In case you haven’t noticed, it’s raining in New York, and with a Nor’easter settling in over the area, this rain may not stop for a few days. With first game of the ALCS scheduled for tomorrow night amidst a 60 percent chance of rain, the game very well could be rained out, the Yanks’ best laid plans thrown into disarray.
For the sake of this discussion, let’s take a look at the ALCS schedule and two potential alternatives if Game 1 were to be rained out.
In my opinion, Major League Baseball will have two choices if the Yanks and Angels can’t fit in Game 1 on Friday. The teams would play Game 1 on Saturday and Game 2 on Sunday, the currently-scheduled travel day. Then, without skipping a day and with a cross-country flight involved, the Angels and Yanks would meet in Anaheim on Monday afternoon. Since the game is schedule for a 4:13 start on Monday, travel could be tight.
My preferred alternate is in the right column of that table. Instead of just pushing back one game, the schedule would be rearranged to the familiar 2-3-2 ALCS format we used to enjoy prior to last year’s TV accommodations. The Yanks and Angels would play two in the Bronx on Saturday and Sunday, three in Los Angeles from Tuesday-Thursday and then two more in the Bronx the following weekend. No unnecessarily harried travel days would be involved.
The bigger problem from the Yanks’ perspective is the havoc rain or the threat of it wreaks on their pitching plans. Right now, the ALCS is set up to benefit the Yanks. Although Joe Girardi has yet to announce it, the team could very well go with a three-man rotation, and only once — CC Sabathia in Game 4 — would their starter go on short rest. Meanwhile, this extra off-day would allow the Yanks to use their ace in a potential Game 7.
Any rain-out throws that plan out of the window. Since both alternative schedules feature a compression of sorts, the Yanks would have to make a choice. Either Sabathia would pitch both Games 4 and 7 on short rest or the team would have to use four starters. Thus, under the latter scenario, Chad Gaudin would probably pitch in Game 4, Sabathia on full rest in Game 5, Burnett in Game 6 and Andy Pettitte — if the ALDS rotation holds — in Game 7. I have no problem with Pettitte taking the mound at home for Game 7, but I’d rather see CC.
Right now, we don’t know what MLB will choose to do. They have TV obligations to uphold, and a cross-country trip to schedule. A rain-out would be messy, then, on many fronts.
In the end, rain matters, and the Yankees say they have a contingency plan. Hopefully, unlike in 2004 when rain altered the Yanks’ ability to go with their preferred pitchers during the latter half of the ALCS, the team can overcome a postponement. They certainly have the depth to do so.
Postscript: The rain also has a confusing impact on the tickets fans currently hold. As Brian Costa notes, a rain-out technically pushes back both games. If Friday’s game is canceled, tickets for Home Game 1 would be honored on Saturday, and tickets for Home Game 2 would be honored on Sunday. I’d hate to be the security guards turning away confused fans for Saturday’s game.