MLB’s reasoning doesn’t absolve it from mishandling Yankees-Guardians delay
Paul Olden, public address announcer at the Stadium, is a worthy successor to Bob Sheppard, which is saying a ton. They called Sheppard “the voice of God” around here, and if you spent half an inning listening to him in The Bronx, you understood why.
Olden has a set of pipes himself, making his voice as easy on the ears as an expertly turned double play is on the eyes. But at 9:39 p.m. Monday, when he blitzed the gathered Division Series fans with the words “we regret to inform you,” they started booing him. Well, maybe they weren’t booing Olden, a man just doing his job.
They were booing the fact that this sudden-death Game 5 between the Yankees and Guardians was being postponed on account of rain, after many of them had waited four hours in the stands, while getting wet over half that time. These were men and women here on a work night, along with children who were here on a school night.
And after hanging in there so long in the hope that a baseball game would be played, the fans got played instead. Olden made an announcement he didn’t want to make. Before he charged the adults in the crowd to drive home safely, he said, “Thank you for your patience.”
Patience? Who said baseball had any right to ask its paying customers for patience?
Listen, nobody from MLB showed up at the Stadium Monday night looking to give the fans a raw deal. Chris Marinak, baseball’s chief operations & strategy officer, explained to The Post by phone that officials knew earlier in the day that rain would hit the area around 7 p.m., right before the scheduled first pitch, and likely last for about 90 minutes.
The Yankees and the Guardians were fully motivated to get the game in, and to preserve the off-day afforded the winner to travel to Houston and prepare for Wednesday’s opener of the ALCS. Marinak said the plan was for starting pitchers Jameson Taillon and Aaron Civale to begin warming up around 8:30, and then to get underway around 8:45.
“But then a second pocket of rain that had not been on the radar popped up,” Marinak said. Suddenly the first pitch looked like it wouldn’t be thrown until after 10 p.m.
“We felt that was the time to call the game,” Marinak said. He called that unexpected wave of showers “the final straw.”
Fine. Professional weather forecasters get paid a lot of money to get it wrong all the time. The Yankees and Guardians wanted to play, MLB tried to thread the needle by radar, and everyone went home the loser. Those in charge of the sport had a plan, but as Buck Showalter loves to say, if you want to make the baseball gods laugh, tell them about your plans.
The baseball gods were howling when this game was called, though there was nothing even remotely funny about it.
“You can Monday morning quarterback it,” Marinak said on a rainy Monday night. He’s right. Nothing’s easier than ripping an institution for gambling on a weather report and coming up empty.
But it was sinful that tens of thousands of people sat through the delay without a clue as to what was going on. Baseball left those people hanging, even though they had their own decisions to make based on work, school, and family obligations.
MLB spokesman Michael Teevan told The Post he understood the premise of that point, but that baseball wouldn’t want to be updating fans in the stands with what might turn out to be “false information” on the weather. A safe bet says a vast majority of those fans would’ve preferred the updates, and the ability to process them and make choices on their terms.
To make matters worse, MLB made the absurd post-postponement decision to make the Yankees and Guardians managers and players unavailable to the news media. So much had to be asked and answered about potential changes with the starting pitchers, about what the teams did during the delay, about how the extra day and late Tuesday afternoon game-time might impact both sides.
Fans deserved those insights and that information. Baseball has forever had a hard time marketing its own beautiful game, and here it was shutting down all roads to a most compelling event — a winner-take-all shootout between the world’s most storied ball team and a fearless underdog.
Teevan, a pro’s pro, called it “a fair point” and said that the participants were eager to get a full night of rest after a maddeningly long and frustrating day, and that they would be available before Game 5. No, that isn’t good enough.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman eventually made himself available to reporters only after The Post’s Joel Sherman made a rightful and passionate plea to team spokesman Jason Zillo for the necessity of access. And in the end, Aaron Boone did confirm that he was making a pitching change from Taillon to Nestor Cortes.
That major development demanded some comment from the manager, and it didn’t happen. If nothing else, baseball made the right call when scheduling Game 5 in the 4 p.m. window rather than the 1 p.m. window. Marinak explained that it would be tough to ask the fans and everyone else to return to the Stadium so early in the day.
Finally someone had the paying customers in mind.