There were three night games in the Cactus League on Wednesday. There are two more Thursday (plus a late afternoon start) and four more Friday. And there have been plenty more over the course of this spring as night games seem to increase each year in Arizona.
“I don’t like the night games during spring training at all," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I’m on the record. It’s stupid. It screws everyone up."
It’s easy to see why. Last week, the Cubs had a B-game during the afternoon, followed by a night game. That made for a very long day. “That messes you up for days," Maddon said afterward. “That’s probably why I feel crappy."
Not that everyone agrees with Maddon’s view. Reds manager Bryan Price said he likes having two or three night games a spring (they have five in Arizona this year).
“To me, the benefits are the chance for the guys to have a morning off," Price said. “Most of the guys are here by 7 a.m. and out of here by 4 or 5 o’clock. By the time you get home and have something to eat, a lot of guys -- speaking for myself -- are ready to go to bed at 7 or 8 at night. So the opportunity to get an extra hour sleep and have a little recovery time is nice."
Not that Price was crazy about this week’s schedule that had the Reds playing a night game Monday, a day off Tuesday, a night game Wednesday, a day game Thursday, a night game Friday and a day game Saturday.
“What I would really like is a day game, off day and then night game," he said. “That would be great to get. We didn’t get there this year, but that’s something to shoot for next year."
Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson, meanwhile, says he loves as many night games as possible. “I like them anytime. It is our natural environment and it allows more people to see us on TV, which generates more revenue."
That’s the thing. The traditional spring-training schedule has players and coaches arriving early in the morning at ballparks, working out and then playing games in the afternoon before going home for dinner. Or golf. And then going to bed around 10 and waking up the next day at 6 or 7.
But as soon as the season starts, the routine switches significantly. The Cubs' schedule aside, most regular-season games are played at night, so players don’t get home until around midnight and remain so stoked with adrenaline that they might not get to sleep before 2 a.m.
So if you’re trying to get players ready for the regular season, wouldn’t it make sense to have a schedule that more closely approximates the summer schedule? And wouldn’t that mean playing more games at night?
Price said that he doesn't think there is that much benefit to a lot more night games, but he also says that with as many fields and facilities teams have in spring training now, you can be more flexible and make workout times shorter. So after night games, he often has the players report later the next morning so they can get more time to sleep.
“I think you get more sleep in spring training because your schedule is so consistent," Wilson said. “Then you start traveling and it gets out of control."
So perhaps it’s better to have stretches where there is a consistent routine rather than playing late at night one game and during the day on the next, as the Reds did this week.
Maddon said what would make the most sense is not having night games until the end of spring training. “I’d like the last week of spring training to be all night games. I’d like that."