The Cubs are holding 10 concerts at Wrigley Field this year, a record number. There have already been three of them (Tom Petty on June 29, Dead and Company June 30 and July 1) and thus there will be concert stages at Wrigley during every road trip from the recent late-June trip through the end of August (except for the brief five-game trip July 26-30).
Among those concerts are three on Friday nights: the already-completed Dead and Company on June 30, Billy Joel on August 11 and Lady Gaga on August 25.
The Cubs’ latest deal with the city of Chicago regarding night baseball prohibits games on Friday nights. Ostensibly, the reason for this is to “protect” the local restaurant and bar business, which seems completely silly given all the extra business these establishments have on game days.
The ban on Friday night games has caused logistical headaches for the Cubs; they are, in general, the only team playing Friday afternoon games. In some past years they have been forced to play Thursday night games on the road followed by a Friday afternoon game at home; in some seasons that happened two or three times.
It caused problems for the Pirates for their current series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. They had a Thursday night game in Philadelphia prior to their series opener at 1:20 p.m. CT Friday afternoon in Chicago. Then the game in Philly got rain-delayed about an hour. It ended after 10 p.m. ET — the Pirates likely didn’t get to their Chicago hotel until 2 a.m. or so. I saw only a handful of Pirates on the field when the gates opened at Wrigley Friday, and neither team took batting practice.
(Aside: You recall all the whining the Brewers made regarding Thursday’s makeup game. I did not hear a single public complaint made by the Pirates about this schedule.)
This sort of thing, at least, will be solved in 2018 when MLB’s collective-bargaining agreement provides that in situations like this, the team hosting a getaway day game like that will have to schedule it in the afternoon. Even so, it would be easier for the traveling team to begin its next series, home or road, at night.
This year, fortunately, the Cubs have almost completely avoided this issue. They have only two 2017 homestands that begin on a Friday immediately following a Thursday game on the road. One is Friday, September 8 vs. the Brewers, after a Thursday night game in Pittsburgh that begins at 6:05 p.m CT. They’ll have to do it again for the last regular-season series of the year, beginning Friday, September 29 with a 1:20 p.m. game against the Reds, following a 6:15 p.m. game Thursday, September 28 against the Cardinals in St. Louis.
In both cases, if those games go three hours, even with the relatively short flights from St. Louis or Pittsburgh, the Cubs will arrive at O’Hare after midnight, then have to turn around and play a game about 13 hours later.
Postseason games are exempt from this requirement, and there were two on Fridays last year: Game 1 vs. the Giants (October 7), and Game 3 of the World Series (October 28). There weren’t any issues in the neighborhood, to my knowledge, and surely plenty of business was generated for area restaurants and bars.
There’s really no reason for the prohibition of Friday night home games at Wrigley Field anymore, especially since there are now Friday night concerts. The city of Chicago ought to eliminate this restriction, beginning with the 2018 season.