We've had closers and setup men, LOOGYs (lefty one out guys) and the occasional ROOGY. So it seems fitting that the commissioner presiding over baseball's era of extreme specialization also is most effective in a limited role.
In a decision that echoes back to the infamous tie at the 2002 All-Star Game, Selig suspended Game 5 of the World Series in the middle of the sixth inning on Monday night due to heavy rains. Early Tuesday afternoon, Major League Baseball announced that tonight's resumption of the game has been cancelled. This is the right decision under the circumstances, and MLB is correct to call it early, rather than get people to the park for no reason.
The logistics of staffing, stocking and filling the park for the remainder of the game may also require a bit more time, and this buys them that.
The effect on game play is unclear. Due to a rule change enacted for the 2007 season, the game will be resumed from the point of suspension, as opposed to being declared a tie and played from the beginning. Whenever play resumes, both teams will do so with completely clean bullpens. What we don't yet know is whether a potential Game Six would be played Thursday or Friday, and that knowledge may affect usage.
Pushing Games Six and Seven back would also open up the possibility that Philadelphia's
Now, let's start with the obvious: Monday night's game had to be stopped. The weather deteriorated rapidly starting around 9:30 p.m., and the last two half-innings were played in conditions completely unfit for baseball. That they played those innings speaks poorly for both the umpiring crew and the commissioner; had the game not been a World Series game, with the attendant attention from network executives, there is no chance that the teams would have taken the field for the top of the sixth. The problem with that, of course, is that a game of this importance should have a higher standard, not lower, for the conditions of play. For example, in the fifth,
If the weather won't let you call the infield fly rule, you shouldn't be playing an elimination game in the World Series.
Of course, had Selig and Tschida -- the commissioner has ultimate authority in the World Series -- elected to put the tarp on before the sixth, the prospect that it would never come off was apparent. By rule, a game called by rain after five complete innings (or 4 1/2 if the home team leads) is an official game, and the team leading is the victor.
After the game, Selig imperiously declared that he would simply not have allowed that. "We would have gone into a rain delay," he said, "and that rain delay would have lasted until, weather permitting, we could resume the game. And that might be a day or two or three or whatever."
It was never made explicit, but Selig, in his post-game answers, made it clear that he would have invoked the best-interests clause to prevent a World Series game from being declared over before nine innings were played. He's absolutely right about this. It is, yes, tearing up the rule book, but the postseason is not a game in June. Games should be played to their completion, and I suppose the only oddity is that we've never before had this situation arise, where a game perhaps would not have been played to its completion had circumstances fallen a certain way. Selig, correctly, and having discussed the situation Saturday and yesterday with both Rays president
So why play the top of the sixth? Selig, Tschida and umpire
When the Rays' scored, that allowed Selig to avoid invoking the best-interests clause. Unfortunately, it creates the impression that Selig wanted just that outcome, and allowed the game to continue just long enough to take him off the hook. That may be unfair, but there's no way to avoid that impression.
Starting the game was the right idea, as the forecast for the evening was for light rain, up to a quarter-inch, but nothing that would force a postponement. Selig's position that a World Series game must go the distance is also correct, and frankly, one I admire. The problem is simply the sixth inning, where Hamels was asked to pitch in a storm, in which the Phillies were asked to defend in one, and where the game changed, perhaps irreparably, when there was no chance it would be completed that evening. You can argue that both teams played in the same conditions. On the game-tying hit by Tampa Bay's
That is where things fall apart. Tschida is absolutely wrong about this. What happened last night was completely unfair to the Phillies. The line scores are not identical. The Rays have six numbers next to their name, the Phillies five. The Phillies had to pitch and play defense in the worst of the weather, and the Rays didn't. That aspect of last night, the timing of the decision to call the game in the context of what Selig said afterwards, is the big mistake.
As I mentioned yesterday, in the limited time I've been around him, I've grown to like Phillies manager
The decision to play the top of the sixth was the worst we've seen in a long time, and whether you choose to blame Tschida or Selig, the truth is that both are at fault. Their optimism about the field conditions and their faith in the Phillies' grounds crew is noble, but misplaced. The timing of their decision favored one participant over the other, and was an advantage that, in retrospect, did not need to be conferred.
Selig, in perhaps his most disingenuous moment of the entire press conference, said, "These fans obviously came and bought tickets for a night game, so they deserve to come back and see a night game." Right. Because the scheduling of World Series games is done taking into account, first and foremost, the convenience of the attendees. Because fans have demanded 8:30 local time starts for years. Because when World Series games are played in the Pacific time zone, MLB gives a rip about those people's work schedules.
The game will be a night game because Fox says so, and for Selig to sit there and say what he said insults everyone's intelligence. Just be honest and say that the game will be a night game because MLB doesn't control its own scheduling. As if the city of Philadelphia, and people holding tickets wouldn't be perfectly happy with a 7 p.m. start. Or 2 p.m. Or 9 a.m. That comment, to me, was the worst thing said last night, and goes a long way toward letting the world know who runs baseball.