Suspense

Well, Bud, Fox, and Company averted a near-disaster scenario for Major League Baseball last night when BJ Upton somehow was able to steal second base and then score on Carlos Peña’s single, despite an infield dirt that had the look of a slip-and-slide. He was not safe by much, and had he not scored, MLB would been faced with three bad options:

    1. Slog through with already unplayable field conditions.
    2. Call the game, thereby handing the 2008 Championship to the Phillies with a 5-inning, 1-run game.
    3. Make an ad-hoc rule that even a game with a team in the lead after five innings is not “complete” if it is a World Series elimination game.

Not good choices.

It wound up as a suspended game due to the tie, and also due to a rules change just over a year ago. Prior to the recent change, stopping play part way through an inning would mean any change in the score in the top of that inning gets wiped out (i.e. officially it did not happen!). That would have put us at option 2, but by an even more unjust path.

It is remarkable that MLB has never before had a rain-shortened (or suspended) World Series game. This is a possibility that should have been addressed long ago with a simple rules change stating that any postseason game must go at least 9 innings, even if that means it has to be suspended (and even if one team leads after 5 innings).

Such a change is likely to happen now. It almost happened too late.

Somehow the Rays survived 6 brilliant innings by the best pitcher in this Series, Cole Hamels, and 4 less-than-brilliant innings by their own Scott Kazmir, to forge a tie and suspension. Whenever the weather permits a completion, the Rays once again have a fighting chance of sending the Series back to the dome in which they were 57-24 during the regular season (against 40-41 on the road).

0 thoughts on “Suspense

  1. A clarification on the rules changes regarding suspended games (though not materially affecting the point above):

    Prior to 1980, the rule in this situation said that if a game was called after the visiting team tied the score or went ahead, and the home team had not finished batting, the score would have reverted to what it was before the inning. The rule was changed after the Baltimore Orioles beat the visiting Yankees 3-0 on Aug. 13, 1978, when New York scored five runs in the top of the seventh only to have them wiped out because of the weather.

    Under the new rule, when the visiting team scored to tie or go ahead and the inning wasn’t completed, the game was suspended.

    If the Phillies had completed the sixth inning without scoring, it would have been an official tie game under the rule from 1980-2006 and would have been replayed from the start. But under the rule change made in November 2006, if that had happened now, it would have been a suspended game, too, because ties were eliminated starting with the 2007 season.

    (Thanks, Steve, for this item.)

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