So let's talk about the rain, as if we haven't been doing this for most of the early season.
For the second time in as many homestands, the Cubs played through brutal conditions; the early-game weather wasn't quite as bad as it was May 14 when the Cubs hosted the Giants, when the entire game was played through a steady light rain and was only called when it got heavier.
Wednesday night, fog, mist, wind and drizzle blew off Lake Michigan for the first five innings. In timing that could have been called serendipitous, the rain started getting harder just as the last out of the bottom of the fifth inning was recorded. It was clear to anyone with a smartphone with radar capabilities in the remnants of Wrigley Field's crowd that the rain was only going to get harder and last for several hours.
The logical, smart, courteous and only thing to do was for the umpires to tell both benches at that time that they'd play one more inning and that would be it; the Cubs trailed 7-4 and that would have given them a chance to come back, essentially play the last of the sixth as if it were the last of the ninth.
But no. Soldiering on, they began the seventh inning. Groundskeepers came onto the field at one point, as if to put some dirt on the mound; it wasn't clear if they were telling umpires there was nothing they could do, or whether the umpires waved them off. One batter later, after Jose Reyes singled, the umpires finally had enough and stopped play.
That sent Mike Quade into the most animated tirade I've seen since he became manager. Later, he was quoted as saying that it wasn't raining any harder and they should have allowed the Cubs to bat in the bottom of the seventh. Having sat out there until they called it, I beg to differ with Mr. Quade. It was raining significantly harder by the time the seventh inning began and that inning never should have been started. Since the score was not tied, there was no call under current rules to suspend it; it was also pretty unlikely that the Cubs were going to score three or more runs in the last of the seventh.
Playing through conditions like this has become de rigueur since the fiasco at the fifth game of the 2008 World Series, in which Bud Selig let the players slog through conditions about as miserable as last night until the game was tied, which allowed him to suspend it. Before this, tie games that were official games (past five innings) were ruled as ties and had to be replayed from the beginning. Now, any game tied once it's become official must be suspended if there's a long rain delay and play cannot continue on the day the game was started.
This is a good idea -- but why not extend it to any game that's official, regardless of the score? This would have given the umpires the leeway to call the game and suspend it an inning earlier than they did. Instead, they likely feel pressure to continue to play unless there's a monsoon or severe weather, and indeed, lightning and thunder greeted fans as they exited.
Doing this is inconsiderate to the paying customer, but even more important, it risks injury to players. There's no way pitchers can get a proper grip on baseballs in conditions like that; catching popups looking up into heavy rain is an adventure.
MLB can't do anything about the weather. What it can do is put in place rules that take into account heavy rain and play only in the best possible conditions.
About the game itself, I have only this to say. Five times the Cubs have taken the lead in the first inning of a home game. They're 1-4 in those games. Overall the Cubs have had the lead after the first inning nine times this year and have outscored opponents 60-51 in the first inning; they're 3-6 in those games. There appears to be a complete inability to put opponents away; the 4-1 lead after one last night should have been enough. Casey Coleman was bad after that and has likely seen his last start for a while; I assume when Randy Wells is activated this weekend, Coleman will be sent back to Iowa. Or maybe it'll be Justin Berg, who was awful last night, throwing 12 pitches, all out of the strike zone. It wouldn't appear that Coleman would be too useful in the bullpen; perhaps Berg and Jeff Stevens can be swapped again, not that the last guy in the pen really matters that much.
Enough. And hey, guess what? It's raining again this morning in Chicago and it doesn't look like it's going anywhere for a while. Better they should call today's game early, rather than play in deplorable conditions yet again. Weather permitting, a pregame thread will post at 11:30 a.m. CDT.