Commentary

Papi on the Cubs: A hard day's night

Sure, all those day games are tough. But there's more than that to lovable losing.

Updated: July 2, 2014, 6:30 PM ET
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

As a longtime baseball writer who HATES day games after night games, I think David Ortiz has a valid point when he blames the Cubs' decades of disappointing seasons on the constant adjustments they have to make to play day games when everyone else is playing night games.

"If the rest of the league had the same schedule that you have, it's fine,'' Ortiz said. "But 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 [players]."

[+] EnlargeWrigley Field
Ron Vesely/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesBaseball under the sun … all in a day's work in Chicago.

It definitely is a factor. I covered the Twins back when they shared the Metrodome with the Minnesota Gophers football team and occasionally had to play a September game at 11 in the morning on a Saturday to accommodate a football game later in the day. Teams in both dugouts sometimes struggled through those mornings after playing late the night before. (And possibly drinking even later than that the night before, although on second thought, that applied more to us writers.) I don't care how much money you're paid, your body doesn't always react that quickly when you are supposed to perform at a top level.

Ask yourself: Are you at your absolute best in the office the morning after you were up late working (or drinking)? Or after a red-eye flight? Even a very small drop-off can be significant if you're competing against world-class athletes. Or even baseball players.

Baseball is a game of daily routine. When you vary that routine, there are consequences. As Crash Davis warned in "Bull Durham," you have to respect a streak.

Then again, teams visiting Wrigley Field must adjust to the day games as well. Yet the Cubs had a worse winning percentage at home last year (and in 2010) than they did on the road. And the Cubs were playing night games when they blew a 3-1 lead in the 2003 NLCS, and road games when they blew their 2-0 lead in the 1984 NLCS. You can't blame those heartbreaking defeats on the schedule.

So I think there might be a somewhat more significant factor in the Cubs' inability to make it to a World Series since 1945: their lack of talent through too many seasons over those decades.

In the past 40 years, the Cubs have won their division five times. They have finished fewer than 11 games out of first place only twice in the other 35 years. When a team averages 20 games out of first (as the Cubs have in those other 35 seasons), you can't blame it all on schedule adjustments.

As every Cubs fan knows, what you can blame their World Series drought on is a goat being banned from the park, a black cat walking across the field, a Hall of Fame third baseman clicking his heels and a fan sitting in the stands trying to catch a pop foul down the left-field line.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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