Pour Disposition

Rain's been a pain, putting a damper on Phillies schedule

Posted: September 07, 2011

DURING ONE uncommonly inclement spring training in Arizona many years ago, the Milwaukee Brewers' manager was asked how badly the team's preparation would be compromised if still more precipitation interrupted the following day's workout.

Replied plain-spoken Harvey Kuenn: "If it bleepin' rains, we're bleepin' bleeped."

The Phillies are getting to know that feeling a little too well.

Charlie Manuel wasn't quite as blunt last night while waiting out the latest delay, but there's no doubt that all the rotten weather lately is starting to take a toll. "Here lately we've been having a hard time. And as much as I like being at the yard, we've been getting a lot of these days," the Phillies' manager said with a sigh. "The players are all of a sudden spending 12 to 15 hours a day here. That's not good."

Two weekends ago, the Phillies scrambled to deal with a constantly changing forecast. Eventually they managed to get one game in and then fled to Cincinnati ahead of the gathering storm.

Last weekend at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, there was a long delay before the middle game got under way, disrupting Cole Hamels' pregame routine.

And last night when Vance Worley was supposed to be throwing his first pitch to Braves leadoff hitter Michael Bourn, the white tarp was on the field and a steady rain was falling, highlighted by the bright night lights illuminating the empty field.

And everybody waited. And waited. And waited some more.

They waited almost 2 hours until, finally, at 8:57 p.m., the game began. In a steady drizzle. In front of a few thousand hardy fans.

That wasn't ideal. As Manuel put it, "If we're going to stay here 'til 1, 2 3, 4 o'clock in the morning, when does a doubleheader become more appealing?"

As it turned out, the 6-3 win over the Braves ended at 12:02 a.m. But you get the idea.

Besides, a possible two-in-one had plenty of drawbacks, too. If they hadn't been able to get last night's game in, a day-night doubleheader today wouldn't have made anybody happy.

Not fans who held tickets for last night's game who likely would have found it difficult to show up this afternoon instead. (Even though the game was played, fans holding tickets for last night have been offered the opportunity to exchange them for selected games next April.)

Not the Braves, who already have a doubleheader scheduled against the Mets tomorrow.

And not the Phillies, who would then have to find a spot starter for Sunday's game against the Brewers at Miller Park. That would have been the least of their worries, though. They don't have a scheduled day off between now and the end of the regular season. They had one, a week from tomorrow. Instead of relaxing, they'll being playing a makeup day-night doubleheader against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. Five days later, they'll do it all over again against the Nationals.

Not to mention the fact that there's no guarantee that they'll be able to play tonight, with more downpours possible.

It's not just the Phillies, either. Major League Baseball publicist Pat Courtney pointed out that going into last night there already had been 48 rainouts this season. Going back to 2000, only once have there been more for an entire season: 51 in 2004.

The Phillies aren't taking anything for granted, but let's get real. They have an extra-large lead in the division with 3 weeks to play. They want their starting pitchers to get regular work leading up to the playoffs.

"I don't know how you get around it. Our pitchers need to get work. Our rotation needs to get kind of set and go through it a couple times before the season ends. That's the only thing," Manuel said.

The elephant in the room here is money. The Phillies do everything they can to get games in because a ballpark estimate of what it would cost them to have a game not played at all is probably around $5 million. Or, to put it another way, enough to pay Ryan Madson's salary for the entire season.

That's a whole bunch of dead presidents, even for a big-league ballclub.

If tonight's game is washed out, that raises the specter of the Phillies and Braves playing yet another doubleheader during the final series of the regular season at Turner Field. MLB does everything it can to assure that each team plays its full 162 games. In 1998, the Phillies and Marlins ended the season with back-to-back doubleheaders even though the games were meaningless.

The good news is that it's unlikely anybody would insist that two teams trying to get ready for the postseason to double up, assuming that it wouldn't impact the NLDS matchups.

Another possible creative solution: The Braves are off Sept. 22, then open a three-game series at Washington. The Phillies play the Nationals at home that night. So it would theoretically be possible for the Phillies and Braves to play a day game on that date and for the Phillies to conclude their series against the Nationals in the nightcap.

In the meantime, the Phillies aren't bleepin' bleeped. Not yet, anyway. This much, though, is clear. The Big Three of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Hamels has finally met its match. Against Mother Nature's Irene, Lee and Katia, they don't have a chance.

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