It all started innocently enough. The Brewers and Cubs played a May 19th disaster of a slopfest including a two hour rain delay. It soaked Chicago and Wrigley, and made everyone miserable, including the home faithful who saw the Cubs lose.
The sun set, the sun rose, and a new day dawned. A lovely, bright, warm Saturday awaited everyone as Chicago had one of its first truly beautiful days of the year. Everyone got outside, the city bustled, the bars opened their patios, and the Cubs…cancelled the game. You see, there was allegedly a weather forecast in existence that claimed it was going to rain later, and before a game actually starts, it is up to the team whether or not they want to cancel it. That decision, made by the Cubs early in the morning, many many hours before the start of the game, was completely indefensible and if you don’t believe me just ask WISC Meteorologist Bob Lesh:
There was literally no weather related reason to cancel that game. Any meteorologist would have come to that conclusion.
— Bob Lesh (@Bob_Lesh) May 24, 2017
The decision to cancel that game was met with widespread ridicule and speculation that the Cubs were playing petty games due to unfavorable pitching match-ups, or wind conditions, or something. That may sounds ridiculously conspiratorial and it totally is, but do keep in mind that we here at Baseball Prospectus routinely adjust for things like weather, and an organization as sophisticated as the Theo Epstein-led Cubs employing an army of nerds certainly knows when things are leaning in their favor, and when they are not. In any case, justice was served as in the eventual make-up game the Brewers pounded the Cubs 11-2 behind Zach Davies, and if that extra game had any negative knock-on effect, it’s difficult to see as the Crew went on to take two of three from the Yankees. I found this entire set of circumstances to be terribly fun, with Cub tweeters getting extra defensive about their team’s indefensible decision, and pretending they don’t care about the little ol’ Brewers. Sports are more fun when teams hate each other, and if the Brewer and Cub organizations didn’t hate each other before…
The City that Works
Fast forward a few months and here we are again. The Cubs announced on August 31st that the following Friday’s game on September 8th against Milwaukee will be moved from the usual 1:20 start time to a 7:05 start. This is notable because it is actually illegal to play a nighttime, non-playoff baseball game on the north side of the city of Chicago on a Friday pursuant to Title 4, Chapter 4-156, Section 430 of the Municipal Code of Chicago.
But both local Alderman Tom Tunney and Mayor Rahm Emanuel are pushing through legislation to make it happen!
“Local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said he and Mayor Rahm Emanuel agreed to waive the ban on Friday night games to help the Cubs in their stretch-run to the playoffs.
“It’s a compromise. It’s a favor. Coach Maddon has his philosophy. I don’t plan to have it a regular occurrence. But it’s something that we’re all trying to work toward to make sure the team gets the proper rest,” Tunney said Thursday.
“In life, we try to help each other. But I don’t want it to be a regular occurrence because there’s a number of businesses where Friday and Saturday nights are very, very important and they’re non-Cub-related,” he said. “Theater, fine-dining restaurants that don’t do well when there’s a Cub night game. And Friday and Saturday in many of our businesses are make-it-or-break-it days for their business to stay in business.”’
Personally, I think this is great for about a thousand reasons. Chicago is known as “The City that Works” partially because of nonsense like this. It’s the closest thing America has to a kingdom made up of several fiefdoms, and while corruption is rampant and politicians are celebrities to an uncomfortable degree, by gum, when push comes to shove Chicago will force through what it needs to in the name of local business, civic pride, and pretty flowers. You know, on the North side, in the nice parts. Anyway, the Cubs got a law passed so they could move a game to later in the day because the Pittsburgh Pirates wouldn’t give them a getaway day game the night before. This happens to the Cubs fairly regularly as they’re the only team that has to deal with Ordinance 4-156-430, and Thursdays are common travel days, and in truth it isn’t really fair to them. That said, it’s worth noting that earlier this season the Cubs forced the Brewers to fly in from San Diego and play a day game the next day, so it can be unfair to the visitors as well. (Oh, by the way, this was the first game in the “fake rain out” series.) Anyway, the Brewer front office was predictably unhappy about this, and especially about the complete transparency about doing it for competitive reasons.
Part of what upset Brewers officials was the transparency about doing it for competitive reasons. See comments: https://t.co/blp9gRCsd5
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) August 31, 2017
It makes plain what we only suspected before, in that we now know concretely the Cubs will muck about with their schedule to gain a competitive advantage. The Cubs are now pretty obviously the Patriots of Major League Baseball, and it’s clear they will do anything within the rules as they see them to gain an advantage. I assume they’ll start scheduling games at all sorts of weird times, make subtle adjustments to Wrigley on a matchup by matchup basis, and cancel early whenever Hurricane Kershaw rolls through town. I applaud this and welcome their entry into the league of baseball Super Villains along with the Cardinals and Yankees.
While the law may not treat the Cubs fairly, it’s pretty bold to move a game just to get your players more rest, and while planning issues aren’t huge for the Brewers, who reside just 90 miles away, it’s rude if nothing else. As a former five-year resident of Wrigleyville (Cornelia and Wilton), the idea of Friday night games is a big hairy deal. It will be an absolute madhouse in the neighborhood, a complete parking disaster (people who drive to Cubs games are THE WORST, they are the same people who drive to away games at Miller Park), and mess up traffic for a 100-mile radius from 3:30 through midnight. It will also be a marvelous atmosphere and if I lived anywhere close I would go to this game in a heartbeat. If you can, you should. But this also brings up an important question: What, if anything should the Brewers do to extract petty revenge?
Best Served Cold and in St. Louis.
The first thing they should do is to copy the Cubs. They’ve done so in their rebuild philosophy, they may as well take inspiration from their completely dirty, unethical tactics as well. On Sunday, September 24th, the Brewers and Cubs will conclude their series with a day game, starting at 1:10 local time. No one in Wisconsin will attend this game or see the end of it as the Packers play the Cincinnati Bengals in Lambeau at 3:25. By virtue of the the fact that Brewer home games are never rained out, the Brewers played far more games than the Cubs through the end of August and still have one more under their belt than does Chicago. That will all equalize on September 25th as the Brewers enjoy a relaxing off day while the Cubs travel to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals at 7:15. As the Packer game will have a dreadful impact on the Brewers and on all of the local Brewer-based businesses, and as it would be nice to have some additional time on the 24th for Brewer players to relax and heal for a few more hours, there is no reason not to move this game to 7:05 (or later!).
Supervillains often own large, elaborate lairs, and the Brewers are fortunate to have one of their own in Miller Park. They’ve been unjustly accused of in the past of using the advertising light board to mess with opposing teams, so they may as well go all-out and have some sort of shadow-inducing malfunction with the roof at an opportune moment, perhaps after getting a lead and with the Cubs batting. It is quite difficult to hit in the afternoon shadows, or so I’m told. And after all, you can never be too careful with the weather, right? Rain could pop up at any minute, even out of a clear blue sky. Best to be prepared, and if the shadows make hitting difficult, keep in mind that a dry fan is a happy fan.
Petty Squabbling is Great
True rivalries need little things like this to really work. Simply playing baseball is fun, but nitpicking, game-playing, petty garbage is where real, true hate is born. I applaud the Cubs for their unprecedented abuse of the schedule, and hope my team is bold enough to return in kind. The Cubs own a political machine, the Brewers own a real huge giant machine attached to the top of their stadium. Let’s see who wins.