This needs to be fixed before October
I think they're likely to work out a deal for the postseason. They worked something out for the Sunday Night ESPN game against the Phillies back in May, after all (an announcement was made during the game that they'd extended service for one hour, this after they originally said they would not pay to keep the trains running). Last night was also unusual because it wasn't just a long extra-innings affair—you also had the 56-minute rain delay that pushed the game's start notably later.
The problem during the regular season for baseball is the economics of the situation. The team has to put up a $29,500 deposit per game to keep the Metro open; afterwards, the amount will be adjusted to account for whatever revenue WMATA takes in from fares during the extended hour(s). The amount they actually take in is usually quite low
Back in May originally the Nationals weren't going to keep the Metro open if the Sunday game ran late but they changed their mind. A lot of the publicity had to do with the Capitals paying to keep the trains running during the three-overtime game a few nights earlier. But I think there's a sound economic reason to distinguish between playoff hockey (or playoff baseball, for that matter) and regular-season baseball.
That is, start with the given principle that WMATA will bill the organization that wants the subway kept open late. The Nationals play 81 home games. Any of them can go deep into extra innings and run past midnight. The Caps play 41 regular-season home games and none of them go past midnight. I suppose theoretically it's possible for a shootout to go that long, but it's never happened anywhere in the NHL and it's highly unlikely it ever will because it would mean something like at least six full trips through each team's full lineup, maybe more. I believe the longest shootout ever is still that Caps v. Rangers 15-rounder from November 2005. That leaves the Caps' playoff games. There are a maximum of 16 home playoff games in any given year (12 this year had they made the Finals) and statistically there's only a six percent chance of a game going beyond the second overtime (which would require a 1 AM closing) and a 1.7 percent chance of a game going beyond the third overtime (which would require a 2 AM closing).
I suppose in each case you have to account for Friday and Saturday games since Metrorail runs later on those days (3:00 AM closing), but for discussion purposes it's easier just to assume the system closes at midnight. What it means from a practical standpoint is that from a budgeting standpoint it probably makes more sense for the Caps to be prepared to pony up the $29,500 on any given playoff night than it does for the Nats during the regular season, especially given the relative importance of playoff games versus most regular-season games. It's also fair to consider whether paying to extend Metrorail's hours might set a precedent such that people come to expect it in the future. I certainly understand how a baseball club might be warier of setting that precedent than a hockey club.
Similarly, it's not an issue for the Redskins because their games are typically on Sunday afternoon except for preseason and maybe a very few regular-season games. The preseason games are usually on Friday or Saturday (not always, but usually), so there's no Metro issue due to the late closing. The regular-season games are known well in advance and they can budget for them—that is, it's not a situation of never knowing on any given night whether this might pose an issue. DC United doesn't face an issue because there's no overtime except in the playoffs. The Marine Corps Marathon pays to open the subway early, but again, that's once a year and it's easy to make it part of the budget.
I am certain the Nationals will agree to come up with the money to keep the system running late during the postseason, given that they ultimately agreed to do so back in May. It's a very small universe of games and the potential for a PR backlash is a lot stronger in the postseason than it is in May.
I did find some of the comments in the WTOP article amusing, though. It's not like it's a secret that Metrorail closes at midnight. It's been that way FOR OVER THIRTY YEARS!!!! The one guy in the article says he heard the announcement that the trains would not run late but he decided to stay and watch the game anyway. Well, if that's true, then what's he complaining about??? Seems to me it's his own fault he got stuck!
On the other hand, I also recognize that there's a valid point to the idea that the team and the city have pushed people to take the subway to games and a lot of people drank that Kool-Aid. If you're going to push people to use the subway, then there's something to the idea that you should make sure it's available afterwards.
.....all of it makes me glad I drive when we go to games.
Edited to add: A little research unearthed some more data. Back in May when the Nationals paid to keep the subway open for that Phillies game, WMATA generated $1,611 of fare revenue for 445 passengers who used the subway after midnight. So the Nationals paid over $62 per fan to keep the subway open late that night (($29,500 – $1,611)/445 = $62.67 per passenger). The other thing is that a contract has to be signed, and the $29,500 deposit has to be paid, in advance
. Nationals management can't just call up WMATA and say, "Uh, crap, we had a rain delay and now extra innings, keep it open for us, will you?"