Explaining the Nationals-Marlins postponement


(Alex Brandon/AP)

Updated 12:26 p.m.: A mere 14 hours after Saturday night’s game was postponed, the Nationals and Marlins will play two games on Sunday at Nationals Park, the final home games of the season. Both teams sat around for 3 hours 46 minutes on Saturday night until the game was postponed, a delay still questioned by fans the following day. A smattering of fans braved a dreary forecast and rain for hours only to finally see an announcement on the scoreboard of the postponement after 11 p.m.

At first, both teams were interested in playing the game on Saturday. Sunday is a travel day; the Marlins will host the Philadelphia Phillies in Miami on Monday and the Nationals are headed to St. Louis. Unlike the rest of the season, any scheduling changes involving the final series between two teams is handled by the league office. So Major League Baseball, in conjunction with the umpires and with consultation with both teams, took the lead on Saturday’s decision-making.

MLB relies on a various weather services and, in this case, also consulted with the Nationals’ forecast and first-hand read on the weather. Officials’ goal was to begin play at 9:30 p.m. The rain, however, didn’t relent. Several times they thought the rain would clear in another 15 minutes based on forecasts, but the weather wouldn’t cooperate. Officials felt they had waited long enough for an opening that they could wait a little longer to try to sneak the game in. But as the clock neared 11 p.m., they cut bait.

“We make every effort possible at the end of the season for the integrity of the season to get the games in,” MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said. “We had a forecast that had the storms passing through earlier than they did, with hopes to get the game completed last night. Unfortunately, that did not occur.”

The Marlins first announced the postponement and the day-night doubleheader on their Twitter account at 10:51 p.m. Three minutes later, the Nationals followed suit on their Twitter account, and then officially issued the news release at 11:06 p.m. An announcement on the scoreboard in right field wasn’t made until just after 11 p.m.  The few fans that remained finally took off.

Predicting the weather is no easy task. Earlier in the season, the decision to postpone would have been undoubtedly done sooner. But since these games are utterly important to the Nationals’ playoff push, more caution was exercised. Saturday appears to have been the worst-case scenario.

Baseball fans understand and assume the risk of cancellations and postponements due to weather every time they purchase tickets to a game. How fans are treated after that is a different matter. The Nationals acknowledged that the game was delayed and that they were monitoring the weather with the intent to play the game on Saturday, but that was the extent of their communication to fans.

Those who can’t attend the make-up game, the second contest on Sunday, are allowed to exchange tickets for a game next season but there was no acknowledgement of the fans that braved the rain for four-plus hours. A “thank you for hanging around” or “sorry for the long wait” are small gestures, but certainly help.  Or, perhaps, there could have been better communication during the unusually long rain delay.

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.

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Adam Kilgore · September 21, 2013