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MLB Should Centralize All Game Weather Decisions

A modest proposal.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Mother Nature has not done the Cubs any favors on the current homestand. (Temperatures shown are game time temps per the boxscores.)

Tuesday 5/16: 87 degrees, 20 mile per hour wind blowing out
Wednesday 5/17: 88 degrees, near gale force winds at 25+ miles per hour
Thursday 5/18: 77 degrees, sunny, pleasant
Friday 5/19: 46 degrees, wind off the lake at 18, two innings played in steady downpour, game delayed one hour, 59 minutes
Saturday 5/20: Game postponed
Sunday 5/21: 63 degrees, windy, a few peeks of sun, temperature dropped at least 10 degrees in the late innings
Monday 5/22: 70 degrees, wind blowing out, rained lightly for the last two innings
Tuesday 5/23: 58 degrees, game delayed one hour, five minutes, first three innings played in a light rain

So that’s one day out of seven played in anything like good baseball conditions and one game postponed. Sure, the first two days were warm and summerlike, but that wind... man. Last Wednesday’s wind was the strongest I think I’ve ever experienced at Wrigley Field.

Before I get to what I’m going to propose here, let me stipulate that I am well aware that baseball teams cannot control the weather, except for those clubs that play indoors. We get what we get, and prior to the All-Star break home teams make the decision whether to start play or not.

And therein lies the problem, I think. The Cubs played Friday’s game in miserable conditions, they said, because Saturday’s forecast was worse. And on Friday, that was absolutely true. In hindsight, knowing what we know now, sure, they should have called off Friday’s game and played Saturday. Friday’s game was only delayed after Kyle Schwarber’s faceplant on the infield dirt that caused him to commit two errors on a play that Javier Baez likely makes easily if it’s not pouring rain with gusty winds.

The Brewers accused the Cubs of shenanigans in postponing Saturday’s contest and personally, I think that’s nothing more than gamesmanship. These were the facts on the ground at the ballpark: All the gameday employees were in place at 11:20 and ready to open the gates at the scheduled time, and just then was the game called.

Had the team postponed the game at, say, 7 a.m., no employees or fans would have even come to the park, and since at that time the forecast was for all-day rain — which wound up not happening — no one could have said a word.

This is why I think Major League Baseball should set up a central office for handling all weather-related issues. Sure, teams and umpires now can consult with MLB and all teams do have deals with weather consultants to determine whether they should play or not, but with home teams in charge, there can be other factors involved. Even with umpires supposedly in charge after the All-Star break, umpires are no weather experts.

MLB already has a centralized venue for replay reviews. Why not have a similar office set up for weather concerns? Let’s look at how that might work.

First, there are seven teams that play indoors, in Milwaukee, Arizona, Miami, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Houston and Seattle. Right there you’ve eliminated 23 percent of all home games from any weather concerns. The Dodgers, Angels, Padres, Giants and Athletics all play in cities where rain affects games only rarely (the Padres, for example, have been rained out just three times in their history), so 40 percent of all games have either no weather concerns or minimal concern.

The proposed MLB Weather Office would have staff meteorologists whose sole job would be to watch for potential weather issues at various ballparks if there is one, hours or even a day in advance. For example, they likely could have told the Cubs that Friday’s game would start in awful conditions and get worse and recommend a postponement. Cubs management could be consulted, but MLB would have the final call. That way there’s no accusations of shenanigans.

Look, I get it. The schedule is tight and there are few off days, and no team wants to lose a date and play a single-admission doubleheader (although the White Sox are playing one this Friday, making up an earlier rainout against the Tigers). Brewers players complained about the July 6 makeup date for Saturday’s rainout, saying they had hoped to spend time with their families that day. I’m sure Cubs players would have liked to do that too, but it is what it is. Makeups are especially difficult when, as in the current series at Wrigley Field with the Giants, the team only comes in once and they play many West Coast games, making travel arrangements difficult.

Incidentally, what is it with the Giants and bad weather at Wrigley? It was the Giants in town May 14, 2011, when a game was played in a steady rain for six innings before being called. The game was a Fox-TV national game, and there might have been pressure from the TV network to play. (Incidentally, the next day’s game was postponed, though it did not rain at all that afternoon.)

Then it was the Giants again three years ago when we had “Tarp-Gate,” a game delayed until 1 a.m., then called in favor of the Cubs, then ordered suspended and completed when the Giants protested. The Cubs won that game 2-1 anyway. Oddity: Ryan Vogelsong was the Giants’ starting pitcher in both those games. Check out what that boxscore link says about the delay:

Game was protested by visiting team and protest was upheld. During the middle of the fifth inning, the umpires and Cubs grounds crew were caught off guard by a sudden deluge that lasted just between 15 and 30 minutes. In the process of attempting to cover the field, the crew was unable to properly apply the tarp and as a result large lagoons formed around the shortstop and second base positions and elsewhere. Despite attempting for four hours to make the field playable, the field was never deemed playable and the game was eventually called by the umpires around 1:00AM local time with the Cubs 2-0 winners. The Giants filed a protest which was upheld by the league office and the game was completed two days later beginning at the middle of the 5th with the score 2-0 and the Cubs coming to the plate. Game was suspended in the bottom of the 5th with the score 0-2 and was completed August 21, 2014.

In my opinion, since MLB has gone on record as saying they want every team to play all 162 games if at all possible, and not to rain-shorten games if that’s feasible, it makes sense to me to have the decisions on whether to play or not made by MLB — not the teams and not the umpires.

Incidentally, for those of you who use the weather apps on your phone to look at the upcoming hourly forecasts and take those as gospel (“It’s going to rain at 7 p.m.!”), check out these tweets from @CubsWeather from last Saturday. That’s an account run by a couple of folks who know quite a bit about weather and how forecasts are made:

Beginning in 2018, MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to start the season four days earlier, and the extra four days are intended to provide more off days. This should allow for more opportunities to make up rained-out games and, perhaps, allow for postponement decisions to be made earlier on days when all-day or all-night rain is forecast, erring on the side of caution.

And having a central weather decision office would make these decisions fair for everyone.