Nationals and Metro: Team needs to pay for trains to run late during the playoffs


Paying for Metro to stay open late during the playoffs should be a no-brainer for the Nationals. (John McDonnell)

There’s no guarantee the Washington Nationals will make the postseason, of course, but any club worth its salted sunflower seeds, with the best record in baseball this late in August, must begin planning as if they will. That’s what clubs do. Nothing wrong with it.

So of course the Nats are trying to solve the Great Metro Question — should they keep Metro open on nights games are running long? And who can they get to pay the freight?

Well, stunningly, they’ve asked the District to foot the bill. And according to a story in Friday’s Post, the District plans to say no. As well it should. The District stopped this practice several years ago for the obvious reason that it isn’t exactly flush with money. This seems like a bad way of spending what they’ve got.

The playoffs will bring money to both the District and the Nationals. But if fans can’t get to the games, or can’t get home from them, that’s a black eye on the Nationals. Besides, the District has already helped the Nats — the stadium, the infrastructure. It’s time for them to stand on their own two cleats.

This all came up last week with the Braves and rain both visiting town at the same time. (We needed the rain more than we needed the Braves, but they were invited, so what can you do?) Monday night’s start was delayed by an hour, then the game went 13 innings. And Metro closed. Fans had to leave the game early or find alternate ways home.

Slug lines on Half Street?

It seems a small problem when you’re not affected, but if no one took Metro, the traffic would be worse and parking would be impossible. The team encourages fans to take Metro. And fans do so even though it means increased fares and for many, transfers that can lengthen the trip considerably. I don’t think the Nats wants to tell these fans, “You don’t like it? Stay home.”

On the other hand — $29,500? Maybe the players could pass a hat around the dugout. Even with a 25-man roster, that’s $1,180 a player. What a gesture that would be. Or even to have just one player say, “Hey, I’ll foot the bill next time we need to keep Metro open.” Can you imagine the PR move that would be, especially for, say, a player who has made a ton of money here in a short time and has perhaps not completely fulfilled expectations? What a story! Somewhere, Dan Steinberg just fainted.

I understand the Nats can’t pony up nearly 30 grand a pop for 81 regular season games. But they had better be prepared to keep those Metro doors open during the playoffs, when games start later and run longer — because of commercials and network yammering — than games in the regular season.

Metro will be needed more than ever because it will be madness around Nats Park. D.C. will be back to its usual traffic — vacations over, school in session, everyone in fine fettle, the roads a steaming cauldron of rage and despair. You know, October. (Add a dollop of Redskins-Nats overlap, bring to a boil, and serve!)

National TV coverage means cameras will catch the embarrassing moment when the scoreboard announces “Metro is closing — run for your lives!” and Washingtonians and Virginians and Marylanders begin sprinting for the gates like so many Bryce Harpers running to first base after drawing a walk. Won’t D.C. look a treat then?

As always, it’s easy to spend other people’s money. Columnists do it all the time, and I apologize for doing it again. But this may be the least risky money the Nats spend. This is serving your customers, the ones you encourage to jump on Metro and come to your games. The Nats need these riders to get home from the games in October so they will want to come back in 2013 and 2014 and 2015. The contract with Metro should be the biggest no-brainer since signing Stephen Strasburg. Come on, Nats. Be smart.

For Tracee Hamilton’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/hamilton.

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