MLB protests are generally empty gestures: a way for ticked-off teams to formally express their outrage before being completely ignored. But once in a rare while, just to keep things interesting, baseball will actually uphold a protest. And so what might appear at first glance to be a fairly standard 2-1 Cubs win over the Giants on Thursday afternoon was actually a historic occurrence: the first resumption of a game after a successful protest since July 16, 1986. What’s more, it was a rare feat that may have been overrun by spiders, but we’ll get to that later.
Protests used to be upheld at a rate of one or two of per decade, but it had been 28 years since the last one -- the longest such gap in modern MLB history. It takes something pretty egregious to force the game out of that kind of rut. Something like, say, Tuesday’s epic wrestling match between the Wrigley Field grounds crew and the infield tarp, won decisively by the tarp:
Because of that, what should have been a standard rain delay turned into a four hour and 34 minute wait and a suspended game that the Cubs ostensibly won, 2-0, after four-and-a-half innings. MLB executive vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre agreed with the Giants -- indeed, even the Cubs agreed -- that this was unfair, and so the game was restarted Thursday afternoon (after yet another rain delay) before the regularly scheduled night slate.
Granted, in the end this just meant the Giants lost 2-1 instead of 2-0, thanks to an ultimately meaningless Joe Panik RBI single, but it’s the principle of the thing. In the end, the time of the game was two hours fifty minutes -- plus six hours and thirty one minutes of rain delay, one of the longest on record. Incidentally, that last 1986 upheld protest was also prompted by a rain delay: a Cardinals-Pirates game was called before the necessary 30 minutes had passed, with the Cardinals leading, and the Pirates objected. Like the Giants a generation later, the Pirates added a run yet lost anyway, but at least they got their shot.
If the series hadn’t been interesting enough -- and for the record, the Thursday night finale was a comparatively mundane 5-3 Giants win -- it also took place while Wrigley Field played host to a spider infestation. And not little spiders, either. Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper said Wednesday that one landed on his shoulder and crawled down his collar. For more, we go to his colleague Dave Flemming -- the whole booth should be commended for not screaming in horror on air throughout the game, as would have been entirely justified, if maybe a little distracting to the fans watching at home:
Spiders are not currently grounds for protesting a Major League game, but they probably should be.
If this is the sort of thing the Wrigley Field grounds crew has to deal with on a regular basis, no wonder they flubbed the tarp the other night. It was probably full of spiders.