One of the strangest World Series in recent memory certainly got a lot stranger Monday night, as rain forced Game 5 to be suspended in the bottom of the 6th inning with the score tied 2-2 between the Phillies and Rays. Understandably, there are some upset people, and members of the Philly media have already weighed in, arguing that the game never should have been started in the first place.
I will fully disclose here that I am a lifelong Phillies fan, and truly believed that Monday night’s game would mark the end of the city’s 25-year championship drought. So I’m feeling a bit bummed, but at this point am simply more curious how this will all play out, with rain forecast again for Tuesday night.
I’m not sure there’s any scenario that would have made everyone happy. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was probably in a no-win situation, though he scores no points for stumbling his way through yet another hastily called press conference. He may also want a refund on those so-called premium weather services the league subscribes to.
Since there’s going to be a lot of “shoulda coulda” from fans, particularly in Philly, lets run down the options that Selig had Monday night.
Option #1: Continue playing.
No way. The field was a sea of mud and the rain made fly balls too much of an adventure.
Option #2: Don’t even start play.
In hindsight, this would have been the most sensible option and arguably the most fair and fan-friendly. But at 8:30 p.m. last night, it was barely raining. As a general rule, baseball games don’t get postponed when conditions are fine at the outset. And according to Selig, weather forecasts did not call for the kind of heavy rain and wind that we saw around the 5th and 6th innings. Maybe he misjudged things, but it was reasonable for baseball to want to try and get the game played, and the game started with the blessing of both Rays and Phillies officials and the players. A postponement is a logistical hassle for everyone involved, and imagine the outrage from fans if the game was called and the weather remained relatively favorable.
There’s another consideration, too, which is that Tuesday’s weather forecast isn’t positive, either. Surely, baseball was trying to avoid the possibility of two straight postponements.
Option #3: Suspend the game earlier.
Conditions on the field looked like they were starting to deteriorate around the 5th inning. There were several wind-blown pop-ups that created all kinds of trouble for fielders, including one that Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins dropped. There’s a valid argument to be made that the game should have been stopped at this point. But would that have changed anything?
From the Phillies perspective, an earlier stoppage would have meant they’d be sitting on a 2-1 lead. But, it would also have meant that ace pitcher Cole Hamels would have been out of the game before the 6th inning. So it’s likely we’d be hearing complaints from Phillies fans either way. That said, from MLB‘s perspective, calling the game during or after the 5th would have at least removed the appearance that the league was waiting for the Rays to tie the game. Because the Rays tied it in the top of the 6th, Selig does not have to defend a decision to suspend a game that, technically under the rules, would have been a win for the Phillies.
Option #4: Start the Game Earlier
The weather was slightly better earlier in the evening. If the game had started at around 7 p.m., they might have been able to finish. But rightly or wrongly, broadcaster Fox probably would have fought such a change because an earlier game would have hurt ratings. What’s more, a decision to move the game could not have been made at the last second; you can’t inform 47,000 fans about a change in start time on just a few hours notice.