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MLB is making a big mistake forcing the Cubs to make up Sunday’s rainout in D.C. on Thursday

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This scheduling could cause even more headaches, because a hurricane is heading toward the East Coast.

Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

If I didn’t know better, I’d think Major League Baseball and the commissioner’s office had something against the Cubs.

That’s a provocative statement, to be sure, but I make it because the way the constant rain in Washington this weekend was handled by MLB couldn’t have been worse from the Cubs’ standpoint.

The constant rain in the D.C. area from Friday through Sunday wreaked havoc with the three scheduled games. Obviously, no one has any control over the weather. But they certainly could have handled it better. Friday’s game should never have been started; it was pretty clear to anyone with a smartphone and a weather app that the “window” for playing was less than an hour. And so they played an inning and a half before it rained all night, and so a doubleheader was scheduled for Saturday. MLB could have done this before Friday’s game even began. That would have given players better rest, and not burned Jon Lester’s start, though Lester is now going to pitch Monday evening at Wrigley Field, since he threw only one inning and 14 pitches on Friday.

Saturday, the start of the second game of the doubleheader was delayed about 15 minutes because of a ceremony honoring retired Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth. Again, anyone watching weather could see that rain was going to come in eventually; perhaps this ceremony could have been postponed. (Why not? Pretty much everything else was postponed all weekend.) As a result, the game was delayed for almost 90 minutes in the eighth inning, and part of that inning was played in a torrential downpour.

Sunday, again, it was pretty clear that conditions would not allow the game to be played. Yet they dithered around until around the time the game would have been finished before they called it. If the game had been postponed early in the morning — as was done with the Pirates/Marlins game Sunday — the Cubs could have gotten on their charter flight back to Chicago and arrived in the early afternoon instead of the evening, and the weary Cubs players could have gotten even more rest.

This is satire... or is it?

Sunday’s postponement was the ninth for the Cubs this year. That’s a lot, and again, obviously MLB has no control over the weather. They do have control over when postponed games are made up, and forcing the Cubs to fly back to Washington on Thursday to play this game is just plain wrong.

First, they could have held this game for October 1, as they are doing for the Pirates and Marlins.

But the other potential issue for the Cubs (and Nats) is this:

Now, the landfall time of Hurricane Florence has been pushed back from when I wrote about this Sunday — according to that graphic, landfall won’t occur until 2 a.m. ET on Friday, long after the Cubs should have departed the D.C. area. However, note in particular the wording at the top of that graphic (emphasis added by me):

Note: The cone contains the probable path of the storm center but does not show the size of the storm. Hazardous conditions can occur outside of the cone.

And these are the hazardous conditions that could affect the Cubs:

As you can see in those graphics, tropical-storm-force winds could arrive in the D.C. area as early as 8 a.m. ET on Thursday, and are likely there by evening. Those are winds of at least 39 miles per hour. So, with the game currently scheduled for 4:05 p.m. ET that day, it could be played in extremely poor weather conditions. (NOTE: These graphics might auto-update with later information.)

Further, it’s quite likely that D.C.-area airports could be closed Thursday evening in advance of this storm. This is what happened in 2008 when Hurricane Ike approached the Gulf of Mexico and the Houston area. The Cubs were scheduled to play a three-game series against the Astros in Houston beginning Friday, September 12. But with Ike bearing down on the Texas coast, airports were closed and MLB didn’t want to risk the Cubs flying into the storm. In fact, Astros owner Drayton McLane refused to fly the Astros players out of the area until after that, putting them and their families at risk. Eventually, as you likely remember, it was decided to play two of the games at Miller Park in Milwaukee September 14 and 15. The third game was held until the end of the season, if needed for playoff positioning; when it wasn’t needed it was cancelled, which is why the 2008 Cubs played only 161 games.

In that situation, both the Cubs and Astros needed those games as they were both contenders, the Cubs for the division title, the Astros in wild-card contention. At the time that series was scheduled to begin, the Cubs had a 5½-game lead in the N.L. Central and the Astros were three games out of the then-single wild card position.

Returning, then, to this year’s situation, MLB has two better choices than the one they’ve made:

  • Holding the game until October 1 and playing it that day if it has playoff implications, or
  • Playing the game Thursday afternoon at a neutral site — Miller Park is available!

Yes, logistics would have to be taken care of to play at Miller Park Thursday, hiring gameday employees, etc. But they did this in 2008 with less notice, and MLB did it twice last year. First, the Astros and Rangers played a three-game series last August at the Trop due to Hurricane Harvey. Then, a couple of weeks later, a three-game series between the Rays and Yankees scheduled for Tropicana Field was instead played at Citi Field in New York because of Hurricane Irma. (They played at Citi Field instead of Yankee Stadium so as to not give the Yankees total “home field.” The Yankees won two of three anyway.)

Yes, there are financial considerations if the game is moved and Nationals lose a home date. But the Nats could be given the bulk of the revenue from a game at Miller Park, and perhaps MLB, a $10 billion business, could make up the rest. Further, even though Miller Park is only 90 miles from Chicago and many Cubs fans would likely attend, you better believe that lots of Brewers fans would show up there and root for the Nats. That could actually be fun, MLB could promote it that way.

Granted, doing that would inconvenience the Nats, who play in Philadelphia Wednesday and Atlanta Friday. That’s no less inconvenient than the Cubs having to play at 7:05 Wednesday in Chicago, play a 3:05 (CT) game in Washington Thursday, and then play a 1:20 game Friday at Wrigley Field — if they can even get back to Chicago with a hurricane bearing down on the East Coast.

And I haven’t even mentioned, until now, the fact that this would force the Cubs to play on 30 consecutive days without a day off, and no, sitting around waiting for a game to be postponed isn’t really a “day off.” The Cubs were apparently less than happy with all this:

According to a source, because of the Cubs’ long stretch without a day off, they would have preferred to play the makeup game after the scheduled end of the regular season if it still affected the playoff race.

Hopefully, someone with some authority in the commissioner’s office has an attack of common sense later Monday and reschedules Thursday’s game, either for October 1 or for Thursday at Miller Park. Sometimes I wonder if the folks in the commissioner’s office are even baseball fans.

Poll

The Cubs/Nationals rainout makeup game should be played...

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Thursday in Washington
    (97 votes)
  • 13%
    Thursday in Milwaukee
    (137 votes)
  • 77%
    October 1 in Washington
    (803 votes)
1037 votes total Vote Now