Stormy response to rain delay
Braves’ TV announcers join the chorus of those angered by Nationals’ decision
The Washington Nationals have tried more than once to apologize for what happened Thursday night, when fans were given little information about why a dry, tarp-free baseball field could not accommodate baseball; about whether those circumstances might change; and about what they should do if they had already invested hundreds of dollars into food, tickets and parking but could not stay. (The immediate answer was: nothing.)
Many fans spent the night being angry. Extremely angry. And if they wanted a public voice for their frustrations, they could look inside the Braves’ television broadcast booth, where Chip Caray and Joe Simpson repeatedly filleted the Nationals for their handling of the situation.
“This is a travesty. This really is,” Simpson said about an hour into the delay, when the field was dry and the tarp still ensconced in its wrapper.
“Weather forecasting is an inexact science,” Caray acknowledged. “But if the ticket says 7:05, and there’s no rain, you ought to start the game and take your chances. It’s happened in baseball for 130 years. This, I agree with you, Joe, is pitiful.”
The most popular theory among angry fans of both teams Thursday night: that the relief pitching-bereft Nats were trying to avoid burning starter Gio Gonzalez for three innings and then turning the game over to the guys beyond right field.
If that was their motivation, it sort of worked out (Gonzalez went six innings) and sort of didn’t (four relievers pitched, allowing five hits and two runs, and the Nats lost anyhow).
Did those announcers get their dismay out of their system before the game began? They did not. A small, not comprehensive collection of their further remarks:
Top of the first inning
“Let’s just say that they are starting to build the ark and lining up the animals two-by-two right now outside the Nationals’ clubhouse,” Caray said. “It’s 76 degrees. It is humid. There is light rain. I think they’re very concerned about a flood . . . . I’ve only seen something like this once before. You and I were talking during the non-rain rain delay; you’ve never seen anything like this.”
“Nothing,” Simpson agreed. “It should be extremely embarrassing for the Nationals. A lot of people left because we understand the Metro train system closes here at 11.”
Bottom of the first inning
“The folks I feel the worst for are the fans that paid their hard-earned money to come to the ballpark tonight and expected to see a game without rain start on time and didn’t,” Caray said. “A lot of fans made the trek from all over the Southeast to Washington to see Mike Foltynewicz pitch.”
Bottom of the sixth inning
“Midnight hour in Washington,” Caray said.
“Boy, it doesn’t seem like we’ve been playing that long,” Simpson joked.
“Unbelievable,” Caray said. “What a night. Something else to ponder: The travel life in Major League Baseball is very luxurious. It is much easier than a standard business traveler, but it is at times not very glamorous, and last night was one of those times.
“The Braves had a rain delay at home, played a long game with Houston, and we got to the team hotel, got to our rooms around 4 a.m. Eastern time. Tonight sat through the threehour ridiculousness imposed on us by the Nationals, and here the Braves are in the sixth inning, going toe-to-toe with the first-place Washington club, punching, counterpunching and giving them a great fight in the series opener.”
Said Simpson: “When I came to the park tonight, if you’d told me we were still going to be playing baseball at 1 a.m., I would have figured we were at least in the 20th inning.”
“Yup,” Caray agreed. “The game was supposed to start at 7:05. It was cloudy. There was a threat of rain. There was a cell about 30 miles away. The Nationals decided not to start the game until 10:12 Eastern time, a 3-hour 7-minute rain delay.
“And look, I’m sure that some of it was weather-related. Some of it, I think, was gamesmanship-related. I think it’s something that baseball’s got to investigate. If it’s not raining, start the game. Both teams run the risk of losing a starting pitcher. But that was not cool. That’s why I think reading the papers and the recaps of the game’s events will be very interesting once we wake up later in the day.”
“Well, you know the Braves wanted to know what’s going on,” Simpson said.
“And again, for fans who don’t know, this was not an umpiring decision,” Caray said. “The game is in the hands of the home team’s front office until the first pitch is thrown. And then it’s in the hands of the umpires. What was so frustrating was not only was it not raining, and there was a threat of bad weather, but they didn’t even cover the field for an hour and 30, an hour and 40 minutes.”
And if you thought it was only the Braves’ announcers who were dismayed, you were wrong.
“Lame rain delay, which we should have never had,” Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper said in a video posted to social media. “Absolutely brutal.”
Fans wait out the rain delay at Nationals Park on Thursday. “This is a travesty,” Braves announcer Joe Simpson said.