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."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa hit the 30-homer threshold on June 21, 1998 in only his 71st game of the season. For perspective, the 2018 Cubs leader in homers on June 21 is Javy Baez with 14 and Mike Trout leads all of baseball with only 23.

At this point, Mark McGwire was ahead of Sosa, but the Cubs slugger was pulling closer. McGwire had 33 dingers on June 21 while Ken Griffey Jr. had 28 and Greg Vaughn had 25.

Sosa' June 21 homer came off Tyler Green and was his 5th blast of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field that year. But the Cubs lost that series, despite Sosa's efforts.

Fun fact: Sosa drove in 10 runs in the three-game series with the Phillies that summer while the rest of his teammates combined for only 9 RBI.

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

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AP

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

The Cubs have been a different team the last six weeks, looking a lot more like the resilient bunch from 2016 than the sluggish 2017 squad that lacked energy. After some wacky circumstances Monday and a tough loss in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Cubs came out and showed what they’re made of in the last two games of the series against the Dodgers, a team that knocked them out of postseason play last fall.

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki sum up the longest short homestand (or shortest long homestand?), updating the status of Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, the Cubs pitching staff and how the team is rounding into form as the season’s halfway mark approaches.

Check out the entire podcast here: