Stop me if you’ve heard this, but rain is affecting games between the Cubs and Nationals. As of post time, the Nationals have announced a 5:15pm ET start time for the first game of a twin bill that was necessitated by Friday’s debacle. After an 81 minute delay, the teams took the field for a single inning only to see the game delayed another few hours before it was eventually postponed.
It wasn’t so much the decision to bang the game that was curious, more the timing of it. The weather had actually cleared up around the time the postponement was announced and was probably the best it had been all evening. If you’re confused as to why they’d wait it out all that time only to call it when things looked good, you’re not alone.
“I’m just as confused too,” Kris Bryant told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers. “From the player’s perspective, when you play games at 1 or 2 in the morning, you are going to get the worst possible baseball. But either call it early or just play.”
The Cubs obviously wanted to get the game in so they could preserve some semblance of normalcy as they finish out a string of 23 games in as many days. Even with the expanded roster, doubleheaders put a strain on the pitching staff and are just a pain in the rear. Besides, Saturday’s scheduled game was in the evening and would have given the Cubs time to sleep in and relax.
“We wanted two one-gamers,” Joe Maddon said after the non-game. “We waited as long as we could, and the skies were absolutely cleared from that moment on… I can see it wasn’t going to rain anymore. So it’s kind of confusing to us.”
As it turns out, the eventual decision to postpone the game came after much deliberation and involved conference calls and group texts with player reps from both teams. Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post had the inside scoop on the proceedings in a Saturday column, some of which I’ve excerpted below rather than regurgitate it in my own words [all emphasis mine].
When the evening began, the MLB Players Association discussed options with the player representatives from both teams. Sean Doolittle, not normally a Nationals player representative, served as one for the evening because Max Scherzer was starting Saturday and knew he would leave the park early if the delay dragged on.
Doolittle, Bryce Harper and Trea Turner spoke with the league and their Cubs counterparts, Kris Bryant and Tommy LaStella, on numerous conference calls and through group text messages. As it was explained to Doolittle, both teams had already been forced to play the maximum number of split doubleheaders allowed by the new collective bargaining agreement — a cap instituted because organizations generally prefer day-night doubleheaders because they get two games’ worth of ticket sales, while players prefer the true doubleheader because they spend less time at the field.
Since both had met their quota, both teams had to consent to another split doubleheader, something Doolittle said the Nationals players were willing to do.
The Cubs continued to plead for patience, while the Nationals were more adamant about pushing the game back. It looked for a while as though the window the Cubs had hoped for was open, but the league finally made the call to play two games when they saw more rough weather heading toward the area.
Listen, I understand that there’s a lot of money involved in this and the decisions are a lot more difficult when you get to September and time is at a real premium. Both teams had very different motivations for their thinking, too, so it came down to the league making the call when the Cubs didn’t really want to relent. It just makes for bad optics when everyone sits around and then it’s banged.
Oh, and how about the fans who had tickets to Friday’s contest, all of whom are shut out of Saturday’s games unless they score new tickets?
It’s looking like they’ll get at least one game started here on Saturday, so I’d like to propose something to Davey Martinez and the Nationals. Since Jon Lester was burned after just one inning, it’s only fair to pull Max Scherzer after his first frame. Who’s with me.