Feb 4, 2009

Baseball's rain delays

Today in my sports business class, we talked about game delays -- all of the various reasons why sports teams have to delay games. Baseball deals with game delays the most frequently of any pro sport, because of the weather.

Wikipedia says:

"...teams will continue play in light to moderate rain but will suspend play if it is raining heavily or if there is standing water on the field. Games can also be delayed or canceled for other forms of inclement weather, or if the field is found to be unfit for play, and for other unusual causes (such as the spring training game that was canceled due to a swarm of bees)..."

Before a baseball game commences, unless it is the second game of a doubleheader, the manager of the home team is in charge of deciding whether or not the game should be delayed or canceled due to rain or other inclement weather (see Rule 3.10 of baseball's Official Rules). Once the home team manager hands his lineup card to the umpire shortly before the game is to begin, the umpire-in-chief has sole discretion to decide if a game should be delayed or canceled (see Rule 3.10 and Rule 4.01 of the Official Rules). This also applies to the second game of a doubleheader. Umpires are required by rule to wait at least 30 minutes to see if conditions improve; this is referred to as a rain delay and is not counted as part of the length of the game listed in the box score. In practice, umpires are encouraged to see that games are played if at all possible, and will sometimes wait as long as three hours before declaring a rainout.

If a game is rained out before play begins, it is rescheduled for a later date. If a game is called after play begins but before 4 1/2 innings have been completed (if the home team is ahead) or five innings have been completed (if the visitors are ahead or the game is tied), the game is not an official game. The umpire declares "No Game", the game is played in its entirety at a later date, and statistics compiled during the game are not counted. Games that are stopped after they become official games count in the standings (unless the game is tied, in which case it is continued at a later date, usually the next day), and statistics compiled during the game are counted.

Even with all of those rules, there can still be a lot of controversy, such as in the 2008 World Series. Sports Business Daily has a good wrap-up of the incident:

Selig, MLB Take Heat After Suspending World Series Game Five

Last night's Rays-Phillies World Series Game Five was suspended at 11:10pm ET after a 30-minute delay, with the score tied 2-2 in the middle of the sixth inning, making it the "first World Series game to start and not last at least nine innings," according to Tyler Kepner of the N.Y. TIMES.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said that "under no circumstances would the Phillies have won the game -- and the Series -- before the completion of nine innings." Selig indicated that he also "did not want the game or the Series decided in dangerous playing conditions, even though the game had started and the forecast calls for rain -- and even snow -- until Thursday." Selig: "I would not have allowed a World Series to end this way" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/28).

Selig said that he decided before rain-delayed Game Three "that if any World Series game were stopped, it would eventually be resumed no matter how long the 'rain delay' took." Selig said a shortened game is "not a way to end a World Series."

Selig: "I have enough authority here, frankly, so that I'm on very solid ground."

First base umpire Tim Tschida said that if the game had been a regular-season game, it "probably would have been called sooner." Tschida: "But it's not our call."

USA TODAY's Paul White notes it is "not known" when the game will resume, as "significant rain is forecast for today in Philadelphia, with Wednesday's forecast better." Selig said that it "will be played at night, the first time conditions permit."

Selig: "We'll stay here if we have to celebrate Thanksgiving here" (USA TODAY, 10/28). Rays President Matt Silverman said that the teams "were told before the game that Selig would use his powers to ensure that a full nine innings were played, however long it took" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/28).

NEXT STEPS: YAHOO SPORTS' Gordon Edes reports fans with tickets to last night's Game Five "will be able to use those tickets when the suspended game is restarted" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/28). Selig said the game will start at night because "the fans bought tickets for a night game, and it will be the same starting time, whether it's Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night or whenever." In Philadelphia, Joe Juliano reports due to the uncertainty around the resumption of the game, the dates for potential Games Six and Seven are "in a similar state of limbo." Selig's decision to start the game initially "could be widely second-guessed, as [well as] the insistence that the game continue despite field conditions that went distinctly downhill after the fourth inning." But second base umpire and crew chief Tim Welke said, "Guys weren't falling off the mound pitching and delivering, and the hitters weren't slipping out of the box. So we felt comfortable going. But due to the velocity of the rain, the grounds crew couldn't keep up with keeping the field" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/28).

