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Cubs-Nationals played Thursday despite Hurricane Florence

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Chicago wanted it played Oct. 1, and there’s a hurricane coming. But the game was played Thursday afternoon.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Cubs and Nationals, simply trying to finish one last series against each other, are getting tossed around by the weather again and despite the Cubs’ pleas that the game be played October 1st due to their schedule and the weather, it happened this Thursday as previously planned. Despite Hurricane Florence’s forecasted coastal landing.

The trajectory has shifted enough that D.C. looks to only get thunder storms instead of the full brunt of the storm, but that could still be enough to have this thing postponed again. The Cubs aren’t happy, and the weather saga continues on. Here’s how we got here.

How this started

This rescheduling all stemmed from a rainy weekend in D.C., which involved more than 10 hours of rain delays over multiple days. Including a Friday night debacle where the Nationals wanted to call it early and Cubs players held out in the hopes the rain would move on. Frustration abounded and fans were confused as the delay dragged on into the night.

That all led to a late-night postponement and a true doubleheader played on Saturday (which was also delayed!), followed by yet another postponement on Sunday. With Thursday the only shared off day for both teams, it was the easiest and only choice for a rescheduling.

MLB will make the choice

Playing the game Thursday might have been the obvious choice rather than extending both team’s season and playing the game in October but it does make the Cubs’ September significantly harder by turning a stretch of 23 straight days with games stretch into a stretch of 30 straight. But whatever the final choice is with more rain coming in, it will be the league’s to make with both teams presenting their case and hoping things go their way.

Theo Epstein said of the decision making process, “our voices have certainly been heard, but we don’t have any control.”

Manager Joe Maddon points out that if, as it seems is the likely outcome, saying there will be a game and having it postponed the day-of means that the Cubs won’t get the game in or get a day off. Not ideal as they fight for the division lead.

It’s probably going to be postponed if the schedule stays this way and the game stays in Washington, because there’s a hurricane comin’.

Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence is currently on track to make landfall over the next few days, heavily impacting North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. Hurricane warnings are in effect all up and down the coast in preparation and multiple places, including D.C., have declared states of emergency in advance of the storm.

D.C. is anticipating enough rain to cause heavy flooding, even if they aren’t anticipating being hit quite as hard as their neighbors to the south. The Nationals are in Philadelphia now, and will have to potentially fly to Atlanta for a game Friday. The Cubs are home until Wednesday, and then back home against the Reds on Friday. So they’d be doing a round trip to Chicago. All of that in tough weather.

With Florence’s track well-predicted at this point it’s not guesswork to say that even if Thursday’s game magically gets played in full, both teams being able to get into and out of Washington with ease on either side of the game is a tall order. So trying to force the square peg of this game into the round hole of this week’s weather could mean a domino effect that delays or postpones games the following day, causing even more problems. All entirely avoidable.

There’s also the question of, if they play in D.C. on Thursday, whether the Cubs’ Friday afternoon game will be pushed back to give them more time to rest between games. They’ll need city permission for that thanks to the limitations in place on the number of night games at Wrigley.

It’s also just dangerous to ask players and fans to be put in this position. Fans should be focusing on storm preparedness and not weather their tickets will be refunded or the game is being postponed last minute. Players, all of whom have been put through the ringer this week with this weather, shouldn’t be treated as chess pieces at MLB’s whim but people who could get injured on a wet field or due to exhaustion with all this overzealous traveling. Not to mention the Nationals players who have homes and family in the path of the storm as well.

To hell with fairness in the face of a hurricane

It might seem like the apparent solution is just to move the game to Wrigley or another field in the area (Guaranteed Rate in Chicago, Miller Park in Milwaukee) and get the game in while they can even if it’s tough on the Cubs’ schedule. If that happens though, it means the Nationals won’t get the gate from a home game and the Cubs will get an extra home game (if it’s Wrigley) which is then unfair for the teams they’re going up against in the division and for the Wild Card.

Of course, if the game never gets played at all (if it’s postponed to Oct. 1 and doesn’t matter for the division, Wild Card, or league record, it just won’t be played) then the Nationals won’t get a home gate either. So maybe there’s something to be done as far as a deal between the two teams there to get this done now.

The Astros and Marlins both changed venues because of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey last year and lost a home game, and there’s no reason the same change can’t be done in another dangerous weather situation. And not for nothing but the Brewers got extra home games when that Marlins series was moved to their field, also in the middle of a playoff race.

Why MLB isn’t immediately moving this to October 1st

In short, because they are so intensely married to the set-in-stone MLB schedule, where Oct. 1 is set for tiebreaker games and Oct. 2 is set for Wild Card games. If the Cubs-Nationals do have to play a game that day then the league should just treat it as if a tiebreaker game was rained out and everything has to be pushed a day.

There are gaps in the schedule for just that purpose and guess what, MLB can make that decision because they make the schedule and enforce it. It wouldn’t be too much for them to shift things. Especially when there’s weeks notice for having to do it, instead of a few hours as it would be in the case of an actual October rainout.