This Time, Selig Got It Right

Mark KriegelCorrespondent IOctober 28, 2008

Bud Selig did the right thing.

As unaccustomed as I am to writing those words, it's a fact.

"Tonight's game has been suspended," he told reporters shortly before midnight, ET. "It will be resumed when I believe that weather conditions are appropriate."

You think it should've been called an inning or so earlier? Like, maybe, after Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins dropped a pop fly? You have an argument, though nothing more than that.

You want to knock the commissioner for Game Three, for starting a championship event at 10:06 on the East Coast? Be my guest. Saturday's game wasn't just an embarrassment, but a warning that had to be heeded. This is what happens when you play a summer game in winter conditions. Selig might want to think about that, what with next year's World Series scheduled to go into November.

But as it concerns what happened on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park, the commissioner did the best he could with what he had. He was informed that the weather would be bad, but probably playable. He took that bet, as did the Phillies and the Rays, without complaint. Turns out, he lost. But on the fundamental issue—fairness, integrity of the game, whatever you want to call it—he did OK.

Whatever were to happen Monday, both teams had been assured beforehand that, no matter the weather conditions, the game would go nine innings. Whatever the score, Selig would have sent the game into indefinite rain-delay mode before calling it after five.

But let someone else lecture on the distinction between a "rain delay" and a "suspended game." That's not the issue.

"I would not have allowed the World Series to end that way," he said. "This was always going to be a nine-inning game."

He didn't commit to a bogus timetable for finishing the game, either. Tuesday's forecast is lousy. Wednesday's is even worse, with predictions of snow. "I don't want to speculate," he said. "But we're not going to resume until we have decent weather conditions."

In the fourth inning, Selig went down from his box to consult with the groundskeeper, who told him the field was holding up. He went down again in the fifth and spoke again with the groundskeeper and the umpire crew chief, Tim Welke.

"What we look for as umpires is the integrity of the mound and the batter's box, and that was never compromised," said Welke. "Guys weren't falling off the mound pitching, delivering, and the hitters weren't slipping out of the box. So we felt comfortable going."

But by the sixth inning, according to Selig and the umps, that was no longer the case, because of a shift in the swirling winds. All the Quick Dry clay in the world wasn't going to help.

Actually, the conditions had been dreadful for at least an inning. Rollins dropped the popup in the fifth. It says here he makes that play if not for the swirling rain. By then, the flags in center field had become heavy and slick with rain. People were drenched and cold. It was 45 degrees. In the bottom of the inning, Scott Kazmir left the game after walking the first two batters. His cleats were clogged with red clumps of mound mud.

It was wet for both teams, sure. And calling a game is not an exact science. Still, you wonder if the game should have been called before the sixth. It's an arguable point, especially if you're Jimmy Rollins. He booted a ball in the fifth and couldn't handle another ball hit by B.J. Upton in the next inning. Upton then stole second, and made it home on a single by Carlos Peña. Upton could see the tentative way Pat Burrell fielded the ball.

"I knew he couldn't charge it the way he wanted to and he knew I couldn't run the way I wanted to," said Upton, whose run tied the game.

You have to think that the Phillies are the losers here. After 25 years without a championship of any kind, this city was primed for a Bacchanalian coronation of new baseball heroes. Now the Phillies have lost at least some momentum, and more important, their best starter, Cole Hamels, who looked to be on his way to Series MVP honors.

"It hurts us because we lost Cole," said Phillies closer Brad Lidge. "And because of the way it ended..."

"My guess is if we stayed winning, they would have kept on playing... All of a sudden it was tied, and boom, the tarp came on. I don't know that for sure, but it just seemed like..."

Perhaps the conspiracy theorists will expand on that in the coming days. But for now, I think the commissioner did the best he could.

Still, there's one unanticipated benefit to Selig's decision. All of a sudden, people might actually start talking about this World Series.

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