St. Louis Cardinals

Remember when fans at the Polo Grounds nearly missed the 1918 solar eclipse?

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It’s here! The day when thousands of people have crunched together within a 70-mile-wide path from Oregon to South Carolina to view, in totality, a solar eclipse.

I’m assuming you all have your official eclipse glasses. Got your cameras ready? Have a Major League Baseball doubleheader to attend that may go into extra innings and spoil your eclipse-watching fun?

OK, there are no MLB double dips or even afternoon games scheduled for today, but 99 years ago, on June 8, 1918, fans at New York’s Polo Grounds watching their Giants play the St. Louis Cardinals nearly had their eclipse peeping plans darkened because the two teams were deadlocked at 2-2 after nine innings and into a couple of extra frames.

The Giants easily won the first game that afternoon. However, in the second contest, neither team could break a 2-2 tie within the regulation nine innings.

The New York Times reported the next day:

“The Giants separated the Cardinals from the first game of a bargain-day bill at the Polo Grounds yesterday by a count of 8-1, but in the other portion of soiree the St. Louis lads stuck like glue and almost kept a crowd of 25,000 from seeing the eclipse of the sun by prolonging the agony of beating the Giants for eleven long innings, when they administered the dose of defeat by a score of 4 to 2.”

New Yorkers saw “a little less than three-quarters of the sun’s surface being obscured,” the Times reported, but the paper also noted that conditions were perfect for viewing in the city where “smoked glasses and green eye-shades were at a premium.”

The eclipse, the last before today to travel a path across the United States, hit New York City at 6:23 p.m., the paper said, and reached “the maximum of obstruction” at 7:20. At that point, hundreds of people had gathered in Times Square, on rooftops and other premium vantage points to enjoy the spectacle.

Back at the Polo Grounds, fans were rooting for their Giants to sweep the doubleheader, but also for a quick exit from the ballpark to join those already in place for the dramatic solar event.

The Saturday afternoon at the Polo Grounds was a doozy. It featured a hidden-ball trick – however, the umpire ruled a dead ball and disallowed the play – Giants’ Manager John McGraw getting tossed out a game, a spectator throwing a glass bottle from the upper deck and toward the umpire – it didn’t come close, the Times reported – and a foul ball off the bat of New York center fielder Benny Kauff smashing a fan’s straw hat. (I bet that fan was seeing stars way before the eclipse.)

The Cardinals created scoring chances in the ninth and 10th innings of game two, but those opportunities quickly faded.

St. Louis threatened again in the 11th inning, leading off with a pair of singles from Red Smyth and Marty Kavanagh. Cardinals’ catcher Frank Snyder then swatted a high fly ball to right field, where, as the Times wrote, “Ross Young got the ball and the eclipse of the sun all mixed up. He got under the ball and grabbed it all right enough, but then stumbled and fell, spilling the ball so disastrously that Smyth and Kavanagh both romped home with the victory.”

McGraw argued with Umpire William “Lord” Byron that Young had held the ball long enough to record the out. In doing so, “the old McGraw-Byron feud was ripped wide open and Byron felt quite natural when he folded his arms, struck a Napoleonic attitude, and waved McGraw into the outer darkness.”

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This Week in Baseball Weather – Nationals Edition

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There he was, foot skating across the base, knee grossly folding in the wrong direction, body somersaulting through the misty late night air – hair still looking glorious – and then crashing in pain onto the infield dirt.

Man, it looked awful. It looked like the end.

Just like Adam Eaton months earlier, Bryce Harper’s mishap at first base would, it seemed in the moment, put the Washington Nationals’ star slugger out for the season, further depleting a team that has so many weapons already on the shelf.

“Nationals Park is in a total hush,” Nats radio guy Dave Jageler said as trainers rushed out to Harper.

But the sun did rise the morning after that wet night in the District. An MRI revealed no structural damage, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo assured us it was only a deep bone bruise on Harp’s left knee.

Nats fans exhaled.

