Changes Needed

The MLB should rethink the rules for potential shortened games in the postseason, says Tyler Hissey.

Update: I wrote this post right after the game was delayed following the top of the sixth inning, unaware that Bud Selig had already determined the game would be played in its entirety, regardless of the current rulebook. With his power, he decided it was in the best interest for the integrity of the game, telling the Phillies and Rays about the decision after speaking with representatives from each club on Saturday. However, he simply changed the rules on the fly, and even the announcers on the Fox broadcast were unaware of this decision. Thinking ahead, changing the rule seems like a no-brainer.

Major League Baseball is an industry that is slow to adapt change.

In fact, it was practically shocking when Commissioner Bud Selig decided to allow the use of instant replay on home run calls earlier this season.

Yet again, though, change is necessary—as we learned in Game 5 of the World Series.

If the Tampa Bay Rays had not tied the game up at 2-all in the sixth inning tonight, the Philadelphia Phillies may already be celebrating their first championship since 1980. Since the game was official, the Phillies would have won the shortened game if the game had been called due to the weather.

With the rain coming down in bunches, this was a likely scenario—a potential Phillies' celebration after only 18 outs.

This, of course, would have a bad thing for everyone involved. The Rays, who certainly have not played well all series, would have felt cheated, as would their fans.

On the flip side, if they had scored again in that frame to take a 3-2 lead, and then shut the Phillies down in the bottom half to take the game (and eventually the series), the city of Philadelphia might have actually burned to the ground.

As a torrential downpour turned the playing conditions into almost a joke, though, Carlos Pena knocked in the speedy B.J. Upton with a line drive single to left field. Pena, who delivered a double earlier in the game, was 0-for-the-series coming into the night. He delivered when it counted, helping to prevent a potential disaster of colossal proportions for the sport.

Which must have provided a huge sigh of relief for Commissioner Bud Selig and the MLB.

The game is suspended until tomorrow now, and will pick up with the Phillies coming to bat in the bottom half of the sixth inning.

If the Rays had not scored, however, odds are the game would have continued.

This is why, in my opinion, Major League Baseball should adjust the rulebook. During the regular season, the score should stand if the game is called early due to inclement weather. But when it comes to the postseason, all games should be played in their entirety, a full nine innings, even if that means the game has to be suspended until another day.

This way, the game could have been suspended earlier tonight—as Upton, or any other player could have been seriously injured while running on the base paths or out in the field—even before the Rays had tied it up.

It is not exactly asking for a lot. Heck, I am not calling for robots to call balls and strikes, even though this would perhaps be more effective than the current system in place (just ask a one Mr. Scott Kazmir, who was squeezed all night.)

Selig and MLB barely escaped a potential public relations disaster tonight, the equivalent of a mediocre pitcher getting out of a no-outs, bases-loaded jam with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell coming up.

Things truly could have gotten ugly.

If the game was called and the Phillies won in five, the Commissioner would have never heard the end of it, sports talk radio hosts from St. Petersburg to Orlando would have played the "What if?" game for weeks and the term "asterik" might have entered the conversation.

Plus, the Phillies have outplayed their opponent to this point, thanks to surprisingly solid outings from Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton in the previous two games in Philadelphia. Would they want to win like that? Hey, if the game was called after a delay, that could have been the first time in history that the winning team did not get to celebrate their title on the field, after making the final out or producing a walk-off base hit.

How weird would that have been?

Thinking ahead for the future, Selig should never allow a situation like this to happen again. Instead, he needs to prevent the first three hypothetical runners from getting on base, changing the rule before the start of the 2009 season.

To reach Tyler Hissey, send an email to TylerHissey@gmail.com.

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