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Of Rainouts, Stephen Strasburg And Scott Boras

Really, Cubs management has to get a lot better at managing rain delays, among other things. If you've been reading here long enough, you'll remember me writing about the non-rain delay of August 23, 1999, when management under GM Ed Lynch made a full house sit from 7 till 9:15 pm without a single drop of rain falling -- they could have easily played six or seven innings -- only to have to postpone the game when the skies opened up at 9:15.

Today was nearly a similar fiasco. Just at the time the first pitch was about to be thrown at 1:20 -- and with nine fans standing on the field for the usual Sunday player-autograph promotion -- it started raining pretty hard. The hard rain lasted only a few minutes and it rained lightly for another 15 or so, and then stopped.

And stopped some more, and then some more. At about 2:30 PA announcer Paul Friedman let everyone know that "a severe storm was expected through in about an hour". That was the time to tell everyone to go home, since it wasn't raining and there could have been an orderly exit (unlike last August 4 when tornado warnings forced thousands to huddle in the concourse). In fact, thousands did leave at 2:30, and even before that, the Cubs' team bus had pulled up near the LF bleacher exit on Waveland -- was that a clue that they were going to start loading it up and leave?

The forecast of a 3:30 storm was a little off -- it didn't start raining until just after 4:00, by which time I had decided to leave and just beat a nasty little downpour back to my house. So, essentially, the Cubs sat around during a time when, except for a ten-minute downpour, they could have played most of today's game. Instead, they will be forced to likely play a doubleheader during the Pirates' next visit to Wrigley Field on September 29, 30 and October 1 (most likely, I think: a split DH on September 29, when a night game is already scheduled). The two teams have common off days on August 24 and September 10, but playing on the first of those dates would force the Cubs to play 34 days in a row and on the second, 32 days in a row -- so I think that's a very unlikely scenario.

I honestly don't know why the Cubs waited so long. The cynic in me says "to sell more beer", and indeed they did that -- in fact, no vendors appeared in the bleachers until after the 2:30 announcement. I know the Cubs have a private weather service to which they subscribe, and if this is the result -- time to get a new weather service! My cellphone and those of several others around me were calling up live radar images and, amateur meteorologist that I fashion myself, it appeared to me that once the rain did start, it wasn't going to stop. (It's still raining lightly right now as I post this at 5:15.) They either should have played through the game-time delay, or called it at 2:30..

At this writing the Padres are leading the Cardinals 5-4 in the 8th in a game that's also rain-delayed. If it ends that way the Cubs pick up a half game without doing a thing on the field, which is a good thing.

Tomorrow is the deadline for the Nationals to sign their #1 draft pick, the first choice in the June draft, Stephen Strasburg. Tom Boswell has a thoughtful piece in the Washington Post on this issue, and I found this comment about Scott Boras' tactics right on target:

Both sides live in an illusory bubble of entitled arrogance. Both sides need a reality check in 48 hours. Here's one for free.

The Lerners need to man up and make an offer that is high enough that Selig will be on the horn at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday screaming about the sanctity of the slotting system. It's the Lerners' job to run their Washington franchise -- and run it a lot better than they have -- not make their other 29 lodge members happy.

Boras needs to drop the pedantic professor of labor relations pose and rejoin the rest of us. There's a recession out there that wakes up every morning in a bad mood trying to decide whether it wants to become a depression. Nobody has any patience with a kid, or his agent, who can't beat Cuba in the Olympics or Virginia in the NCAA tournament, yet thinks he's too good to settle for a mega-millions-lottery contract.

Boras is in business to get a good deal for his client, not to break the system, tell us how awful it is that Strasburg might get "only" $20 million and threaten to have him play in Japan (that, incidentally, will never happen -- there's no way any NPB team would threaten good relations with MLB by doing that). In today's economy, with people losing their jobs left and right and millions hurting, Boras and Strasburg have a chance to set a good example by taking a large, but fair, offer. Here's a quote from Nats 3B Ryan Zimmerman that is exactly right:

"When it comes down to it, Strasburg has to think about, 'Can I go to bed if I turn down $15, 16 million dollars -- whatever it is -- to pass up the opportunity to play for these guys?' That's a lot of money. I don't understand what he thinks will be better next year. If we don't take him, who's gonna take him next year? Pittsburgh? San Diego? San Diego is not gonna pay him more. Absolutely his leverage will never be higher. Everybody wants to play where they want to play; everybody wants the ideal situation, but that's not the point of the draft. You can't tell people where you want to play. At some point, do it like everybody else has already done it. I agree, he's one of the better college pitchers ever to pitch, but he hasn't proven anything yet."

Ryan Zimmerman may be a few weeks short of 25 years old, but his wisdom on this issue is, im my opinion, 100% correct. Boswell says Strasburg may get an offer that will break the current draft record, set by Mark Prior, and perhaps Prior's career should be a cautionary tale to anyone involved in these negotiations. If the number is, say, $15 million or so, as Zimmerman says -- Strasburg needs to tell Boras, "You work for me. I want to play baseball. This is enough money for now." And get it done.