“Thank you, Lord, that Bryce Harper did not shred any ligaments,” Grant Paulsen said on his D.C. sports radio show Monday morning.

The news that Harper was being placed on the 10-day disabled list, with a return projected sometime before the playoffs, was like a total solar eclipse happening on your birthday, which also happens to fall on Thanksgiving Day.

This near tragedy, however, was yet another soggy side note to what otherwise has been a season as bright as the rainbow emblazoned on the team’s new Skittles-themed tarp that had covered the field for three hours before the Harper’s calamity.

As I write, the Nationals stand 14 games ahead of the Miami Marlins in the National League East. Harper is having another MVP season. Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman are fueling a high-powered offense.

They’ve had their fair share of injuries (see: Eaton, Turner, Werth, Strasburg, Glover, Taylor, Drew, Ross and so on) but guys named Difo, Sanchez and Goodwin have surprisingly kept the team moving forward. Not treading water, but building upon the division lead.

And Rizzo’s annual trade deadline wizardry has made the bullpen great (maybe) again.
But when it comes to dealing with rainy days, the Nats play the game like the 1886 version of the Washington ball club.

When it rains, and even when it only threatens to rain but doesn’t, the Nats have issues. Criticism has been plentiful, from fans, media, old clown play-by-play announcers of a division rival… and even from Washington players. Gio Gonzalez let his frustration show when the team delayed a game start for hours even though it barely sprinkled.

And Harper, the day after his slip and spill, took a slight shot at the decision to play Saturday night following a 3-hour delay and rain still drumming the field.

“I don’t like wet bases,” he said between games of a day-night doubleheader Sunday with the San Francisco Giants.

Harper thought about Eaton, he said, while he was rolling on the ground, clutching his knee, giving us all heart attacks.

“Then I thought to myself, it’s 10 o’clock at night and we’re playing the game in the rain,” he recalled. “So, I was really upset about that as well. But you know, it’s just a freak accident, a freak situation.”

True, but was it avoidable?

Scott Boras, Harper’s agent, is asking Major League Baseball what it can do to ensure the safety of its players when rain, falling light enough to continue play, is turning the base bags into a slip and slide.

“In this instance with Bryce’s injury, you step on a base and you cannot have it be that slick and it obviously was caused by precipitation and inclement weather. The safeguards are so simple and immediate,” Boras said.

“You can certainly have people, the umpire checking the bag, even pitch-by-pitch. You can have the grounds crew, certainly, called in, or you can have it done between each field exchange by the teams. So, there’s a number of things that aren’t done that could be done rather simply.”

In another interview earlier in the week, Boras made comparisons to the NBA, where action is quickly stopped to wipe up sweat, or whatever, from the court.

Is that a practical solution? Should it be a job for the umpires to periodically wipe off the bases? Every few pitches? How often, I guess, depends on how steadily the rain is falling.
Since Harper’s injury, much discussion has been focused on improving base technology, giving the bag more traction as runners make contact.

“When you have an elite athlete touching in the very middle of the bag and just sliding across, it’s like ice on cement,” Boras said. “So, it’s really something we need more clarification and standards and study to ensure player safety.”

Maybe Boras is on to something. If there’s a base technology that can be used that would allow the bag remain relatively dry throughout a steady rain and not cause players to slip like they were in the shower, as Harper said he felt Saturday night, then the simple logistics of replacing bases is well worth it to save a player’s health, his season and potentially his career.

San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals

Are the Nationals the baseball weather story of the year?
Each year, I think about writing a post listing the top 10 baseball weather stories of the year. I haven’t done it yet, but maybe this is the year. Last year’s top story developed during the final game of the season, the World Series Game 7 rain delay that allowed the Cubs to regroup and capture the team’s first title in 108 years. Hands down, that was the baseball weather story of the year.

Not nearly as significant and captivating is this year’s top story… so far: the Nationals struggles with weather delays. Are the Nats really this bad at dealing with the weather, or have they simply had a run of bad luck this year?

I’d like to think it’s the latter. However, after tracking the events of Friday night, it’s difficult to not believe the team just can’t get its stuff together.

