Sunday, July 18, 2010

Scott Rolen lays it on the line

All-Star third baseman Scott Rolen made the Chicago Cubs miserable during his St. Louis days. While his new team, Cincinnati, took three out of four from the Cubs over the holiday weekend in Chicago, Rolen spoke to the Chicago Tribune.

"The Cubs are very limited facility-wise, and that dramatically limits the work the players can do day to day. The clubhouse and weight room are significantly below par. They play a different schedule from everybody else in baseball. The day games are very hard to deal with day after day. Plus, when you have so many different starting times, from 1:20 to 12:05 to 7:05, then play mostly night games when you go on the road, I think the Cubs have their backs against the wall."


Scott Rolen gets it.

Wrigley Field's night-game limit of 30 games per season just about kills the Cubs' chances of winning a pennant. A majority day-game schedule was just fine when everyone else shared it. There was no nighttime Major League Baseball until Cincinnati turned on the lights in 1939. Teams added night games gradually. By the 1970's, all teams but the Cubs played a majority-night game schedule that continues, with some minor adjustments, to this day. The 55 night games other teams play at home is 83 percent more than the Cubs play.

Major League Baseball's move toward a night baseball schedule coincides almost exactly with the Cubs' pennant drought. I don't know whether the Cubs played any night games in 1945, their last pennant-winning season. I doubt it. The World Series was certainly a matinée affair as MLB did not schedule any Fall Classic games at night until 1971 (Pirates over Orioles in seven).

The Blackhawks' and Bulls' signings are done, and Bears' camp is still two weeks away. As much as they want to avoid it, the spotlight of Chicago sports turns to Cubs GM Jim Hendry and owner Tom Ricketts. Hendry and Ricketts should be able to produce coherent answers to media questions such as, "How do you plan on building a championship team?" "When can we expect another championship run with a pennant as a realistic goal?" The Cubs' postseason losing streak stands at nine games.

The lack of clubhouse space, training room space, exercise space and indoor batting cages at Wrigley is probably like a football team trying to compete without a weight room. The owner and GM should immediately designate a full-time employee to work to achieve a massive facilities upgrade and a full night-game schedule.

The Arizona Diamondbacks had their first season in 1998, playing in a gorgeous, taxpayer-financed, retractable-roof ballpark. They won the World Series in 2001, beating the Yankees in seven games. Now mired in last place, the owner fired his manager and general manager, signaling a complete shakeup of the ballclub.

I hope Mr. Ricketts is paying attention.

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