- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Baseball’s rain policy is all wet and no team this season has taken on more water than the Nationals.

I don’t know what it is about Washington and precipitation, but more than literal clouds hang over the franchise when showers loom. A reputation for postseason flame-outs apparently isn’t enough. The Nats are adding a measure of infamy for regular-season wash outs.

The team handles inclement weather the way Washingtonians drive in the snow — dreadfully.

The latest example occurred last weekend. To be fair, the Nationals weren’t liable for Saturday’s fiasco, when Bryce Harper narrowly escaped serious injury after torrential downpours and a three-hour rain delay. While running out a grounder in the first inning against San Francisco, Harper’s left foot slid off the base. He flew, twisting awkwardly and crashing to the ground. He grimaced and writhed, clutched his left knee and needed assistance to the dugout.

Undesirable combinations of letters flashed through our minds. ACL. MCL. DL.

The injury bug hasn’t merely bitten the Nats this season, it has tried swallowing them whole. But Harper received a fortunate diagnosis. “The good news is there’s no ligament or tendon damage, which is pretty remarkable in my mind just seeing the type of injury that he had,” general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters.

A significant bone bruise beats a torn anything. But the near-miss made us wonder why Washington and San Francisco took the field at all. The game had no postseason implications, rain was still falling and the clock was at 10:06 p.m. before the first pitch.

Major League Baseball was responsible for making the call on whether to play during that series because the Giants don’t return to D.C. this season. So, the Nats are off the hook for the weekend’s decisions to play.

However, the same can’t be said for their delivery of the weather information.

The series opener was delayed for almost three hours before Washington announced it was postponed. But the Associated Press reported the public announcement came a half-hour after Giants manager Bruce Bochy was informed.

His players were departing the stadium while fans still were hoping to hear, “Play ball!” NBC Sports Bay Area reported some visiting players learned the news when someone told them the Nats’ TV announcers had departed.

I wonder how much money Washington made in the half hour between postponing the game and letting fans know. Maybe the extra hot dogs, beers and jerseys netted a few thousand dollars. Maybe it was only a few hundred.

The point is, there’s a conflict of interest as teams mull their decision during rain delays. Holding off can increase the bottom line at the concession stand and fan shop. Foot-dragging also can help the box office if ticket refunds are avoided.

That’s great for business. But it’s terrible customer service. And by customers, I mean the fans in the stands, not the viewers at home or watering holes where the remote control is handy.

Coming to the ballpark is a commitment, time and money better spent on almost anything besides a long rain delay followed by nada. If the game is going to be called anyway, better to do so quickly in consideration for the crowd’s comfort and convenience.

Unfortunately for the Nats, they set the bar for bizarre weather situations last month. Goings-on during the Giants’ series are non-issues by comparison.

Fans who attended the July 6 game against Atlanta were treated to the same scenario as fans Saturday — a three-hour long rain delay followed by a game. Except instead of a massive storm, those fans waited out the “threat” of bad weather. The delay began 25 minutes before the first pitch, even though the field remained uncovered for another hour and a half.

When the game finally started, at 10:10 p.m., the only rain had been a drizzle that wouldn’t have stopped play anyway.

Look, predicting the weather is an imperfect science. Meteorologists are closer to top hitters than top free-throw shooters in terms of their success rate. But baseball’s rules on rain could use tweaking. Leaving them alone creates situations like the above, or the Yankees-Rangers game last season when the final six outs were recorded after a three-and-a-half-hour delay.

Officials should allow more cases where games can be suspended and resumed the next day. Yes, that alters the game, but no more than the lengthy pauses for weather that burns pitchers on both teams.

And while we’re at it, can baseball do something about the slick bases that become worse in rain? “I don’t know what technology we apply or the studies that have been done on the composition of having a wet base,” Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, told ESPN. “That’s certainly something we need to look into. This injury was directly related to inclement weather and a player putting his cleat on the bag and it slipping across because the surface was slick.”

The Nats escaped the scare with no major damage.

But their approach to rain has holes that need plugging.

Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.


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