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Chicago Sun-Times

Thanks a lot, Obama.

Add the Affordable Care Act - specifically, the Cubs' response to it - to the causes behind the tarp fiasco Tuesday and the rare ­successful protest by the San Francisco Giants.

The staffing issues that hamstrung the grounds crew 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 ­seasonal workers, including much of the grounds crew, to fewer than 130 hours per month, according to numerous sources with direct knowledge of the situation.

That's the definition of a full-time worker under Obamacare, which requires that big businesses, such as a major-league team, provide health-care benefits to its employees.

''Cheap,'' said one of three high-ranking officials from other organizations the Sun-Times contacted Thursday, all of whom fall below the Cubs on Forbes' annual revenues list.

Speaking to the industry standard for grounds-crew staffing, all three officials said the video showed an apparently undermanned crew of 15 pulling the tarp on the first unsuccessful try.

''Embarrassing,'' one said, ''and they got caught.''

The Cubs played damage control on the issue Thursday, insisting staffing played no role in the problem and defending ''the best head groundskeeper in the business,'' as team spokesman Julian Green called widely respected Roger Baird.

That Baird and his grounds crew are better than most at their jobs and handled the situation as well as could be expected wasn't in dispute from anybody involved, from umpires to Cubs executives, other team officials, players and media. The issue is the short hand Baird was dealt by policies driven from the top of the business and stadium side of the operation, leading to a national embarrassment.

Sources say 10 crew members were sent home early by the bosses Tuesday with little, if any, input from the field-level supervisors. Green didn't dispute that, but he said that's common practice when the forecast calls for clear weather, as he claimed it did (contrary to several reports that day).

RELATED: Staffing Reductions Blamed for Cubs' Tuesday Tarp Fiasco

But sources say the protocol this season has changed dramatically since the offseason shakeup with game-day personnel in anticipation of the ACA taking effect.

''There have been organizational changes,'' Green acknowledged. ''Every organization, whether it's baseball or corporate, is always continuing to evaluate inefficiencies, and obviously that translates to ours. We're no different than any organization trying to gain efficiencies. However, our efforts to manage costs had nothing to do with the episode on Tuesday night.''

Multiple sources involved insist it had a direct and obvious impact, especially when compared to previous seasons.

No game-day employees would go on the record, they said, fearing reprisals - including possible firing - for talking with the media. Baird referred questions to Green.

One of the rival-team officials scoffed at the ''cost managing'' efforts in such critical game-management areas by a team ranked among the top five in the majors in revenues. All said their teams didn't make changes in their operations, regardless of the ACA.

''You get what you pay for,'' another said.

Green said that, even with the offseason changes, there ''was no line reduction in grounds crew/field-maintenance budget.''

But the people on the ground said the difference is clear. And even to take the chance of erring on the side of understaffing would seem to contradict chairman Tom Ricketts' mission statement of building ''the best organization in baseball.''

''We are always evaluating, as any organization, trying to balance cost efficiencies,'' Green said. ''But we're not going to do that at the expense of not making sure we can take care of Wrigley Field.''



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