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October 28, 2008

On the Beat

World Series Game Fi...

by John Perrotto

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PHILADELPHIA-Artificial turf has all but been eradicated from the game of baseball, and cookie-cutter stadiums are a thing of the past. Although that makes purists rejoice, ugly old Veterans Stadium would have looked pretty good on Monday night.

The Vet was legendary for rarely having a rainout. The rain could reach Biblical proportions, and all the grounds crew had to do was roll the automatic tarpaulin off the infield, run the water-sucking Zambonis across the outfield, and the home plate umpire could yell, "Play ball!" Play could even continue in heavy rain-as was the case when the Phillies won the decisive Game Four of the 1983 National League Championship Series over the Dodgers in a near-monsoon.

Veterans Stadium is gone however, so things were a lot more complicated for Commissioner Bud Selig and his umpiring crew as heavy rain began to fall in the fourth inning of Game Five of the World Series on Monday night and never let up. Finally, with puddles forming in the infield, fielders having trouble tracking pop-ups, and fly balls and footing becoming increasingly treacherous, the umpires called for a delay with the score tied 2-2 between the Rays and Phillies in the middle of the sixth inning. A half-hour later, Selig called for play to be suspended.

The first suspended game in the World Series' 105-year history will be resumed tonight-maybe-at the point where it was stopped. Rays manager Joe Maddon said Grant Balfour, who relieved starting pitcher Scott Kazmir in the fifth inning, would be on the mound when play resumes. The Phillies still had ace left-hander Cole Hamels in the game and did not reveal their pitching plans as manager Charlie Manuel, who was said by a team insider to be furious with the way Selig and the umpires handled the entire situation, was unavailable for comment. Most likely, one of the Phillies' set-up relievers, left-hander J.C. Romero or right-hander Ryan Madson, will take over.

The Phillies lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and need only one more victory to win the second World Series title in a 126-year history that includes being the only franchise in professional sports to lose 10,000 games. There is no guarantee the teams will be able to play tonight as the weather forecasts are not promising. Selig broadly hinted that play might not be resumed until Wednesday night. If that is the case, Games Six and Seven, if necessary, originally scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday nights in St. Petersburg, would each be pushed back a day, though there is talk that today's lost off day could be added before a Game Six.

"The game will be resumed when I believe that weather conditions are appropriate," Selig said. "While we're at the time of the year where ideal conditions don't always exist, I'm going to be very sensitive and thorough in at least making sure that we don't have a situation like we had." Selig said he consulted three weather services and the consensus was that a full nine innings could be played. "Given the weather forecast we had, and we had monitored it over and over again, we made the decision to play," Selig said. "Obviously, I made it with some significant trepidation, but had the forecast held we would have been OK."

A rule change enacted by Major League Baseball last year came into play Monday night that now allows a tied regulation game, stopped after at least five innings, to be suspended. Previously, a game called with the score tied in the fifth inning or later was declared a tie game and replayed in its entirety. Though the rain started falling in the fourth inning and quickly became heavy, the game was not stopped until the middle of the sixth after the Rays tied the game in the top of the inning against Hamels, who is 4-0 in five post-season starts. B.J. Upton singled with two outs, stole second, and scored on Carlos Pena's single to left.

While Selig and the umpires claimed the decision to suspend the game at that point was happenstance, there seemed to be a method to that madness. Selig admitted he would have delayed the game indefinitely rather than call a World Series game before it lasted the regulation nine innings. There has never been a World Series game that has not been played to a complete nine innings, though three have ended in ties. "That might have been a day or two or three or whatever," Selig said of a potential rain delay. "We might have celebrated Thanksgiving here if need be."

While the Phillies will have to wait at least a day to wrap up the title, and perhaps longer now that the Rays have been given a reprieve from losing in the first World Series appearance of their 11-year history, they handled the suspension well. "It's disappointing in the fact that you go home tonight with no resolution to anything but there's nothing you can do about the weather," Hamels said. "I felt like we were playing well and had a good chance to win. All we can do now is come back tomorrow, play three good innings, and try to wrap it up then. Our bullpen has been great all year. If they do the job, I like our chances of winning."

It is rather ironic that Game Five will come down to a battle of bullpens; the Rays (15.23) were first and the Phillies (15.01) were second in the major leagues in WXRL during the regular season. "It's going to be different than the normal game," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. "I know it's easy to say whichever bullpen pitches better is going to win, but it's not that cut and dried. Every game has a certain flow to it and that's gone now. It's almost like a re-start. It's hard to say what's going to happen."