After a long rain delay of the series opener with the San Francisco Giants that night, the game was finally called and postponed more than two hours after the scheduled start. Players were seen leaving the ballpark. Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy was called in to chat with media around 9:15 p.m., according to the Washington Post. There was only one problem: Someone forgot to tell the fans at the ballpark until about 30 minutes later.

Oops!

Rain Delay Theater… on Twitter
During Friday night’s lengthy rain delay, Nationals TV play-by-play announcer Bob Carpenter answered questions on Twitter. Of course, I had to jump in with a weather-related question, but nothing hard-hitting about the Nats’ weather problems. On short notice, the best I question I could think of was: What’s your most memorable rain delay moment?
Yeah, I know. I could have done better. But to my surprise, Carpenter quickly answered with this witty gem:

Picturesque PNC Park

The week’s post can’t be all about the Nats, so to close, let’s go out the PNC Park where, rain or shine, it’s always postcard-perfect. The Pirates posted this photo on Twitter Thursday night to announce the team’s game with the Cardinals would be briefly delayed by rain.

And later, this:

No speech, no win

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch

As a baseball weather blogger, it’s tempting, and somewhat predictable, to lead off with this and that about the White Sox-Tigers Opening Day game and festivities getting rained out and rescheduled.

However, the indelible images of rain dousing Cubs and Cardinals players – and fans at the ballpark – the night before are hard to ignore.

Just before Cardinals’ closer Seung Hwan Oh let a 3-0 advantage slip away in the top of the ninth, the clouds above unleashed a steady rain down on Busch Stadium. The game played on, however, and the home team grabbed the victory, 4-3, when Randall Grichuk singled to left in the bottom of the ninth, scoring Jose Martinez.

Cards fans went home – or someplace – wet and happy.

“Speechless,” Grichuk, not being speechless at all, said after the game. “Obviously, doing it against our Central rival, the Cubs, who won it last year, that adds to it. It’s just a night I won’t forget.”

Before opening night, the last game the Cubs had played was Game 7 of the World Series, which featured a rain delay, a speech and a memorable comeback that gave the Chicago side its first World Series title since – ah, you know all that 108 years stuff.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was asked if he considered prompting Jayson Heyward, or anyone wearing Cubbie blue, to rouse the team with another speech, even if it was just game one of 162.

“Believe me, I thought about it,” Maddon said. “That’s our method, is to have a little bit of rain. We just didn’t have a team meeting.”

As for Chicago’s American League team – you know, the one whose Opening Day was spoiled by rain – they made up the game Tuesday, an originally scheduled off day, against Detroit. The Tigers bested the Wet White Sox, 6-3.

Monday’s game was called after an hour and 41-minutes after the 3:10 p.m. first pitch time.

And… this just in: Today’s games between the Cubs and Cardinals in St. Louis and Tigers and White Sox in Chicago have been called because of rain.The Cardinals and Cubs series finale has been re-scheduled for 12:45 p.m. local Thursday.

The Cardinals and Cubs series finale has been rescheduled for 12:45 p.m. local Thursday.

Heavy rain, wind and forecasted 40-degree temperatures forced the postponed of the White Sox-Tigers game. They’ll make it up as part of a doubleheader May 26.

Heavy rain, wind and forecasted 40-degree temperatures forced the postponed of the White Sox-Tigers game. They’ll make it up as part of a doubleheader May 26.

The two teams are scheduled to play Game 2 of the series in Chicago Thursday, but at this rate, it’s not guaranteed. (I’m resisting the urge to point out the play on words in that last sentence. You’re smart; you’ll get it.)

No brooms, just squeegees

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Chicago Tribune

That was close.

After jumping out to quasi-comfortable 4-0 lead on the Chicago Cubs Wednesday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals endured a 3:21-minute rain delay and an eighth-inning rally from their division rivals before moving on to a 5-3 victory at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals improved to 8-7 on the young season and avoided an embarrassing sweep by the Cubbies, who are determined to wrangle away St. Louis’ perennial division dominance.

