WASHINGTON – So I’m reading a statement from the Nationals GM regarding Thursday night’s rainless rain delay debacle at Nationals Park, wherein he goes on about how they monitor weather very closely and make any weather-related decisions in conjuction with MLB, the opposing team, the umps and players’ union and blah blah blah.
No. Let’s cut through the B.S. and say what happened last night: The forecast said there was a good chance of rain, and the Nationals are a very good team but have such a terrible bullpen that they didn’t want to risk starting the game and then having to stop it after two, three, four innings and turning it over to the bullpen following any significant rain delay.
Period. End of story. That’s what happened.
Only the decision blew up in their faces entirely when the rain never materialized. Hell, they didn’t even bother to put the tarp down until 90 minutes into the farce of a rain delay. The only moisture was a mere drizzle some two hours into the delay – a rain so light that the game would never have been stopped; teams routinely play through that amount of rain.
There was no decision made in conjunction with the opposing team, much less with the players’ union. It was made by Nats officials, in conjunction with other Nats officials.
And as a result, a game that should never have been delayed was delayed for 3 hours, 5 minutes, and began at 10:10 p.m. with perhaps 2,000 fans left from a paid crowd of 22,724. Most had gone home before the rain delay reached the two-hour mark, the Nats having made no announcements to them about what was going on.
Many if not most Nationals fans take Metrorail to the ballpark in D.C., and the last train was to run at 11:30. If they’d stuck around most of them would’ve needed to take taxis home to the ‘burbs and beyond at 1:30 a.m., after the game ended. Fans were left to sit in their seats or wander around, buying food and drinks and wondering if the game would ever start, until a scoreboard message some 2 ½ hours into the delay said it was the “sincere hope that we will be able to play tonight’s game.” It was theatre of the absurd.
“I didn’t hear a whole lot,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said, when we asked after the game what kind of information he was getting from the Nationals early in the rain delay about when the game might start, the chances of it happening, etc. “To tell you the truth I didn’t know what was going on.”
Snitker, whose Braves know more about rain delays than any team – they lead the majors with 11 including nine this season at home – said he’d never experienced a rain delay “without rain.”
“I kind of was looking at my radar and I thought, well, if it’s not going to rain we’ve got to play,” Snitker said. “You don’t like the situation but we need to play. It would have been hard to cancel the game (if) it never rained.”
Like those of us in the pressbox and the dwindling crowd, Snitker wondered why the game wasn’t starting as the delay continued without precipitation. (I mean, we all know why – because the Nats didn’t want to lose Gonzalez and have to rely on their bullpen – but Snitker and the rest of us wondered how they could possibly keep everyone at the ballpark without starting the game when it wasn’t raining. At a certain point, say, 30-45 minutes into the delay, if it’s not raining then you have to accept the fact you miscalculated and you must start the game, whether or not it means you might lose your starting pitcher to a delay if the rain ever comes.
“You looked on the radar and the rain was dissipating and getting light,” Snitker said, “and I saw the stuff when it did start raining and I thought, we play in that every night at home. It’s nothing new for us. I mean, these guys are used to it, we haven’t started a game at home on time in I don’t know when because of the rain delays and everything. I’m just proud of the guys, how they hung in there and when the game started they got after it.”
Braves veteran Brandon Phillips, who played under Nationals manager Dusty Baker when Baker managed the Cincinnati Reds, knew like everyone else why the Nationals delayed the game initially, because of the pitching situation and not wanting to lose Gonzalez to a potential in-game delay. Still, Phillips had never seen anything quite like this.
“To tell you the truth I didn’t know what the hell was going on,” he said. :I went out there to go check the weather and I saw the sun out just chillin’ and I was just like, man, what’s going on? But I played for Dusty and the only thing I can say is, he’s a smart manager. (Phillips laughed.) That’s all I got to say. I’m glad we got it in. I’m glad we got the W. But I knew what was going on. I was like, c’mon, man, let’s just go ahead and get this game over with. But it’s better late than never, you know?....
“To tell you the truth, we knew we were going to play today. We had our mindset, but we were in here (in the clubhouse during the delay) just chillin’, hoping that it could come sooner than later. But like I said, man, Dusty’s a smart manager.”
In the end, though, the Braves came out on top. The game was played, there was no stoppage after it finally started, and the Braves won 5-2, with Mike Foltynewicz and Gonzalez both pitching six quality innings but Folty pitching a little better, and Freddie Freeman getting his 999th and 1,000th career hits on a pair of RBI doubles, and Kurt Suzuki doubling and hitting his third homer in his past two games.
“I was just trying to have a positive energy,” said Foltynewicz, who had begun his pregame stretching and warmup before the Nationals made it known the game would be delayed. “We all had positive energy in here, joking around, goofing around and just keeping it light, because who knows (when going to play)? We start a game at 10:10 and we’re all ready, we came out firing against Gio, who’s having a great year. Great defense by the team today helping me get out of a couple of jams, and great offense. Bullpen did an amazing job as well.”
That’s three wins for the Braves in four games this season at Nationals Park, where they had lost 23 of 25 games before that.
“Only thing we can do is just change whatever things were happening in the past,” said Phillips, a first-year Brave. “I’m happy that I’m here for the good part and hope we can continue to keep on doing what we’re doing. We’re just coming out here playing good baseball and hoping we can get some W’s, especially going into the All-Star break. That’s our No. 1 goal and I feel like we’ve been playing good baseball, even though I’m not playing up to par. But I’m still having good at-bats and trying to do the small things to help the team win. Matt (Kemp) will tell you the same thing -- we were just talking about it. But as long as we’re winning, all you can do is just smile and keep your head up.”
Even if that means keeping your head up in the rain. Which didn’t come into play during Thursday night’s rainless rain delay.
“I guess it was all worth it in the end,” Freeman said, smiling. “Obviously it was a pretty long, somewhat delay for…whatever that was. But it was all worth it in the end when you get the win.”
Let's close with this classic from Steve Earle about the rain coming down, since it didn't Thursday night during #RainlessRainDelay.
"THE RAIN CAME DOWN" by Steve Earle
On a wagon and headed out west
The old woman fearlessly faced the unknown
'Cause she figured he knew what was best
And they settled down hard on a government grant
With six mouths to feed and forty acres to plant
And the rain came down
Like an angel come down from above
And the rain came down
It'll wash you away and there ain't never enough Fall turned to winter another year gone
Over and over again
Some took their lives from their land and moved on
And some stayed on to plow it back in
And the good Lord he giveth and he taketh away
And the restless shall go and the faithful shall stay Now my grandaddy died in the room he was born in
Twenty-three summers ago
But I could have sworn he was beside me this morning
When the sheriff showed up at my door
So don't you come around here with your auctioneer man
'Cause you can have the machines but you ain't taking my land