(CBS) The two games that the Cubs and White Sox are playing at Wrigley Field in the Crosstown Classic that starts Monday are afternoon contests.
There are several contributing factors for that, but the root of it goes back to a city ordinance that continues to frustrate the Cubs to no end, president of business operations Crane Kenney said Monday. The Cubs are currently allowed to host up to 43 night games at Wrigley Field, per city ordinance, and with 81 home dates, it leads to some tough decisions in which travel logistics can overtake the sexiness of having a high-profile matchup in primetime, Kenney said.
“The answer is the same answer it’s been since I’ve been here, which is we don’t have enough night games,” Kenney said in an interview with Matt Spiegel and Danny Parkins on 670 The Score. “The city ordinance limits how many night games we can play. We can play 35 scheduled night games, plus up to eight games that get basically scheduled by the national broadcasting contracts. So (Sunday night’s) game (between the Cubs and Cardinals) was obviously an ESPN game, so it would count against our eight. So we can have up to 43 total night games. The league average is 54, so we’re still 11 short from what the rest of the league plays. The answer is this (Cubs-White Sox matchup) would be a perfect night game coming off a night game (Sunday).”
“It’s a real jigsaw puzzle every year for us to try and figure out where we use our very precious night games. We look at the team’s travel, so we obviously want to protect night games for when we’re coming home from a road trip, especially the West Coast. We look at the time of year. When the kids are out of school, we’re going to have a better chance of filling the ballpark for a day game, so we use our night games in April and May a lot. We look at where the team’s coming from. If you’re in town, it’s easier to schedule a day game following a night game. And then the number of concerts we have to play — or want to play — and the impact they have on night games. It’s a big jigsaw puzzle, and the result is this looked like a pretty good opportunity to stage a day game, so we did.”
Scheduled concerts can also affect the 43 potential home contests the Cubs can host. Under the current policy, the Cubs can host four concerts at Wrigley Field that don’t count toward their limit of 35 night games/events — the eight national television dates are a separate aspect here — but any concert number past four counts as a night event and forces the Cubs to sacrifice a night game, according to Chicago Crain’s Business. The Cubs made a few concessions on that front this summer in choosing to host nine concerts at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs choose to book more concerts and give up a few baseball night dates in large part because they get to keep the revenue to themselves instead of having to share it with MLB. That money then goes back to the baseball operations department, Kenney said.
“I got myself into trouble more than 10 years ago when I said that Elton John was going to help us win baseball games,” Kenney said. “But the truth is, all these revenues go back to the baseball operation. These are really important dollars to us because we don’t share them with the league. As a large-market club, every dollar that we make today, I’m going to 40 percent back to the Marlins and Rays and Royals. A concert, we get to keep all of it. That’s a really nice dollar to make for our baseball operations function.”
When Kenney started working for the Cubs two decades ago, the team could host 18 night games per season, he said. He remains unsure if the restrictions will ever be lifted, but he’s certain he will keep trying and criticizing the city whenever he sees fit.
“Quite honestly, it should be lifted at this point,” Kenney said. “We’re one of the few teams that not only has to beat everyone in our division, we also have to beat the city that we play in to try and win games. It’s a very odd situation for us, and it’s one that I got to be honest, four times a year I go to the owners’ meetings, and the other team presidents and owners watch what’s happening in Chicago, and they can’t understand it. Because in those cities, they’re getting new ballpark built for them, and they’re getting street closures and … there’s no night game limitations. They look at Chicago and say they just can’t understand it.
“The real answer is at some point we’d love to not be handicapped, as no other team in baseball is by the number of night games you play. You know, we just keep working on it.”
Listen to Kenney’s full interview below.