Cubs

Why wasn't Cubs-Nationals Game 4 played earlier in the day?

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AP

Why wasn't Cubs-Nationals Game 4 played earlier in the day?

Of course this NLDS couldn't end without a controversy.

Controversy is never far off with such a high-profile team like the Cubs, especially when it comes to weather and start times in 2017. 

This time, it wasn't the Milwaukee Brewers complaining and dropping epic one-liners about getting sunburnt on a rainout.

But this game also has infinitely more at stake than a random late-May contest at Wrigley Field.

After nearly an hour-long delay, Major League Baseball called Tuesday's Cubs-Nationals Game 4 on account of rain, pushing it instead back to Wednesday afternoon and giving neither team a travel/buffer day if the series shifts back to Washington D.C. for a Game 5.

Tuesday's contest was scheduled for a 4:38 p.m. first pitch in Chicago, which was already an accomdation by MLB, TBS (airing the game) and both teams given the original call was for a 7 p.m. primetime spot with no other MLB games scheduled. But with the impending rain, all parties agreed to move it up to 4:38, though Mother Nature failed to cooperate with that, as well.

That left many fans in an uproar on social media, with the rumor floating around that both teams agreed to an earlier start time — like 1 p.m. — to try to beat the rain and get the game in.

Now, a 1 p.m. game would've been just fine, as the rain did not start in earnest in Wrigleyville until the 5 p.m. hour.

Joe Torre — the chief baseball officer for MLB — said he had no knowledge of any discussion to move the game up to 1 p.m.

"That's not my department," Torre said after the game was called. "You know, I don't know if there was a conversation along those lines. It's easy to look back and say that at this point in time, but I can't tell you if there was that conversation."

While TBS reportedly insisted they weren't at fault for nixing the 1 p.m. start time, the TV rights did come into play with the overall game time decision, as they do for all postseason games.

Why? Well, the millions and millions of dollars the TV stations provide to the league is definitely a factor, as Torre explained:

"They have to be part of the decision because they pay a significatn amount of money for the rights to televise our games," Torre said. "It's really naive to say they shouldn't have any input on when the games are played.

"It's something that, you know, has happened obviously over time. Our sport is pretty popular and the fact that there are a number of networks that are involved here; I think Major League Baseball certainly has to be aware of not only dealing with each team and trying to make them either understand what you want to do or have them help you decide what you want to do.

"But that we all have to understand, a lot of times, who pays the freight."

So yes, money was a factor. Of course it was.

But also worth noting: Any gametime decision would've had to have been made Monday night. MLB already made an early call to push the game up to 4:30.

A 1 p.m. time slot would certainly equal poorer TV ratings than a 4:30 or primetime spot, but it's also a time that is significantly more difficult for fans to attend on a Tuesday afternoon in mid-October, namely the 9-5 crowd. 

At the end of the day, both the Cubs and Nationals are happy because they didn't have to throw their starters for just a couple innings, watch a rain delay come about and then have the game postponed until the next day — a scenario that would force each manager to go to Plan B Wednesday without Jake Arrieta or Tanner Roark.

Both teams are sticking with the alloted pitchers — no, the Nationals are not starting Stephen Strasburg, even though he's on regular rest — so MLB made the right move in not trying to play a few innings starting at 4:30 before the rains hit.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker admitted it's inconvenient for his team because now they have to make new hotel arrangements and move from their current place to another spot in town, but ultimately the answer is both teams have to go out and execute.

The difference is, the Cubs have all the advantages at the moment, with the Nationals' backs against the wall, facing elimination. The Cubs need only win one of the next two games, and if they emerge victorious Wednesday, all this rain talk will be for nothing.

"Whatever it is, you've just got to get ready and go ahead and do it," Joe Maddon said. "There is no crying. You just go play."

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

In the latest CubsTalk Podcast, Kelly Crull and David Kaplan look ahead to Thanksgiving and discuss the official coaching hires for the Cubs.

They also talk about where the Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, whether Alex Cobb could factor into the rotation plans and Kap goes off on the 11:30 a.m. Opening Day start time.

Check out the entire podcast here: