There are two reasonable points:
1) The change in the wind from day to day makes it tougher to build a team for the park.
2) Lemmings who buy tickets in the bleachers regardless of record take the pressure off management to win.
I think #1 has some validity. #2 appears to have been reduced in recent years judging by the number of empty seats.
Insofar as it's the only truly substantive point in the entire thing, Point #1 got me thinking...
1. The park is schizo.
A few years ago, when I was traveling with the Cubs for a story, I had a long talk with Andy MacPhail, then the team's president. MacPhail had just come from Minnesota, where he won two World Series.
In Chicago, he told me, the big challenge was building a team that could win in Wrigley, a stadium that suffers multiple-personality disorder. In Minnesota, he'd been able to fashion a roster designed to win in the Metrodome, where the Twins played; as the Yankees were long able to design a team for their stadium, where left-handed power hitters take advantage of right field's so-called "short porch."
But Wrigley has no such peculiarity. It looks like a home-run hitter's park, and when the wind blows out, it is. But when the wind screams off the lake, the park turns nasty. Even balls headed for the seats are reduced to routine flies. For the Cubs, MacPhail said, every game might as well be away. Which means the front office has to build a kind of All-Star team, perfectly rounded for every kind of park. Which is impossible.
For the Cubs, every game might as well be away?
Far be it from me to not trust the keen judgement of a baseball wunderkind like Andy MacPhail, but this premise struck me as... well, testable.
Per this B-R doodad
, here are the win-loss records for both the Cubs and the rest of the NL since the Chicago National League Ball Club began playing at Wrigley in 1916, both overall and broken out into home and road records: W L W% HW HL HW% RW RL RW%
CHC 7366 7657 0.490 4011 3532 0.532 3355 4125 0.449
NL 80206 80372 0.499 43415 36874 0.541 36791 43498 0.458
NL-CHC 72840 72715 0.500 39404 33342 0.542 33436 39373 0.459
That's the Cubs, the entire NL and the NL minus the Cubs.
So, the Cubs' home winning percentage over these 96+ seasons has indeed been below the league average. But, then, so have their road and overall winning percentages.
What interests me is their record at Wrigley relative to their record elsewhere. And how the difference between the two compares to the rest of the NL. H%/R% H%/W%
CHC 1.186 1.085
NL-CHC 1.180 1.082
Those are the ratios of home winning percentage to road winning percentage on the one hand, and home winning percentage to overall winning percentage on the other. And the Cubs have kept in remarkably close step with the rest of the NL. Go figure.
Granted, these numbers don't take into account the possibility that the various roster compromises engendered by a supposedly hostile home field might have depressed winning on the road as much as Wrigley depressed winning at home. (I'd figure it would be the opposite. If every game is road game, you build a team that can win road games.)
But I still feel pretty safe in concluding from this quick exercise (and general experience) that Andy MacPhail is a twat.
The fact of the matter is that (save for the obvious) the Cubs have
won at Wrigley over the years. In fact, outside of the true
38 years in the wilderness between 1945 and 1984, they've actually posted a home winning percentage above
the NL average over the same span (1916-1945, 1984-2012): W L W% HW HL HW% RW RL RW%
CHC 4652 4414 0.513 2507 2048 0.550 2145 2366 0.476
NL-CHC 45837 46241 0.498 24850 21167 0.540 20987 25074 0.456