Brooklyn councilmember takes on MLB’s rain delay policy

Take me out to the ballgame — just don’t make me wait.

Days after an initial postponement of a New York Yankees game against the Baltimore Orioles turned into a called game more than an hour after the original start time, Councilmember Justin Brannan wrote a letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred voicing frustration with the current rainout policy and asking MLB to amend it.

“Currently, when MLB games are delayed due to inclement weather, fans in attendance are left waiting — sometimes for several hours without updates or options — to see if conditions will improve,” Brannan wrote. “A family with school-age kids attending a weekday evening game, for instance, may be forced to call it a night before the outcome of a rain delay is determined. When this happens, fans are put in the position of having to forfeit several hundred dollars or more after tickets, food, drinks and souvenirs without ever seeing a single at-bat. I’m sure that’s not the experience you want them to have.”

Both the Mets and Yankees have had extended rain delays and/or rainouts.

The game that inspired Brannan to write his letter was originally supposed to be played on May 13, but was postponed due to poor field conditions, after a protracted wait.

“Tonight’s Yankees game vs the Orioles has been postponed due to unplayable field conditions,” the Yankees tweeted at 7:48 p.m., well after fans had taken their seats. “It will be made up this Wednesday, May 15th, as part of a single-game admission doubleheader beginning at 3:00 p.m. All Yankee Stadium Gates will open at 2:00 p.m. for the doubleheader.”

Although attendees could attend the double header or exchange their tickets for a future date this season, the late postponement announcement didn’t sit well with fans.

One person tweeted, “That should be in the next CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), where they need to make a decision by a certain time.”

“Tonight was a complete disaster! Should have called the game at 3,” tweeted another fan. “With all the rain there was no way the field would be ready!”

The Yankees also had a lengthy rain delay on March 31. A scheduled 1:05 p.m. start was delayed until 4:20 p.m.

Brannan thinks MLB should require that all games commence within an hour of the scheduled start time; he also thinks that rain delays should not last more than one hour to “prevent loyal fans from lingering endlessly.

“I really don’t want to legislate this; I want to start a conversation,” he told this paper in a statement. “I would like to see Major League Baseball do the right thing by their fans. America’s national pastime is also a billion-dollar industry. They can certainly afford it. I don’t think it’s a lot to ask.”

Brannan also wants MLB to compensate fans who have tickets to games that are subject to extended rain delays, whether they are eventually played or not.

“I respectfully ask you to consider a specific policy change where, after a rain delay lasts a certain amount of time, fans are offered a choice: stay and wait out the delay in hopes that the game will continue, or leave and receive a ‘rain check’ voucher for a future game,” he wrote. “This would present fans with a fair alternative to waiting — sometimes for several hours — or leaving with nothing and feeling like they’ve been ripped off through no fault of your own.”

That sort of situation occurred earlier this season, on April 26, when the Mets were scheduled to play the Milwaukee Brewers. The game’s original start time was 7:10 p.m. Despite heavy rain in the forecast, the team decided to wait it out and eventually started the game at 9:50 p.m.

“Gutted,” tweeted one attendee. “First-ever game of baseball tonight having travelled from the UK. Left the stadium after speaking to staff and fans who felt the game would not go ahead due to the weather delay — what a mistake.”

“This is disgraceful,” added another person via Twitter. “Rather than postpone the game after a more than  two-hour rain delay, the Mets are planning to begin first pitch at 9:50 pm. But weather forecast shows it will likely rain long after that! I feel bad for the fans who have to sit through this debacle.”

In fact, in the case of the game against the Brewers, the Mets did exactly what Brannan suggested, offering fans holding tickets the option of exchanging them for tickets to any remaining game this season being played Monday to Thursday, subject to availability and excluding the Subway Series between the Mets and the Yankees.

However, there’s no guarantee that teams will allow fans to make such an exchange.

The teams don’t always make last-minute decisions about postponements. Recently, both the Mets and the Yankees decided well in advance of start time to postpone a game, in part due to the recent spate of poor weather.

The day after their belated cancellation announcement that riled so many fans, the Yankees on May 14 announced another rainout against the Orioles at 3:57 p.m., over three hours before the scheduled first pitch.

Two days earlier, on May 12, the Mets decided to postpone their game against the Miami Marlins, scheduled for 1:10 p.m., at around 9:44 a.m., over three hours before first pitch, giving fans plenty of time to stop their commute to the ballpark.

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