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Thursday, September 29, 2011
Rain Delays and "the Integrity of the Pennant Race"

An interesting side-note from Wednesday night, which is becoming widely accepted as one of the best nights of baseball ever.

The Red Sox game against the Orioles in Baltimore was delayed by rain for about 90 minutes in the seventh inning with Boston leading 3-2. This is not an inordinately long delay, but it's much more than the minimum (30 minutes) required for the umpires to decide to call the game. If they had, the Red Sox would have won, and presumably would be in a one-game playoff with Tampa Bay for the AL wild-card spot. But the generally accepted practice is that a game that important should not be called because of "the integrity of the pennant race." (Most agree that if the game had been between two non-contenders, it would have been called.)

I am not saying the game should have been called (or that it shouldn't). But I don't agree that the integrity of the pennant race is best protected by changing the rules in the interest of the integrity of the pennant race. Much like basketball referees who swallow their whistle at the end of the game in the mistaken belief that they are allowing the players to determine the result, deciding not to enforce a rule is as much an example of referees determining the outcome as overzealously enforcing one. In either case, one team is given an advantage it wouldn't have at another point in the game or season.

In this example, it worked out well for the Orioles, and through them the Rays. And it worked out well for baseball, which had a much more interesting outcome than it would have with a rain-shortened game. (Although had Boston won there would have been a one-game playoff on Thursday.) I'm just not sure that having different rules for "important" games is something baseball should be promoting.


Very disappointing end of the great game.People are very excited about it but rains wash out all excitement and thrill.

Anonymous lincoln square chicago real estate -- 9/30/2011 6:27 AM  

Had the game been called - wouldn't Tampa Bay have had the right to protest it since it had playoff implications?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/01/2011 1:51 PM  

It seems to me the material differences between a basketball referee altering the way he calls a game during at the end and a baseball umpire using his discretion to allow teams to complete a full 9 inning game when the game has serious implications, are obvious and important.

"Swallowing the whistle" in the last few seconds fundamentally changes the way the game is played and called viz-a-viz the rest of the contest and the accepted standard. It also 'extrajudicial' in that there is no rule allowing for that behavior by referees. They are unilaterally, and without notice to the teams, deviating from an agree-upon norm.

In addition, baseball is intended to be played for nine innings. The purpose behind allowing a game to be called after 30 minutes is a practical one,dealing with the realities of travel, vagaries of weather, etc. It makes sense that umpires would weigh factors such as the importance of the game, whether the rain is expected to let up, the team's travel schedules, etc. in deciding whether to exercise discretion to call a game or wait for better weather. In this respect, the 30 min rule is nothing like the rule that slapping a shooter on the wrist during his shot is a foul.

Finally, swallowing the whistle arguably does nothing to further the ostensible goal of "letting the players decide the game." Making sure a full nine innings are played whenever possible, however, does.

Blogger Dave -- 10/05/2011 12:12 PM  

If I remember correctly, if this is the last time the visiting team comes to town the umpires can wait as long as possible to get the game in; this is a common practice especially if the game has playoff implications as the Baltimore/Boston game did. As this is an AL city, the 1AM cufew rule wold apply (any inning started before 1AM local time can be played to completion), but as this is the last game of the regular season there would have been no way to reschedule. Declaring the game over would have also violated baseball rules since the home team (Baltimore) had NOT batted in the bottom of the inning, and Boston was ahead at the time.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/05/2011 5:35 PM  

It also 'extrajudicial' in that there is no rule allowing for that behavior by referees. They are unilaterally, and without notice to the teams, deviating from an agree-upon norm.

Anonymous sports good -- 10/12/2011 1:16 AM  

What's done is done. :)

Anonymous Sport -- 10/22/2011 10:05 AM  

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