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The no-rain delay in Nationals Park; threat of approaching weather; “blatant abuse of gamesmanship” by Nats...

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No one was happy with the way things worked out last night with a three-hour, five-minute delay before the start of the series opener between the Nationals and Braves in Washington, D.C.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

“Well, this is as terrifying a weather front as we have seen in a major league ballpark in a long, long time.” - Chip Caray at one hour mark of last night’s no-rain delay.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The threat of approaching bad weather in the nation’s capital, which never really came, delayed the start of last night’s series opener between the NL East rival Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves by three hours and five minutes, until 10:10 PM EDT.

It was just an hour or so into the delay that the Atlanta Braves’ announce team of Chip Caray and Joe Simpson shared their thoughts on what they thought was really behind the decision to wait out the approaching weather.

“This is a travesty, this really is,” Simpson began.

“I hope MLB looks into this, because this is a blatant abuse of gamesmanship by the Nationals, in my opinion.”

“As you see, there is no tarp on the field,” he continued.

“There’s the tarp, it’s still got its cover on it, it’s not even unrolled in anticipation of any rain that, as you said, isn’t expected to get here until 9:00 if it gets here. We could have already played five or six innings by the time the rain might get here, so they’re calling it a weather delay, there’s no anticipation of weather. This is all about the Nationals fearing they might start the game and lose Gio Gonzalez and then have the game started later where they’d have go to their bullpen which we all know is the worst in baseball. This is a horrible attempt by the Nationals to manipulate this.”

Simpson’s tv broadcast partner noted that it’s something that’s happened before this season.

“You might recall May 11th, the Nationals and Baltimore Orioles had a game scheduled and there was also a threat of bad weather before that game,” Caray said.

“Mike Rizzo and the Nationals tried to contact the Orioles, couldn’t get in touch with Dan Duquette, but did talk with Buck Showalter, and they agreed that the game should not be played, and there was some back and forth about which day and which game these two teams should meet, and the saddest part of it all was not a drop of rain fell, so weather forecasting is an inexact science, but if the ticket says, ‘Start at 7:05,’ and there’s no rain, you ought to start the game and take your chances, it’s happened in baseball for 130 years. This, I agree with you, Joe, is pitiful.”

“There’s not even the hint that it might rain,” Simpson continued. “Like I said, there’s no ground crew on the field, there’s no tarp rolled out waiting to cover the field, it’s still under its wraps and that’s what is — it ought to be embarrassing because they’re not even getting ready for it.”

It did eventually rain, but not hard, and when the tarp went out on the field at that point (around 9:08 PM), many of the fans in attendance left the ballpark.

Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo explained how that situation with Baltimore went down when he spoke to Washington Post writer Barry Svrluga about the Orioles’ frustration... after the O’s lost the make-up game on June 8th:

“It rained all day that day, and the forecast said it would rain until 9:30 or 10,” Rizzo said. “I sat in Buck’s office at 6:30, and we talked about it for 20 minutes. He was 100-percent on-board. He didn’t say anything about not canceling the game.

“Their GM [Dan Duquette] was nowhere to be found for three, four hours.

We wanted to play the next day. They refused to play then, so the next [open] day was [Thursday]. They drove 32 miles to get there. We flew 3,000 [expletive] miles, and we beat their [behinds]. So quit your whining. Quit whining.”

Rizzo also released a statement last night, as quoted by Washington Post beat writer Chelsea Janes, explaining the Nationals’ approach to the delay:

“We monitor the weather very closely via a weather service, along with Major League Baseball. Our decisions on any weather-related issues are made in conjunction with Major League Baseball, opposing teams, umpires, and the players union. Tonight was tough. We could see weather heading our way and wanted to be proactive, but the timing on its arrival kept shifting. We hate when this happens — it’s such a tough spot to be in. Do you start play or not? There are so many factors to consider, including how a mid-game delay would impact our players. We know the fans came to see a game, and we hate that we made them wait. We appreciate everyone’s patience tonight.”

“That’s a first for me,” Braves’ skipper Brian Snitker told reporters after the game.

“Kind of frustrating.”

Asked what he said to his players, Snitker said, “I didn’t say anything. I didn’t really have a chance. They hung in there good though. Guys were frustrated, obviously, it’s been a long couple days for us, late travel last night. We got to bed at 5:00 this morning and then had to wait around like that, and so it’s tough. That’s what we do.”

“It was the same for both teams,” Dusty Baker said, after what ended up a 5-2 loss.

In total, both teams (and the fans who stayed) spent six hours and fifteen minutes after the scheduled start time waiting out the rain and then playing/watching the game.

“We were waiting around,” Baker said.

“We were told that bad weather was coming and the umpires, both sides, you don’t want to waste pitchers. You hate to have the fans wait around like that, as well as we hate to wait around, but we were told that there was a pretty severe storm coming.

“And so, the weather man, as you know, has been wrong before, and it’s hard to really predict weather. So that’s what we were told, we didn’t want to have the field in bad conditions and didn’t want to start in the rain and then waste a pitcher.”

UPDATE: The Nationals issued the following statement on last night’s delay and the thinking behind it: