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Maybe 105 years isn't long enough

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  October 29, 2008 04:00 PM

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The modern World Series began in 1903. There were rain issues. The field in Pittsburgh turned into a mini-lake if someone so much as spat upon it.

So Major League Baseball has had enough time to figure out a simple, orderly policy regarding how to handle a postseason game threatened by inclement weather or field conditions, wouldn't you think?

Apparently not.

I truly am stunned by what took place Monday night in Philadelphia. While we at home in front of our tellys were listening to MLB CEO Bob DuPuy explain to Fox reporter Chris Myers that the game would be "suspended" if called due to the monsoon that was drenching one and all at the ballpark, many people in the press box were operating under a very different assumption. We must conclude that no one told those folks that no matter what the Rays did in the top of the fifth the game would absolutely not be called and that, unlike regular season policy, the score would not revert back to the situation at the end of the fifth. Period.

So when Carlos Pena singled home B.J. Upton with the run that made it 2-2, there were many seasoned scribes who informed their readers that Pena had delivered a double-clutch hit, one that had both tied the score and saved the Rays from extinction. That was, of course, not the case. Even if Pena had popped to second, grounded to short, or whiffed, the game would be played to a conclusion, even after play was halted.

The miscommunication --- or non-communication --- was appalling, but the real issue was that this business had not been resolved decades ago. Shouldn't MLB (or its forerunner, Organized Baseball, or OB) have decreed, oh, say, 105 years ago that, unlike the regular season, every World Series game would be played to its conclusion? That would have covered it nicely.

Of course, until the other night, every World Series, League Championship Series and Division Series game had been played to a conclusion. And there have been games, such as Game 7 of the 1925 Series and Game 6 of the 1968 Series that probably should have been called and resumed the next day.

It's really not complicated. No one should have the slightest interest in seeing a postseason game not played to conclusion, be it an "elimination" or "clinching" game or not. How could this very vital matter have drifted along all these years without being resolved?

Now we're told a "change" actually was made since the end of the 2007 Series. We're further told that managers Charlie Manuel and Joe Maddon knew the circumstances, but neither chose to inform his players. I cannot imagine this happening in any other sport. I'm a baseball guy, but sometimes the sport moves in ways too mysterious for me to follow.

Should they have even begun Game 5? I guess that depends on whether you believe it when someone (like Commissioner Bud) says the reports were somewhat optimistic that they could get the game in before the rains came. Once they started, they were going to keep going as long as humanly possible. But was it really baseball, as it should be played in games deciding who will become the champion?

We can rail on about the wisdom of playing a World Series in a Northeast city at night in late October, and we can start kvetching about the fact that next year there is a scheduled November conclusion. Unfortunately, that horse left the barn a long time ago. But we can question the wisdom of people who, having righted a century-old wrong, neglected to tell everyone exactly what they had done.

Someone or other said a long time ago that baseball must be a great game to survive the people who run it. True then, true now.


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