Owners to decide on two rule changes
Postseason rainouts, one-game tiebreakers on the docket at meetings
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Two significant rule changes affecting the postseason and one-game tiebreakers are on the docket for the first quarterly meetings of the 30 Major League Baseball owners or their representatives to be staged on Wednesday and Thursday.The first involves codifying the rainout rule that was interpreted by Commissioner Bud Selig to extend Game 5 of last year's World Series won by the Phillies over the Rays. The second would establish a new procedure to determine which team would host a one-game playoff for a division title or Wild Card berth if both are tied with identical records at the end of the regular season. Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, said on Monday that both will be action items for the owners to approve at their joint meeting on Thursday. "Both of them are ready for the owners to look at," Solomon said in a telephone interview with MLB.com. "We've been working hard on them the last few months." The fate of the sale of the Cubs, an ongoing saga for nearly two years, is not expected to be aired at these meetings. Because of a pending bankruptcy reorganization filed by the Tribune Co. in December, a deadline for final bids was extended by the Cubs at the end of last week. The Cubs must submit a buyer to MLB's ownership committee before the process can begin. Selig wouldn't let pouring rain end Game 5 of the World Series between the Rays and Phillies at Citizens Bank Park this past October. Just after the Rays tied the score at two in the top of the sixth inning, umpires halted play and the game ultimately was suspended for 46 hours. The Phillies won the game, 3-2, and the series after it resumed in the bottom of the sixth two days later. Under existing baseball rules, games are supposed to be official as soon as the team trailing records 15 outs. If the game is canceled by weather after a prescribed waiting period, the team in the lead at or after that juncture is declared the winner. Selig used rules governing suspended games at the time, but said had it been stopped with the Phillies leading, 2-1, in the fifth, the game would have gone into a rain delay until it was safe to resume. "We'll stay here if we have to celebrate Thanksgiving here," he said. After the last owners' meetings in New York in November, Selig said he told the owners that his interpretation of the rule would be codified. "All postseason games and All-Star Games will be full-length affairs, and the rule will be so written," Selig said, adding that the rule would also apply to tiebreaker games that decide division titles and Wild Card berths. "Any game that has significance for the postseason," Selig said. "It will be very clear now. Everybody will know exactly." Whether the rule will be applied to All-Star Games is something that will be determined this week. As far as the other rule is concerned, MLB's general managers would like something other than coin flips to determine who hosts one-game tiebreakers, and at the GM Meetings in November, they asked Solomon to come up with an alternative. He did and presented the change at the Winter Meetings to the GMs, who approved it. The custom has always been to flip a coin several weeks before the possible game to determine which team might host. But now teams would rather have it based on head-to-head records, records within division play, etc. "Most people in the room kind of agreed with that," Solomon said at the time. There have been only eight one-game playoffs for a postseason spot in Major League history, and seven of them since 1969, when the multi-tiered playoff format went into existence. Two have been from the last two seasons. In 2007, the Padres lost the flip and had to travel to Colorado, where they lost the National League Wild Card berth to the Rockies, 9-8, in 13 innings. This year, the Twins lost the flip and went to Chicago, where the White Sox defeated them, 1-0, to win the American League Central. The White Sox had to play a game rained out earlier in September at home against the Tigers on the Monday after the last day of the regular season to force the playoff game against the Twins. They won, and then defeated the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday night. The White Sox actually had a 9-10 record against the Twins this past season and would've had to go to Minneapolis to play that game had head-to-head records been the first criterion. The Twins made it clear they were displeased that they had to travel after winning the season series. The matter should be resolved this week when coin flips make way to head-to-head records as the first tiebreaker.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.