Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Making a Travesty of the Game

From the Major League Baseball(tm) rule book:

Rule 7.08 Any runner is out when:

(i) After he has acquired legal possession of a base, he runs the bases in reverse order for the purpose of confusing the defense or making a travesty of the game. The umpire shall immediately call “Time” and declare the runner out;
The real travesty is what occurred in Philadelphia last night, in what was billed as Game 5 of something called the "World Series." As far as I can tell, very little "baseball" was played in Philadelphia last night. Somebody needed to call "Time" and declare the travesty over much earlier than was done.

All my life, I've adored the World Series for its ideals: two teams from each league who had survived victorious after a 162-game regular season and various playoff games would square off in a best-of-7 series to crown the world's best in baseball. For teams to get this far requires skill, consistency, healthy players, and a winning momentum.

Baseball requires fair, dry weather to play. Why is this so hard to figure out? The season starts in April and ends at the end of October, with snow and cold weather possible at both ends. Cold and wet weather is bad for baseball because it requires throwing a leather ball at high speeds and playing on a field with lots of dirt. As we know, leather becomes very slippery when wet and dirt turns to mud in the rain.

So here we have the two best teams, in potentially the last game of the series, playing in conditions which would be considered obscene by anyone familiar with the game. (You can review the gory details on mlb.com.) As someone who has umpired many games at the youth level, I know it doesn't take much rain before the safety of the players becomes a concern. As a responsible official, you are expected to suspend play until the conditions allow safe play.

So, last night in Philadelphia, why wouldn't the umpires call the game after it became obvious that play was impossible? Two big reasons: Bud Selig ("the Commish") and Fox Sports. I guess Bud can't read weather radar, because it was obvious after the second inning that the rain was going to get worse. "Never mind! Play on!" And I'm convinced that Fox did not want to see the game postponed until Tuesday, an official travel day, because it would have reamed their Tuesday night prime time schedule. Sucks to be them.

Once the game became "official" after the required 4-1/2 innings, it was clear that Bud would allow this joke to continue as long as necessary until the Rays tied the game (Thank God they did) or the Phillies won out. No, wait! Bud was going to instantly change the rules so that if they had to postpone the game with the Phillies ahead, Bud would declare that the game was not "official." Ooo, let's change the rules on the fly! I'm the Commish! Another travesty!

So, as luck would have it for all parties, (a) Bud saved face by not having to change the rules, (b) Fox is still happy because they won't finish the game until Wednesday, and (c) none of the players were seriously injured on Monday night.

It's time for Bud to step down and let someone run the game who actually cares about the integrity of the game. The sorry images I'm left with after last night will take a long time to erase. What a shame for the game.

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