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Lengthy rain delay because of tarp problems overshadow Cubs win

No matter what the Cubs tried to do after the tarp proved no match for Mother Nature, the game between the Cubs and Giants would not resume last night.
No matter what the Cubs tried to do after the tarp proved no match for Mother Nature, the game between the Cubs and Giants would not resume last night.
Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants must think the Chicago Cubs are out to get them. First there was the rain tarp debacle in Mesa, AZ, during spring training this summer. In that game, a freak storm that produced a tornado that touched down less than two miles from the new Cubs Park in Mesa caused an ill equipped grounds crew in Mesa to render the playing field unfit on which to play. The game was cancelled and neither the Giants nor the Cubs were happy.

Last night a downpour that started as a simple little shower that turned into a deluge caused problems for the grounds crew at Wrigley Field when trying to put the tarp on the field. For all Cubs fans watching, it was quite clear there were not enough people pulling the tarp. The field was already saturated when the tarp was placed on the field, and more water was dumped onto the infield when the tarp was moved to right field, rendering the field impossible on which to play. But lack of manpower was not the only reason for what turned into a rain delay that lasted more than four hours. A torrential downpour, high winds and the slowness of head umpire Hunter Wendelstedt to call for the tarp made it more difficult for those pulling it, making what used to be an excellent grounds crew look totally inept.

Wendelstedt claimed the radar did not show that a monsoon was going to be hitting and there was no way to predict what actually happened, but there was at least one fan in the left field bleachers who knew differently. That fan had put her backpack into a large garbage bag 30 minutes before any rain started falling and said she would have had her poncho on had she not been discussing something with a member of the front office when the skies opened up.

“They should have asked me,” she said. “I’m a human barometer and better than the official radars they count on.”

Regardless, the rains came and an attempt to put the tarp on the field was made after Buster Posey made the third out of the fifth inning making it an official game. So, why did the umpires wait so long to finally call an official game? Some of that may be because of a similar situation that happened in New York on July 23 when a sudden onset of rain caused problems for the grounds crew at Yankee Stadium when trying to cove the field. Baseball Rule 4.12(a)(3) concerning suspended games, clearly states that: “(a) A game shall become a suspended game that must be completed at a future date if the game is terminated for any of the following reasons:

"(3) Light failure or malfunction of a mechanical field device under the control of the home club. (Mechanical field device shall include automatic tarpaulin or water removal equipment.)."

The problem was Mother Nature. The water removal was human, not mechanical in both New York and Chicago. But perhaps that rule needs to be changed. Common sense should have prevailed. The field simply was not suitable on which to play. No matter how much Turface was used the field was unplayable. It should have been apparent when the Turface became mud. The grounds crew had to shovel up what they had applied and add more from a shipment made to the ballpark. There was a rumor that the Cubs had depleted their supply of Turface. Whether true or not, after four hours and 34 minutes, no one had even addressed the warning track or the tarp, which still held even more water.

So, blame Mother Nature for the initial problems, but after that blame the umpires and both managers for not using common sense and calling it an official game. That finally did happen at 1:16 a.m. with the Cubs winning 2-0, thanks to a two run home run by Anthony Rizzo in the first inning. Actual time of game - 1:35. Time of rain delay - 4:34.

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