Shane Victorino's two-run single for the Phillies in the first inning off of Kazmir opened the scoring, but those were the only runs the left-hander allowed despite walking six in four-plus innings. The Rays got a run in the fourth when Pena got his first hit of the series with a one-out double and Evan Longoria followed with his first hit of the series, an RBI single. The Rays tied it in the sixth when Upton stole his way into scoring position, though the footing was haphazard with puddles forming on infield dirt that would have been better characterized as "infield mud" by that point. The steal turned out to be huge when he scored on Pena's hit and averted what surely would have been, if Selig is to be believed, the longest rain delay in baseball history. "B.J. is on his own when it comes to stealing bases, and I was very proud of him right there, especially because of the way Hamels was working him, holding him on, doing a great job of making B.J. keep getting back to the bag," Maddon said. "The slide looked like some kind of finish of a horse race with the hooves kicking up the dirt and the mud at the same time."

Upton barely made it around third base without falling on his way home with the tying run. After Longoria flied out to center field, with Victorino fighting the rain to get a bead on the ball, the umpires pulled both teams off of the field. "The head groundskeeper here, Mike Boekholder, and his crew did a great job," umpire crew chief Tim Welke said. "They groomed the field every half-inning and were keeping up. Then the velocity of the rain made it such when we were playing in the top of the sixth that it became harder and harder. What we look for as umpires is the integrity of the mound and the batter's box, and that was never compromised. Guys weren't falling off the mound pitching and the hitters weren't slipping out of the box. So we felt comfortable going on until the velocity of the rain just made it so that Mike and crew couldn't keep up with keeping the field playable. So at that point, we had to stop."

The Rays had checked out of their downtown hotel before the game and had to scramble to find accommodations in Wilmington, Delaware, following the suspension. However, Maddon and the Rays, facing elimination, weren't upset with the stoppage. In fact, Maddon looked like a man who had received a stay of execution from the governor, knowing Hamels was out of the game. "It happens," Maddon said of rainouts and suspensions. "You know what? We're not going to complain about it. We talked about it before the game. That's how it played out. That's exactly how it played out."

The Phillies had every reason to be upset because they wound up burning their best pitcher. Hamels has a 1.80 ERA in 35 post-season innings. The only way he would be able to pitch again is if rain continues to pelt Philadelphia long enough that the series would wind up being extended until Saturday.

Even so, Phillies general manager Pat Gillick took the high road about how everything played out. "Well, naturally we're not happy that Hamels is out of the game, but one of the strengths of our ballclub is the bullpen," Gillick said. "Going into this evening, we thought we would get this ballgame in, but there was a change in the weather and unfortunately those things happen. So, we'll just have to go on from here, and go get them whenever we can play."

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

Related Content:  Rain Delay,  The Who,  The Call-up

15 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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sbnirish77

Bud says he wouldn't have let the game end in anything less than 9 innings. Based on post game comments, neither Joe Maddon nor Carlos Pena were aware of that. Ditto the announcers and TV audience.

Would we really be coming back today if the score was 10-2 last night? Is Bud just making up the rules of compitition as we go along? Did anybody else think that the rule book he had in his hand last night was really TV Guide so he could check Fox's programming for tonight?

Oct 28, 2008 05:25 AM
rating: 3
 
greenie55

I am not buying it Bud. I knew the when the tying run scored the tarp was coming out. Bud tries. But I think he is beholden to so many others he just doesn't think clearly.

I wonder at what point the Fox executive weighed in on the play/no play discussion? I can't imagine they didn't have a seat at the table.

Thankfully the game of baseball is too great for the modern day suits to ruin...good thing.

Oct 28, 2008 06:15 AM
rating: 3
 
Brian Oakchunas

I am confused about suspending the game. If the Rays had not scored and they suspended it to be continued, wouldn't the Phillies have filed a grievance saying that according to the rules, they should be declared the winners?

Oct 28, 2008 06:52 AM
rating: 0
 
hunter

Right, they wouldn't have been able to suspend it without the Phillies being the winners, which is why Selig talked about a 2 day rain delay. It's pretty serindipitous that Upton didn't get hosed at the plate and tied the game up instead.

And actually, considering how it had been pouring buckets for most of an hour at the time of that play, that's a darn good throw from Pat Burrell in left not to sling it over the catcher's head or into a dugout somewhere. Even as the TV angle showed him catch the ball a step before Upton hit the 3rd base bag, I instinctively wanted him to go for it because of the conditions (in addition to his running ability of course), because I didn't think there was a way in hell that Burrell'd get the ball to Ruiz anywhere close to in time.

