Stormy re­sponse to rain de­lay

Braves’ TV an­nounc­ers join the cho­rus of those an­gered by Na­tion­als’ de­ci­sion

The Washington Post Sunday - - WASHINGTONPOST.COM/SPORTS - BY DAN STEIN­BERG dan.stein­berg@wash­post.com Ex­cerpted from wash­ing­ton­post.com/ dc­sports­bog

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.”

ROB CARR/GETTY IMAGES

Fans wait out the rain de­lay at Na­tion­als Park on Thurs­day. “This is a trav­esty,” Braves an­nouncer Joe Simp­son said.

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