- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Every cloud has a silver lining, as they say - even the cloud that has rained on baseball’s marquee event.

Where is the silver lining?

In Wilmington, Del., for the local Chamber of Commerce.

The Tampa Bay Rays, down 3-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, checked out of their Philadelphia hotel before Game 5 started Monday night at Citizens Bank Park.

When the game was suspended in the middle of the sixth inning - to be picked up again in Philadelphia - because of horrible weather conditions, the Rays had no place to stay.

They wound up in Wilmington, a half-hour south of Philadelphia. On Tuesday, after baseball determined that horrible conditions would prevent play from resuming that night, Rays manager Joe Maddon sang the praises of the Hotel DuPont in the Class A baseball town.

“Quite frankly it’s one of the nicest hotels we’ve stayed in all year,” Maddon said at a news conference. “If you’re going to have to have a postponement, you might as well stay here. We haven’t got out in the town yet - obviously that would be very difficult; the weather is kind of nasty here, too - but great place. People have treated us wonderfully, and again, we’ll get out and walk around a bit if the wind dies down.

“It’s a magnificent hotel,” he said. “I believe it was built one year prior to Fenway Park, actually, and walking through the downstairs lobby, it’s one of those old-fashioned, well-kept, actually magnificent European units.”

Wow. Maybe they can resume Game 5 at Frawley Stadium - home of the Wilmington Blue Rocks and a ballpark named after William Frawley, the actor who played Fred Mertz on “I Love Lucy.”

(Not really. The stadium is named for Daniel Frawley, a former mayor of Wilmington. But this series aptly could be played in a ballpark named for an actor from “I Love Lucy” since it has become a television sitcom.)

It really is the same old story: television paying big bucks to dictate the terms of what used to be the Fall Classic. It may go as far back as 1971, the year of the first night World Series game. It has been downhill since, a slide hastened by the addition of division series play - another postseason round pushing the Series toward November.

The World Series starts too late in the season, and the games start too late at night. Commissioner Bud Selig can change the rules to suspend a game at a moment’s notice, as he did Monday night, but he is not willing to battle television executives for the good of the game.

Such a battle would cost him money, but it also would display vision for the long-term health of a game that year after year fights to remain relevant to a younger generation of sports fans.

This series is one more piece of evidence that the league championship series has become a better event than the World Series. The LCS contests are now played at the same time the World Series used to be.

In 1993, the last season there was no division series play, the World Series ended Oct. 23. The earliest the 2008 series can end is six days later. In a month like October, one week can be the difference between reasonable fall weather and the cold, snowy, raw weather in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

What is pathetically funny is that Game 5 might get the best ratings yet when it resumes because, with all the furor over the suspended game, people finally know the World Series is going on. And instead of looking at a midnight end, the game could be over by 10 p.m. if one team breaks the 2-2 lead sometime between the bottom of the sixth inning and the ninth.

Heck, it’s a shootout.

When asked whether he believed baseball should just restart Game 5 from scratch, Maddon, whose season could end in just 3 1/2 innings, said, “I’m not going to lament the fact that we should go back to zero, the first inning. I’m just dealing with the reality of it. Reality is this is what we’ve got. This is how it’s going to be played out. Obviously if we win we’re going to be very happy about it. If we don’t, somebody is going to say we should have gone back to the beginning. …

“This is what we have in front of us. We know that. They know that. We’re going to play and see what happens.”

A 3 1/2 inning game? It could catch on.

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