Oct 28, 2008 07:12 AM
rating: 0
 
hunter

"So we felt comfortable going on until the velocity of the rain just made it so that Mike and crew couldn't keep up with keeping the field playable."

Yeah, because the actual speed at which a drop of water hurtles toward the earth is a factor. Just a pet peeve of mine, using sciency words with real definitions in incorrect ways.

Oct 28, 2008 07:09 AM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

I wondered if Bud actually considered returning the the Trop to play game 6 before game 5 was finished. Don't laugh - he was asked about moving rest of game 5 to another site. Anything is possible in the world of Bud.

Oct 28, 2008 07:12 AM
rating: 0
 
offbase99

The assertion that a suspended game would have to be declared a victory for the Phillies is not correct. Check the rules; they specifically state that "Optional Rules 4.12(a)(7), 4.12(a)(8) and 4.12(a)(9)" [the rules governing suspended and shortened games] DO NOT APPLY during the postseason.

Again, I hate Bud Selig too, but he's right on this one. (And how ridiculous would it be to gave the decisive game of the World Series called after 5 1/2 innings??!?)

Oct 28, 2008 07:29 AM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

The assertion is that not everyone knew the rules of competition during the 5th and 6th innings last night - and consequently had no real basis on which to make their decisions.

Maddon and Pena admitted as much after the game and the Fox announcers and audience were in the dark. I think even the announcers commented that Maddon should be out there asking for a stoppage, but might be afraid the game might never resume.

And if the umpires shared Bud's vision then they are even more in the wrong for allowing the game to continue in the 5th and 6th.

I really think the reason Bud didn't share his thoughts publically ahead of time is that it would have obligated a return today to finish any game today - even a 10-2 one.

Oct 28, 2008 08:34 AM
rating: 1
 
lbihced
(744)

Here's the problem from my end, a life long Phillies fan. Because of a rule change in 2007 ( who knew ?) the Rays top of the 6th counted and it would not have under the old rules. I think that gave Ray's an advantage and hurt the Phillies. I think that an inning under last nights conditions should be the same for both teams. In good weather would they Rays have scored the run?, would Rollins have caught the ball? Would Hamels have better control of the ball?, who knows but in A World Series game we shouldn't have to ask the question. The game should have been suspended after the botom of the 5th.

And by the way is there a worse spokeman for baseball than Bud Sleig? He was horrible in his post game explanation of this.

Oct 28, 2008 07:36 AM
rating: 1
 
sbnirish77

Given the repeated shielding of his eyes from the lights and hand behind the ear during the press conference, you have to wonder whether a person making this decison should at least have all 5 senses working

Oct 28, 2008 08:37 AM
rating: 0
 
papadopoulos
(452)

"In good weather would the Rays have scored the run? ... " If any of us had been in Carlos Pena's shoes in the sixth inning Monday night, we would have been very hard-pressed to say the weather conditions gave the advantage to the hitter. Two out, 2-2 count, you _think_ it's your team's last at-bat because the tarp could come out at any time and close the book on your season, the strike zone is effectively random, it's cold, it's raining, and the world's best pitcher this month is out there ... I don't think Pena's saying "aha, I've got him now."

Oct 28, 2008 09:30 AM
rating: 0
 
kenneff

It was game 4 in 1977 NLCS that was played in a driving rainstorm at the Vet. The Dodgers won 4-1 with Tommy John beating Carlton. The Vet surface notwithstanding, that game should not have been played either.

Oct 28, 2008 09:04 AM
rating: 0
 
bristol

I think Hamels would be able to pitch again on any day if the Phillies were desperate enough. Didn't Randy Johnson pitch back-to-back games in 2001? If it means winning the World Series, every pitcher should be available.

Oct 28, 2008 10:05 AM
rating: 0
 
leez34

So because it's tied, it can be suspended. If it weren't tied, it couldn't be suspended because it was an official game and the Phillies would be declared winners.

However, it is made clear that Upton avoided a long rain delay by scoring to tie the game. I'll ask the obvious question...what the $%^& is the difference between a suspension and a rain delay? As I see it, they are the same thing to the fans and players!

Oct 28, 2008 14:36 PM
rating: 0
 
ajmorriso

I don't understand why the game wasn't halted after 4. It seemed clear by radar that the rain was going to continue, certainly not a two hour break in there.

If we assume that the game was always going to be suspended, couldn't the game be suspended then instead of nine outs being played in brutal conditions?

Would a regular season game be played in those conditions? How can you possibly crown a champion in conditions that are unplayable from March thru September?

Oct 28, 2008 18:47 PM
rating: 0
 
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