ST. LOUIS — Joe Maddon used his clout inside the organization to highlight an issue that continues to frustrate the Cubs — the varied start times at Wrigley Field and how that disrupts players’ internal body clocks and what it means for the business side’s bottom line.
Major League Baseball unveiled next year’s tentative schedule on Tuesday, with the Cubs opening the franchise’s 141st season on April 5 against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif.
Throughout that document, there are weekend home games labeled “TBD.” Maddon would ideally like to see the Cubs match up Fridays and Saturdays (1:20 p.m.) and phase out the first pitches at 3:05 p.m. (unless there are compelling travel reasons).
“I guess they are still ‘to be determined,’ but we have talked (about it),” Maddon said at Busch Stadium. “Some may be changed. I’m not sure to what extent. That was part of the conversation of what can and cannot be done.
“From our perspective, the thing that I talked about with them straight up was just consistent start times. That’s all. So the players could get into a regular routine.
“That was the request. We’ll see how it plays out.”
There can be forces outside the franchise’s control, like national-television partners, the Lakeview neighborhood and City Hall. There has also been baseball-operations logic to the 3:05 p.m. start times — as a way to give players a little more time to recover and counteract jet lag coming off a road trip.
“It’s a tough one, because there’s obviously business considerations and it does matter,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “But inconsistent game times is something that players and managers and coaches all complain about — and rightfully so.
“Everyone wants to be on a normal schedule and know what to expect. That sentiment has certainly been given to the appropriate people, and we’ll see if we get some of those changed.”
The Cubs don’t know how long this surprising season will last or where it will end, which means there will be sky-high expectations for an in-demand team in 2016.
The Wrigley Field opener is scheduled for April 11 against the Cincinnati Reds in a Monday night game.
The Cubs will play four straight weekday crosstown games against the White Sox (July 25-28), beginning with two on the South Side before shifting to Clark and Addison.
The Cubs will play crossover games with the American League West, hosting the Texas Rangers (July 15-17), Seattle Mariners (July 29-31) and Angels (Aug. 9-10). They will also visit the Oakland A’s (Aug. 5-7) and Houston Astros (Sept. 9-11).
The Cubs will be tested with five three-city road trips (after having only two on the 2015 schedule). They will also get five three-series homestands (after seeing only two on this season’s schedule).
Beginning Labor Day, the Cubs will close with 23 of their final 26 games against National League Central opponents, ending the regular season on Oct. 2 in Cincinnati.