Weather leaves Series fit to be tied
Off-target forecasts foil baseball's best-laid plans for Game 5
PHILADELPHIA -- Like much of the rest of life, what happened at Game 5 of the 2008 World Series can be summed up by a Bob Dylan lyric:
You don't need a weatherman
To know which way the wind blows.
Major League Baseball employs three weather services. For what happened at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night, the meteorologists went 0-for-3.
Relatively benign conditions were forecast: light rains, the kind of thing that would allow a potentially decisive Game 5 of the World Series to be played to its natural conclusion. Instead, heavier rains moved in and stayed in, eventually making the field unplayable.
With the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays tied at 2 after the top of the sixth, the game was suspended. It will be resumed, well, whenever the weather gets better. Much better.
The forecast for Tuesday and Tuesday night calls for equally crummy conditions: continuing rain accompanied by lower temperatures. Nice.
"We'll stay here if we have to celebrate Thanksgiving here," said Commissioner Bud Selig.
The game, he said, "will be resumed when I believe that the weather conditions are appropriate. We are not going to resume until we have decent weather conditions."
Taken literally, anyone familiar with the Philadelphia climate might believe that statement means that the game will be resumed next May. But that's not what the Commissioner meant. The short-term local forecasts are not at all good, but no one is calling for rainfall of Biblical proportions. We can get this game in before winter.
Nobody wanted it to end like this, or more precisely, be suspended like this. The World Series is supposed to be baseball's finest hour. What we had here was merely baseball's soggiest hour.
GAME 5 SUSPENSION
|Commissioner Selig cited rule 4.12(a)(6) in explaining the suspension of Game 5. According to the rule, enacted for the 2007 season, any official game halted with the score tied "shall become a suspended game that must be completed at a future date."
In this scenario, rule 4.12(c) for suspended games is enacted: "A suspended game shall be resumed at the exact point of suspension of the original game. The completion of a suspended game is a continuation of the original game. The lineup and batting order of both teams shall be exactly the same as the lineup and batting order at the moment of suspension, subject to the rules governing substitution. Any player may be replaced by a player who had not been in the game prior to the suspension. No player removed before the suspension may be returned to the lineup."
Prior to 1980, a game called due to inclement weather would have reverted back to the beginning of the inning, with the Phillies leading, 2-1, since Philadelphia did not bat in the bottom of the inning. In 1980, the "reverting back" was discontinued and the game was henceforth declared a suspended game. Rule 4.12(a)(6) was added after the 2006 season so that any game suspended after becoming official would be declared a suspended game. Therefore, Game 5 will resume with the score tied at 2.
You can blame the fates when something like this occurs. Or you can blame the meteorologists. The decision to play, Selig said, was based on a forecast for very light rain. "Had the forecast held, we would have been OK," he said.
"If I told you tonight what I think of meteorologists, and what they tell me may happen tomorrow -- " Selig said, choosing not to complete that thought in public.
Later, asked to name the three weather services used by Major League Baseball, the Commissioner declined. But even in his refusal to name names, Selig managed to work in another criticism.
"The interesting part is that they were all three optimistic tonight," he said. "I don't want to get into a discussion of weather services. I used to bang them enough when I ran the Brewers, so I'm not going to do that tonight."
Those of us who reported on Selig when he was president of the Milwaukee club, can testify that, yes, vehement complaints about incorrect weather forecasts were indeed a staple of Selig's presidency. It was subsequently no accident that Selig campaigned for more than a decade to get a retractable-roof ballpark for Milwaukee. What Selig wanted was a ballpark that was not only weather-proof, but weather-forecast-proof. Today, Miller Park stands in part as a tribute to Selig's distrust of weather forecasts.
As the evening wore on, it became apparent that the outcome of the World Series should not be decided in a quagmire. There were safety issues, and, as umpire Tim Tschida put it, "the game runs the risk of being comical. We never reached that point."
The best thing about Monday night, in retrospect, was that no one was seriously injured. The second best thing was that the 2-2 score meant that neither team had gained a substantial edge in the saturated conditions.
The Phillies got a bad break, because, unless we wait until Saturday for the Series to be resumed, their ace, Cole Hamels, will not be available. Hamels has been the best pitcher of this postseason, but he put in six innings on Monday night. Phillies general manager Pat Gillick was generous enough to point out that "one of the strengths of our club is the bullpen."
Game 5 paused as a tie, but the entire thing was sort of Mother Nature defeating the Phillies, the Rays, MLB and, of course, the weather persons.
As far as a Dylan reference wrapping up this whole thing, hardcore fans would suggest "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." True, that was the first Dylan song that came to mind. But I just didn't think that visions of civilization ending in nuclear fallout were needed for a game suspended by rain. True, it was a really big game suspended by rain, but this was not the end of the world. It was just another valid reminder of the thing about the weatherman and the wind.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.