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Frances puts Cubs, Marlins on hold
09/03/2004 4:11 PM ET
MIAMI -- With Hurricane Frances slowly churning toward the east coast of Florida, both Friday's and Saturday's scheduled games between the Chicago Cubs and Florida Marlins at Pro Player Stadium have been postponed. They have yet to be rescheduled. And because the storm is so large and is moving so slowly, the league and teams are taking a wait-and-see approach regarding Sunday.

"We're watching the pattern of the storm closely, and for now, no decisions have been made about when the games will be rescheduled or whether the remainder of the series will even be played," said Katy Feeney, Major League Baseball's senior vice president of scheduling and club relations.

"Foremost, the Marlins' organization is concerned about the safety of all Florida residents, and will only return to playing baseball when the effects of Hurricane Frances have passed," Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest said through a team spokesman Friday afternoon.

There's a remote possibility the Marlins and New York Mets could alter their scheduled series in Miami and move it up to Monday through Wednesday, allowing the Marlins and Cubs to face each other on Sept. 9. That is currently an off day for the Cubs.

"There's a whole bunch of scenarios," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said Friday after a workout at Wrigley Field. "We're going to work out (Saturday), be prepared to fly down (Saturday) evening if it's not raining and possibly play Sunday afternoon. There's another scenario to be on call early Sunday and play (in Florida) on Sunday. One depends on the other."

The Cubs and Marlins also may play on Sept. 20, which is an off day for both teams. However, that would require approval by the Players Association. The players' contract allows them to play 20 consecutive days. If they played on Sept. 20, it would be 24 in a row.

There has been speculation that the Marlins, who travel to Chicago for a three-game series Sept. 10-12, would make up games at Wrigley Field, but the Marlins say that will not happen, citing the playoff implications at stake and the need to be fair to the fans in South Florida.

"When these games are rescheduled, we will play them at Pro Player Stadium," Beinfest said. "Due to the competitiveness of the race, the organization wants to assure the loyal fans of South Florida that these games will be played at home."

That series and this weekend's series could not be switched because the Miami Dolphins play their home opener at Pro Player Stadium on Sept. 12.

Frances has weakened slightly from the 145-mph Category 4 storm that it was on Thursday to a 120-mph Category 3 storm, but remains a dangerous hurricane, according to Matthew Newman, senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel. "There still is the possibility that the hurricane could strengthen again, but the intensity forecast remains somewhat uncertain.

"Florida could start feeling the outermost effects of the storm by late Friday," he added in his report on "Present thinking puts landfall on the central or southern portion of the east coast of Florida, any time from late Saturday to Sunday morning. While the landfall point is important, the destructive impacts from Frances may be widespread. This storm is larger and will affect more land than Charley did once it makes landfall."

The Cubs, who hold a 2 1/2-game lead over the Marlins in the Wild Card race, returned to Chicago after completing their series at Montreal on Wednesday. Winners of seven straight, the Marlins returned to South Florida about 9:45 p.m. Thursday after they beat the Mets 9-6 at Shea Stadium.

"This uncertainty isn't very pleasant," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "It's only a game for us. What about the uncertainty for those that are down there about to wait out a hurricane, especially after the severity of (Charley) less than a month ago? To have stuff destroyed, this hurricane ain't no joke."

"I think you have to make sure everyone in OK," said Marlins All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell. "When Sept. 11 came, nobody cared about the games, and rightly so. I don't think they are important compared to the safety of a lot of people. I still think we might play one or two of those games. But in the scope of things, [the games] are not important."

The storm has also affected the Devil Rays, who were scheduled to play a three-game set with the Tigers at Tropicana Field. Friday's game will be played as scheduled, but Saturday's and Sunday's contests have been postponed. The games have tentatively been rescheduled as a doubleheader on Wednesday, Sept. 30 -- currently an off-day for both clubs -- at Tropicana Field.

Tigers general manager David Dombrowski was the Marlins' GM for a decade before joining the Tigers front office, so he knows a little about hurricane watches.

"I've been though this many times," Dombrowski said. "If there is any danger, err on the side of safety."

The threat of the storm has caused a great concern among the Marlins players, many of whom live in evacuation areas in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Pro Player Stadium is a shelter to Marlins and Miami Dolphins employees.

"I think it's a concern for the people in South Florida, that's the key," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "Baseball, you can play that anytime. The people out there expecting the worst, I think you have to be concerned about their welfare. Players are included, because they have families. It's a little distracting. But hopefully it won't be too bad and we'll be able to play two or maybe even three games."

Paul Lo Duca, Mike Redmond and Nate Bump are planning to stay a few days at Lowell's home just south of Miami, which isn't expected to receive a brunt of the storm's impact.

"I think the wives are doing a good job getting food and stuff for the kids," Lowell said. "I think West Palm Beach is going to get hit hard, from what I hear. It's scary. I live pretty far south of Miami, which is good for this storm."

Jeff Conine, who lives a bit inland in Westin, is planning on traveling to the western part of the state.

"Mentally, a lot of guys here have their minds elsewhere, with their families in South Florida," Conine said. "We're getting in at the last minute to either bunker down, or get out of Dodge. We're leaving. I'm not taking any chances. We have a place in Naples."

Juan Pierre and Dontrelle Willis live in Adventura, on the intercoastal waterway, near Pro Player Stadium.

Neither knew exactly where they would go as of Thursday afternoon.

"I'm heading west," Pierre said. "I'm not staying in my place. I'm going somewhere."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.