Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rain (finally) suspends Game 5

I'd say the umpires finally came to their senses in the bottom of the sixth, but apparently Bud Selig reserves the right to make decisions regarding the weather and the baseball game in playoff time, so that's not accurate.

So, apparently Bud Selig came out of his tryptophan-induced coma around the time BJ Upton scored, realized the field was rapidly turning into a marsh, and ordered the umpires to put the tarp on.

I wonder what the Amazing Bud would have done had Tampa not tied the game in the sixth? Let it go on? Call the game on account of rain and award the Championship to Philadelphia? How ridiculous would that have been?

FOX showed a photo of the weather system during the top of the sixth. You know, one of those pictures you see on the nightly news, where the rain systems is highlighted in green? Well, it showed a corridor of rain that stretched 50 miles across west to east, with Philly in the middle. It also showed the weather system extended at least 200 miles in a northeast/southwest direction. I can't believe there's no one in the commissioner's office with the brain capacity to type http://www.weather.com/ into a web browser and look at the weather forecast. Had they done that, they would have realized, BEFORE the game became an official one, that the weather would not support completing this game; and that once the rain began to fall, play could have been suspended in the top of the fifth, so if the game needed to be washed out entirely it could have been.

That would have been the sensible thing to do. But if baseball's taught us anything in this series, they don't do the sensible thing; witness Game 3 starting at 10pm EASTERN TIME and ending at 0147 am the following morning.

At some point MLB needs to pull its head out of its collective ass, realize that the weather in late October doesn't care about the new episode of HOUSE that airs every Tuesday night, and start scheduling these games during the day. So if there's an extended weather delay, there's some flexibility for starting it that doesn't match the start of Jay Leno's monologue.

Additionally, if I was the Players Association legal rep I'd complain to the league office about the potential for injury playing in those conditions presents. I remember quite distinctly watching a Cardinals/Cubs game, at Wrigley in 2003 (11 May 03 to be exact; the game was rained out eventually) where Eli Marrero severely sprained his right ankle on a ball hit to right in the muck. He missed over 3 months recovering from that injury. I can't believe MLB would risk serious injury to a player in their marquee event just because they need to get a game in and appease TV.

Now, let's turn our penetrating gaze to the umpires. I won't detail the number of blown calls in this World Series. I won't even get upset about that; umpires are human, although getting the Longoria tag on Rollins call wrong in Game 4 is unbelieveable. What I find particularly galling is the Umpire Collective Bargaining Agreement that Ken Rosenthal described during last night's telecast. According to him, the CBA mandates that (a) umpires can't work consecutive playoff series, and (b) umpires can't work consecutive World Series. All in the name of spreading the wealth, if you will; the union wanted to give more umpires a chance to work in the post season.

Which I find completely ridiculous. Here's why: baseball teams play 162 game schedule to get to this point. They eliminate 22 teams, then another 6 teams in 2 tiers of playoffs. Philly and Tampa have survived the crucible of fire to get to this point; why would MLB decide it makes sense to have a second (or third) tier umpire working this series?

Just look at some of the ball and strike calls from last night. Jeff Kellogg clearly called pitches strikes for Cole Hamels that he called balls for Scott Kazmir. CLEARLY. In one sequence, he called a 3-0 pitch to Navarro (4th inning, one on, 1 out) a strike that was at the very top of the strike zone, and a 3-1 pitch to Burrell (5th inning, one on, 0 out) in the exact same spot a ball. The only difference seemed to be the Navarro pitch was a fastball and the Burrell pitch a change up, but that shouldn't matter since they both crossed the strike zone at the same point. What the hell? The old adage is, I don't care if you're bad, but be consistent. Kellogg was bad and inconsistent. No wonder Kazmir left the mound after the first inning shaking his head.

If MLB wants to give more umpires experience working high leverage games in the post season, that's understandable. You have to train the new generation; having the same umpires work World Series after World Series until they retire isn't good for the health of the game. But, MLB owes it to the teams in the Series to have the best umpires working those games. So, I propose that they select the 4 best umpires to work the series, and use two other slots for younger umpires, who have excelled during the regular season, but haven't worked that many post season games.

This plan would require some sort of peer review during the season, evaluations of how well umpires are doing (calling balls/strike in accordance with the rule book, number of blown calls, number of overturned calls, etc; I'm sure the smart guys in NY could come up with appropriate metrics), as a way to differentiate the wheat from the chaff, and ensure MLB's marquee event doesn't turn into a farce. Hell, ask me nicely and I'll flesh out something. They need to do something, because this is, as I said before, completely ridiculous.

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