The Redbirds scored two runs in each of the first two innings and allowed the Cubs to tally one in the fourth before rain began falling in the top of the seventh with the Cards leading 4-1. Precipitation increased throughout the half inning and after the Cubs’ Matt Szczur popped out in foul territory, umpires called for the tarp.

The rain stuck around for a while, but that gave us a chance to listen Cardinals radio broadcasters Mike Shannon and John Rooney spin a few tales about Bruce Hornsby and a range of other musicians. I particularly liked Shannon’s story about guarding Hornsby’s piano.

I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the Rain Delay Theater gab session.

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The announced Busch Stadium crowd was 43,093, and I’m sure many of the Cardinal faithful stuck around through the storm. Many of us though, stayed dry, cozy and connected through Twitter and MLB TV, including this guy supporting the Cubs.

The rain and delay dragged on and on and on…

And then, about 20 minutes before 6 p.m. St. Louis time…

The game resumed and the Cubs roared back and cut the Cardinals’ advantage to a run, 4-3, in the top of the eighth. The Cards got one back in the bottom half on a Jadier Molina RBI single. Closer Trevor Rosenthal struck out the side in the top of the ninth, emphatically slamming the door on the Cubs’ comeback as a light rain continued to trickle.

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Chicago Tribune

It took 2 hours and 40 minutes of actual game time for the Cardinals to earn the win; that’s 41 minutes less than the rain delay.

Bottom of the sixth (Not the Rockwell painting)

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Moments after the Twins’ Oswaldo Arcia struck out swinging in the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday night, umpires motioned for the tarp as a hard rain peppered Minnesota’s Target Field.

As it turned out, that was the last baseball act of the night between the Twins and the visiting Milwaukee Brewers. After a lengthy 2:06-minute rain delay – the game lasted just 2:21 – umpires consulted with managers of both squads and called the contest, giving the Twins a 7-4 victory, their fourth in a row.

Rain had poured well before the tarp was placed on the field, and had it stopped, more time would have been needed to allow the field to dry. That’s time neither team had, particularly with game two of the series scheduled for 12:10 p.m. local time on Tuesday.

“The umpires were in a tough spot tonight,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said after the game. “It wasn’t going to stop raining, the severity of it. They did a good job and they held off as long as they could. It just gets to a point where it’s not going to stop and you’ve got to decide where you’re going to put the players out there, and they just decided not to do it.”
The forecast for Monday night’s game predicted a good chance of rain, and a pre-game tweet from the Brewers showed menacing clouds hanging over the teams’ batting practice.

What was left of the announced crowd of 21,078 weren’t left to sit bored and soaked in their seats. The Target Field staff put on the scoreboard the Stanley Cup playoff game between the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars. The Wild won 5-3 to take a 2-1 series lead.

The forecast for Tuesday’s game calls for a 46 percent chance of rain at first pitch and through 2 p.m. The rain chance dips to about 37 percent at 2 p.m.

Elsewhere… Looking at the forecast for the Cubs and Cardinals tonight in St. Louis shows a 54 percent chance of rain at the time Jaime Garcia is scheduled to throw out the first pitch for the home team. I’m not into making weather predictions on games… ah, what the heck? Who’s going to call me on it if I’m wrong? I’m saying the start of the game will be delayed by at least 25 minutes.

Opening Day is here! (with exceptions)

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The New York Yankees have waited since October to get another crack at Houston Astros ace Dallas Keuchel.

The rematch of last year’s American League Wild Card game, in which Kuechel dominated Yankees hitters and won 3-0, was scheduled to happen today in the Bronx, Opening Day for the two clubs and most of Major League Baseball.

However, a slight rain was falling in New York this morning and there is about 75 percent chance it would continue at 1 p.m. when Masahiro Tanaka was scheduled to toss the first pitch for the Yankees. Weather projections have the chance of rain up to 100 percent at 3 p.m.

