The Washington Times - October 29, 2008, 05:58AM

The weather radar over the Northeast yesterday afternoon showed a swirling storm system stuck right over Philadelphia - its as if the weather gods were angry and taking it out on Major League Baseball. Or, maybe it was the baseball gods who were angry and taking it out on the culprits of Monday nights Game 5 disaster. Whatever it was, it was never-seen-before weird. Then again, so is what’s happening with Monday’s suspended Game 5, now in an unprecedented mid-game 48-hour delay. And Phans are thinking that the weather is not the only thing that has been weird about this……..

Can’t blame the Commish for putting Tuesday’s “re-start” off until Wednesday - after all, he has to be a little gun-shy when it comes to tempting Mother Nature. He had already embarrassed MLB enough in the past few days by starting one game after 10pm and starting another that never should have been started. There is something horribly wrong about a game of this magnitude that is started, then stopped like it was on Monday, then not resumed again for two days. Putting a critical potential World Series clinching game on hold in the sixth inning for two days has given MLB a black eye and subjected it to deserved scrutiny about just whose interests are being served here - certainly not the fans or the players who give this sport its life.

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With at least a two-day gap between innings, MLB will have to listen to the pundits question its motives and its decision-making. No one disagrees that a critical game must go a full 9 innings, but everyone agrees that a critical game should never be started in the first place if the conditions that threaten halting the game might also alter its outcome and risk injury to the players.

Who is to blame? It boils down to who knew what and when did they know it? Apparently MLB had agreed with team execs during the rain delay last Saturday that no game would be shortened by weather. Did the managers know this? Did the umpires know this? The Commish says that the managers and the umps agreed to try to get the game in. Hard to believe that Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel would risk losing Cole Hamels in a game that might have to be played in two parts.

Fans have to wonder why MLB and Fox are willing to delay the start of a game for a paid political message, but won’t move up the starting time if that might make the difference in beating nasty weather. After all - the Fox pre-game show is nearly 40 minutes long. Why not cut that out and give us baseball? Don’t make the excuse that the Phans would have trouble getting there early - these are not Southern California fans. These are Philly Phans - they have been waiting for this forever. Tell them when to come and they will be there.

Phillies Phans, on the verge of clinching the World Series with a win at home, will moan that they lost their ace after only 75 pitches, that the terrible weather compromised his ability to throw his out pitch (the change-up) and that hitters could just sit on his fastball and make contact. And the more balls put into play, the more vulnerable they were to misplays.  They will also say that their raucous crowd was neutralized by having to hide under plastic for most of the game.

Rays fans will argue that the poor weather affected their pitching and defense as well and that the poor field conditions limited their ability to play their speed game. And now, they are held captive in a city far from home to just sit around for two days and think about winning a 3-inning game, spotting the Phillies 3 extra outs - all this to try to bring the Series back home where they play baseball indoors and things like this don’t happen.

No matter how this series turns out, it seems destined to have an asterisk by it. No matter who wins, they will be credited as the beneficiary of the elements and the luster on the shiny trophy may be tarnished just a bit, through no fault of their own. Too bad, because these are two really great teams, who deserve better.