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Cubs deny grounds crew short-staffed because of effort to avoid Obamacare

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

You'll recall that on Wednesday night, the Giants-Cubs game was cut short because the Wrigley Field grounds crew was unable to secure the tarp in advance of a downpour. Here's how that went ...

The game was called in the fifth with the Cubs up 2-0, the Giants filed a successful protest, and then the game was completed on Thursday (CHC 2, SF 1), but only after another rain delay.

As for why the Cubs' grounds crew was unable to perform one of their most basic tasks, here's Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times:

The staffing issues that hamstrung the grounds crew Tuesday during a mad dash with the tarp under a sudden rainstorm were created in part by a wide-ranging reorganization last winter of game-day personnel, job descriptions and work limits designed to keep the seasonal workers – including much of the grounds crew – under 130 hours per month, according to numerous sources with direct knowledge.

That's the full-time worker definition under “Obamacare,” which requires employer-provided healthcare benefits for “big businesses” such as a major league team.

Speaking to the industry standard for grounds crew staffing, all three officials said the video of Tuesday's incident showed an apparently “undermanned” crew (of 15 pulling the tarp on the night's first unsuccessful try).

As for the Cubs, they're firmly denying that "Obamacare" had anything to do with the state of the grounds crew on Wednesday night. Here's what Cubs spokesman Julian Green told ESPN Chicago on Friday:

"The budget for grounds crew and maintenance has not been slashed. It is true there have been organizational changes to ensure the business operation is running efficiently. That's something every organization does whether you are in sports or corporate America.

"We are not going to make any personnel decisions at the expense of making sure that field is ready for play because that impacts the game itself and it impacts the fan experience."

I have not the slightest interest in holding forth on the Affordable Care Act in this forum, but if the Cubs were indeed making staffing cuts to the grounds crew, that's roundly ill-advised. If you need to trim the budget, you do it elsewhere. You don't winnow down the grounds crew when you call home a 100-year-old open-air ballpark in Chicago. Of course, the Cubs deny the grounds crew budget has been reduced, and since they're a privately held entity, there's no way to countervail those claims.

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