The game has been postponed until 1:05 p.m. Tuesday, giving the Yankees one more day to figure out that baffling Kuechel fella. The New York batters failed to score a run off the lefty in the 22 innings they faced him in 2015.

Meanwhile, in Cleveland…

Snow could be flying around Progressive Field today when the Cleveland Indians host the Boston Red Sox at 4:10 p.m. Temperatures will be around 33 but feel like 23 at game time.

It could be worse. The game could be in Boston…

Orioles fans may want to pack ponchos for today’s opener against the Twins at Camden Yards. The first pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. That’s also about the time rain could hit the area, about an 80 percent chance. That goes up to near 100 percent at 4 p.m.

Everything else, weather wise, looks nice around the league. Sunday marked the official start of the 2016 MLB season with three games. No weather problems, but Pirates fans at PNC Park welcomed the new season with 39 degree temperatures at the ballpark.

UPDATE: As snow blows around the ballpark and temperatures feel like December at a Browns game, the game between the Indians and Red Sox today in Cleveland has been postponed. The game is scheduled to be made up Tuesday at 1:10 p.m.

Can Dusty make it reign in Washington?

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DustyBaker01It’s down to Dusty and Bud.

It’s Bud. He’s our guy!

No, wait. It’s Dusty.

Last week as the World Series wrapped up, news breaking out of Washington about who the Nationals intended to hire as the team’s next manager left us confused as Yoenis Cespedes in the center field.

But things were sorted out over a couple of days, and we learned that indeed Dusty Baker had been hired as the team’s sixth manager. I have to admit, I never was excited about Bud Black, and in the beginning, I was even less excited about Baker.

You know, all the chatter about Dusty ruining pitchers’ arms and despising on-base percentage will do that to a fella.

The more I heard Dusty speak, however, the more I liked the idea of him managing my Washington Nationals. Listening to Dusty speak will do that to a fella, ya know.

For The Rainout Blog, I thought it would be fun to go back through the years of Dusty’s managing days with the Cubs, Giants and Reds to see if I can find any evidence of how he managed his starting pitchers through those days when bad weather delayed games in the early innings and he had to make the tough decision to go with his starter or give the ball to a long reliever.

That information might be tough to find, but I still wanted to give it a modest go. I’m not going to spend days on this.

So, I Googled “Dusty Baker rain,” thinking that was a good place to start. I’ll probably find nothing, I thought, in the 10 minutes I’m allotting myself on this, likely, fruitless endeavor.

The first item to pop up in the search was this MLB.com story from 2011, when Dusty was managing in Cincinnati. The headline read: “Dusty Baker still seeing Red over rain delay.”

Jackpot!

My 10 minutes were competed in less than 10 seconds.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the article in case, for some reason, you’re not into reading about baseball rain delays as much as I am: Early in the 2011 season, the Reds were playing the Cardinals in St. Louis. A large storm was approaching the area. The home team Cardinals decided to go with a reliever instead of their scheduled starter. Dusty claims he wasn’t given sufficient information regarding the approaching storm – it turned out to be a pretty bad storm around the area – and went ahead with his starting pitcher for the day. Six pitches into the game, rains came and the game was delayed 2 hours and 10 minutes. The Cardinals, after starting a reliever, brought in to pitch their originally scheduled starter after the rain delay. Dusty got mad.

Was there a lack of communications on the Cardinals end?

“I lost my pitcher. And we lost the game,” Baker said the night after his Reds lost the delayed game 4-2 to the Cardinals. “I was upset because we still had action on winning that game, plenty of action.”

One of the positives you hear about Dusty is he’s a players manager who will fight for his team. You would think that would be a basic element of Baseball Managing 101, but as we’ve all learned thought the years of watching the game, it simply isn’t basic at all.

Dusty has taken each team he has managed to the playoffs, and he’s going to do a good job in Washington.

Yeah, I’m still bullish on this team.

None of us are certain who all will be on the field and in the dugout when the Nationals open the 2016 season, but I’m confident Dusty will get the most out whomever is wearing the Curly W… rain or shine.