of the neighborhood's interest. There are lots of reasons the team has gone 100 years without a title and too many day games is one thing that needs to be eliminated immediately!!!

Getting to work at 10am is tough. And especially after a chartered flight doesn't get you into town until late. Tell that to the people who work for a living. This excuse is tired. Let the cubs move to the suburbs, play 81 night games, and see if they can get $50 for a bleacher ticket. Screw the cubs. I am done with them.

I have never understood the day game excuse. Playing day games in theory should end the players' work day earlier, allowing the potential for more sleep at night. Getting to the ballpark by 10am to work is only a problem if you go to bed at 3am the night before. Where is old fashioned responsibility? Or accountability? It is pretty sad if people point to day games as the reason why the Cubs have underacheived for years.

Look, I am not advocating using day games as an excuse for losing for 100 years but I believe that it's up to the organization to give the team the best possible chance of succeeding. You have to admit that the lack of success with the team does correspond with the rest of the teams playing night games on a regular basis. The current situation is akin to someone switching from a day shift job to a night shift job every other week. It screws with your schedule and doesn't allow for the peak performance.

I know that fans love to say that these are million dollar athlete's playing a kids game and that they should suck it up and just play, but it's all relative. All I am saying is that I would like to see the team play games at times that are closer to the schedule of the rest of the league. I know it's much more convienient for the neighborhood to have the team play all day games, but it's not like the team sprung up out of the ground over night. What is the ultimate goal here, winning or appeasing the neighborhood?

More night games would be great, especially for the fans who work all day during the week. It seems to make sense that players would be more alert and energetic with night games, whether because of more sleep or because, like everyone else, mid-afternoon is their most lethargic time. Then they have all day to relax and do their prep. routine, rather than having the cram it in before noon. I really am at a loss for another explanation for how tired, unfocused, fundamentally unsound, scatterbrained and ineffective the Cubs often seem during day games. But, we do need to see some stats from the last few seasons to demonstrate that they are actually better at night. Anybody got any? Of course, the argument is that the night game effect is a long-term one, so we can't necessarily rely on night game stats from a predominantly day game season. All I know is the teams that usually have their stuff together much better than the Cubs--Red Sox, Atlanta, Yanks, Mets, Cards, Angels--play mostly night games. You can't prove it, really, but the multiple benefits of playing at night would seem to play a role in this. The Cubs are always wondering why their level of talent, comparable to or higher than other teams, doesn't come together, and daytime lethargy and fatigue is probably a factor.

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on February 21, 2008 11:25 AM.

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