"In my own boorish way, I'm only suggesting that if you two gentlemen continue to work from a script with cues and stage directions, these proceedings take on all the dignity of a very bad Gilbert and Sullivan."
Senator Raymond Clark played by the great Edmond O'Brien in Seven Days in May
Baseball witnessed its first suspended World Series game tonight. The game went into rain delay after many stops and starts, with the score tied 2-2 in the middle of the sixth. It will resume presumably after forty days and forty nights and after Joe Maddon builds an ark that is 8 cubits long and 9 cubits wide, which he will of course pronounce square. The Phils get the ups in the bottom of the sixth when play does resume but unless that diluvial prediction comes true, Cole Hamels will no longer be the pitcher for the Phils.
There were three previous modern World Series games that ended in ties but they were all extra-inning games before the advent of lighted stadiums that resulted in replayed games. They were on October 8, 1907 with the Tigers and Cubs tied 3-3 in the twelfth; October 9, 1912 with the Red Sox and Giants tied 6-6 in the 11th; and October 5, 1922 with the Giants and Yankees tied 3-3 in the tenth. In the last game, umpire George Hildebrand called the game due to darkness even though the sun had not yet begun to set which outraged the local faithful and called for his head. In response, MLB donated the gate to local charities.
This, however, is the first suspended postseason game, and I just found it very curious how the umps and MLB orchestrated the game to end in a suspended tie. The game conditions were already getting embarrassingly hazardous in the fifth. Jimmy Rollins couldn't track down a routine Rocco Baldelli pop up to lead of the top half of the fifth but Baldelli was erased on a great double play started by Chase Utley. The Phils flied out three times with men at second and first in the bottom of the fifth and each play seemed like it could bust the game wide open with another rain-induced misplay. The inning ended with the Phils ahead 2-1.
Then with the camera becoming as glossy as a Liz Taylor White Diamonds commercial and two outs in the top of the sixth, Another slick ball eluded Rollins, this time a grounder off the bat of B.J. Upton. It ended up a single and Rollins may very well have not had a play had he fielded the ball cleanly. The game became tied as Carlos Pena singled to left and Pat Burrell gingerly tossed the ball toward home. After a Longoria fly out to end the inning, the umps delayed and finally suspended the game.
As I watched these same umps and their master, commissioner Bud Selig, a man who comes off just slightly more compassionate than Dick Cheney, dance around reporters in the postgame wake, I wondered how relieved they all were that the Rays had achieved a tie so that they could suspend the game cleanly. I wonder how long they would have let the farce of a game continue had the Phils retained the lead.
A perusal of the rules points to the problem. The general rule seems clear enough:
4.12 SUSPENDED GAMES.
(a) A game shall become a suspended game that must be completed at a future date if the game is terminated for any of the following reasons
(5) Weather, if a regulation game is called while an inning is in progress and before the inning is completed, and the visiting team has scored one or more runs to take the lead, and the home team has not retaken the lead; or
(6) It is a regulation game [4½ innings with the home team ahead, or 5 innings with the visiting club ahead or tied] that is called with the score tied.
Per the rules, the game could have been called at the top of the sixth after conditions had become unplayable with the Phils winning the game and a splashy title. You see, the rules set up for postseason games were just for games that had not yet become official:
(7) The game has not become a regulation game (4½ innings with the home team ahead, or 5 innings with the visiting club ahead or tied).
(8) If a game is suspended before it becomes a regulation game, and is continued prior to another regularly scheduled game, the regularly scheduled game will be limited to seven innings.
(9) If a game is suspended after it is a regulation game, and is continued prior to another regularly scheduled game, the regularly scheduled game will be a nine inning game.
EXCEPTION: Optional Rules 4.12(a)(7), 4.12(a)(8) and 4.12(a)(9) for National Association Leagues will not apply to the last scheduled game between the two teams during the championship season or league playoffs.
I expect that this rule will be expanded to accommodate suspended regulation games next year. However, with no rule to handle the situation, as Bud Selig alluded to later at the press conference, they were not prepared to award the Phils the crown without having played nine innings.
Ergo, the Rays tying the score in the sixth let the MLB off the hook. Now, if the Rays come back to win the Series, I wonder how MLB look back on what they wrought. Then again, the woefully poor umpiring throughout the Series (let alone the entire postseason) is embarrassment enough.