Before I get to today's rainout, let me tell you a little story about a long-ago postponement at Wrigley Field.
I graduated from college in 1978. We got a week off between the end of finals and graduation, so I decided to bring a couple of friends of mine, who had never been to Wrigley Field, to a game there. We drove to Chicago from upstate New York, where I went to school, and planned to go to the game on Tuesday, May 23.
That day dawned with temperatures in the 60s with cloudy skies. There was a forecast of light rain; it never did rain that day, but it got a bit foggy. At 11 a.m., before the gates even opened, the Cubs postponed the game.
That was it. No gates opened, no employees came to work, nobody sitting around wondering whether the game would start.
Instead, today, the Cubs waited around until 2:15 -- three hours after the gates opened and an hour after game time -- to call it, issuing this statement:
The decision to postpone this afternoon’s game was made in consultation with the club’s weather service. The current forecast does not call for a sufficient, if any, period of time this afternoon during which the field could be prepared, the pitchers could warm up and the game could be played. The Cubs feel it is better to respect the dire forecast and postpone the game at this time even if the current weather forecast changes its course.
The thing is, all of these things could have been known to the Cubs this morning. Weather forecasting and radars are much more sophisticated than they were in 1978; there was a near 100% chance of rain all day forecast by various services as of 9 o'clock this morning. The Cubs could have called the game then; no employees would have had to report to work, no fans would have been inconvenienced, no players would have had to sit around getting themselves prepared to play -- some Rockies players tossed the ball around the outfield, but no Cubs made appearances. Other teams do this when bad weather threatens. Why not the Cubs?
I am well aware that there are millions of dollars at stake by postponing a game in 2011; with an average ticket price for today's "silver" level game of about $40, that's approximately $1.5 million in ticket sales if you assume a crowd size similar to last night's 38,261. Many fans can't necessarily make it on the makeup date -- which for today's game will be Monday, June 27 at 1:20. It's not easy for visiting teams to make travel arrangements; the Rockies will now have to spend what was to be an off day flying to Chicago from New York before heading home to start a series against the White Sox. The Cubs will be returning from a road trip to Kansas City.
But by opening the gates at 11:20 and letting approximately 10,000 people sit there for three hours before calling today's game, the Cubs risk the perception that they simply wanted to sell more food, beer and souvenirs before calling the game off. Personally, I don't believe this is the Cubs' intention. But that's what some people might think, and I'm sure that's not the perception that the team would want.
In addition, since there are two months before today's game will be made up, the Cubs should offer refunds to those who can't come to the makeup date. When U2 postponed its 2010 concert tour, they gave anyone who didn't want to come to the 2011 makeup dates a couple of months to ask for refunds, and then put the refunded tickets back on sale. In my opinion, the Cubs should do the same -- set a deadline, say maybe May 15 or so, before which anyone holding a ticket to today's game could request a refund; after that, they could put all the refunded tickets back on sale. For a weekday afternoon game in late June, they'd probably get pretty good sales.
Back in 1978, my friends and I stayed in Chicago for an extra day to see a game, which was played in cool but sunny conditions on Wednesday, May 24. Manny Trillo won the game with a two-run walkoff homer in the 10th inning. (The original rainout was made up as part of a doubleheader on June 30.)
Enjoy the rest of today and tomorrow until the Cubs play the Diamondbacks -- and I can imagine they'll all be happy to get out of this nasty, cold weather for a few days -- tomorrow night.