After Thursday’s Game 2 of the Cubs/Marlins wild-card series was postponed due to a forecast of inclement weather, there was spirited discussion here of whether that was the right thing to do. The sun was out at the time the game was called and it remained sunny for part of the afternoon; many thought the game could have been played through rain, as they did for a couple of brief rainshowers during Wednesday’s game.
There are a couple of things at work here. First, the situations aren’t comparable. As you know, I was on a rooftop across from Wrigley Field Wednesday. It rained twice during Wednesday’s game, for about five minutes each time, and not hard enough either time to stop play.
Then MLB had themselves a debacle in Cleveland for the Yankees/Indians game Wednesday evening. As was the case for Chicago Thursday, rain was in the forecast. But instead of holding off until rain cleared the Cleveland area, they did this:
MLB literally delayed the start of a playoff game until the rain arrived. Weather is hard, I get it, but this is a big deal when starting pitchers are involved. Ask a local met for advice moving forward.— Jason Nicholas (@JasonNweather) October 1, 2020
Jason Nicholas is the chief meteorologist for a Cleveland TV station. So is Betsy Kling:
MLB calls the weather-related shots in the postseason. About an hour ago, a Cleveland-based meteorologist said she expected rain to start at about 7:50ish. The game began at 7:50 after a 45-minute weather delay. https://t.co/6ZhnetK6Pg— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) October 1, 2020
MLB, therefore, did this:
To recap: MLB looked at the radar, saw rain coming in at 8 pm ET, and delayed the start of the game from 7pm ET to 7:50 pm ET— Blake Ruane (@blakeruane) October 1, 2020
Yeah, that’s... not ideal. What happened in the game was this: When play began, six players batted, then they had to stop. That second delay amounted to another 20 minutes or so. When it resumed, the Indians, who had taken a 1-0 lead before the second delay, scored three more runs in the first inning. In the end, the Yankees won the game anyway, but no one was happy with the way MLB handled this weather situation.
So that’s the context in which the decision was made to call Thursday’s Cubs/Marlins game. MLB had embarrassed itself with poor decision-making Wednesday in Cleveland and didn’t want to do so again.
Thus when there was a forecast of scattered showers — with possible thunderstorms! — for Thursday afternoon in Chicago, they pulled the plug.
Craig Counsell jokes abounded as folks remembered the postponement of a Cubs/Brewers game in 2017, which wasn’t handled well (it wound up not raining that afternoon after the teams had played through miserable conditions the previous day). But this wasn’t a situation like that. There was actual rain headed to Chicago Thursday afternoon:
Look at the timestamp on that tweet — 1:28 p.m. CT. That would have been 20 minutes after the game started. Mike Janssen is a WGN-TV meteorologist who is an area native and quite familiar with Chicago weather.
Playoff games so far this year have dragged on even longer than in many previous seasons. In fact, the Yankees/Indians game Wednesday wound up as the longest-ever nine-inning game (even without including the delay!), four hours and 50 minutes. There have been 15 nine-inning postseason games so far this year (I excluded the 13-inning Braves/Reds game). The average game time for those 15 games is three hours, 30 minutes. The pace of some of them (White Sox/Athletics Game 3 and Cardinals/Padres Game 2 both went over four hours) can be described, at best, as “languid.” Game 1 of the Cubs/Marlins series ran 3:22.
Given that, if MLB thought the Cubs game was going to be interrupted at all, they did the right thing — especially considering the Wednesday debacle.
And yes, it did rain at Wrigley Field — hard, and much harder and longer than it did Wednesday.
Here’s a local radar loop from 3 p.m. CT to 3:35 p.m. CT Thursday, via the National Weather Service:
That’s definitely a hard enough rain to hold up play. Given the slow pace of play this postseason, that rain would probably have hit around the fifth inning. The game would likely have been delayed around 40-45 minutes, given the time it takes to put the tarp on the field, then pull it and make sure the field is ready to play, and have players warm up for the resumption of play.
But that wasn’t all! About an hour after that, it started raining hard again. This radar loop is from 4:45 p.m. CT through 5:10 p.m. CT:
There was some small hail reported in some areas near Wrigley Field during that second storm.
There’s no question in my mind that MLB, who makes the decisions about postponements for postseason games, simply wanted to avoid the mess they had in Cleveland Wednesday night. In the end, no one was really inconvenienced (unless you had specifically taken time off work to watch the game Thursday). There were no fans who had to change plans to attend the game; players simply had to spend an extra night in a hotel, and perhaps the Cubs took some of the time to do a little indoor hitting in their batting cages or watch video and try to figure out how they’re going to start hitting again.
And if you think MLB did this so they could possibly have a game in prime time Saturday if there’s a Game 3, think again, as I reported here late Thursday:
[If the Cubs do win and] force a Game 3 Saturday, it will be played at 2:38 p.m. CT, per an announcement from Major League Baseball late Thursday.
This is a really good idea, because of this weather forecast:
Rain likely, mainly after 1am. Cloudy, with a low around 47. South wind around 5 mph becoming calm. Chance of precipitation is 70%.
Earlier, that forecast had shown rain all evening; now, it’s been pushed back to well after a night game would have probably ended. Still, MLB set the game in a late-afternoon time slot that will likely avoid weather delays completely.
I’ve been critical of MLB’s weather decisions in the past and will continue to do so when they mess up. In my view, that’s not what happened here. They made the right call after they had a major snafu in Cleveland Wednesday. And in case you don’t recall, Wednesdays in Cleveland aren’t so great for the home team with rain:
They’ll play ball at Wrigley Field — with no rain, per the forecast — Friday afternoon. Let’s hope the Cubs win and we’ll see Cubs baseball Saturday, and deeper into October.