Selig was "concerned enough" with the playing conditions he went to the field level in both the fourth and fifth innings. Both times he was "assured by the groundskeeper that field conditions were OK" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/28). Selig said of the decision to suspend the game, "It was difficult, but that's why I'm here. By the time this decision was made, we had covered every subject. These were circumstances beyond our control. When you have tough times that's why you have a Commissioner" (MLB.com, 10/28). Phillies GM Pat Gillick: "We thought we'd get the game in, but the weather changed." Selig: "You don't want to know what I think of meteorologists" (TORONTO SUN, 10/28).

LACKING A THOROUGH EXPLANATION: Selig insisted that he "informed both teams" of his plan to play the game nine innings regardless of the weather. But YAHOO SPORTS' Edes reports there were "lots of players in the Rays clubhouse -- including starting pitcher Scott Kazmir -- who said they had no idea." Kazmir: "I thought after five innings it was done and over and we don't continue the game." Edes notes "similar confusion reigned in the Phillies clubhouse." Phillies P Brad Lidge: "They didn't tell anyone" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/28). Rays 1B Carlos Pena: "I really did not believe that it would be possible [for the Phillies] to win a World Series like that. All of us were talking in the clubhouse. There's no way that could have happened. No way. In the World Series, you play nine innings" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/28).

ESPN’s Buster Olney said, "While I agree with the decision to try to start that game last night, I think (MLB) clearly missed the boat in trying to educate everybody. You had Joe Buck and Tim McCarver on last night’s broadcast talking about, ‘Boy, that run that the Rays scored in the 6th inning that ties the game might save the game for the Rays,’ when in fact that wasn’t the case at all. But no one knew that” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/28).

Fox' Buck said shortly after the game was delayed, "That run driven in with two outs saves in essence the Tampa Bay Rays from what could be the end of the World Series. If ... they hadn’t scored that tying run and they can’t resume play, the World Series is over” (Fox, 10/27). ESPN's Peter Gammons last night said, "The one great thing is that Tampa Bay did tie it up so that the Phillies weren’t awarded the World Series in a rain delay” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/27).

TEAMS NOT OVERLY PLEASED WITH CONDITIONS: MLB.com's Bryan Hoch notes players from both the Phillies and Rays were "not pleased by the suspended game, but understood given the conditions." Some players said that they were "surprised that the game even proceeded as far as it did, but understood the magnitude of the event on the whole." Rays LF Carl Crawford: "We kind of figured they were going to try to get the game in, so we just played until they told us to stop" (MLB.com, 10/28). Rays CF B.J. Upton said of the delay before the game was suspended, "You kind of wonder what's going on. You're talking about guys' careers over one game" (L.A. TIMES, 10/28). Phillies P Cole Hamels, who started the game, said, "They were the worst-case conditions to try to pitch in. It's something you don't train for." Phillies P Brett Myers, asked what is next, said, "How the hell are we supposed to know? [Selig] doesn't even know" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/28). In Philadelphia, Bob Ford reports Phillies manager Charlie Manuel did not speak to the media after the game because he reportedly was "too angry with baseball's handling" of the situation to "trust what he might say" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/28).

Another memorable professional sports "delay of game" happened in 1988 during the Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers. With the Oilers ahead 3-0 in the series, Game 4 was scheduled to be played in Boston.

SI.com: Ah, yes, the blackout. The teams were 37 minutes into Game 4 on May 24, the score was tied at 3-3, and on this night Boston looked capable of filching a game from Edmonton. Gretzky seemed merely human -- he had turned the puck over for Boston's second goal -- and the pea soup in the Boston Garden was proving to be a better equalizer than any meddlesome referee. Then suddenly, poof! A 4,000-volt switch overloaded, and the 59-year-old building went black.

Describing the blackout as "an act of God," NHL president John Ziegler said he could do nothing "but follow our bylaws." By that he meant NHL bylaw 27-12, which stipulates that in such an emergency the game must be replayed in its entirety at the end of the series, if necessary.
So the teams flew back to Edmonton, giving the Oilers home ice advantage again. The Oilers won the game and swept the series.

And finally we leave you with TSN's Top 10 Stadium Delays.

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