Pennant races provide no rest for the weary. Just ask the Baltimore Orioles. After landing in Tampa during the wee small hours of the morning, Buck Showalter’s birds had to play a very big game against the Rays. Make that two games.
In the span of 24 hours, the Orioles went from staggering off a plane to stumbling off the field, the victims of a walk-off defeat in the bottom of the 18th inning. It took nearly seven hours for the outcome to be decided, but by the time the Baltimore players finally hit their pillows, it must have seemed like seven days. Fortunately for Showalter, his team won’t have much time to dwell on their exhaustion. With an afternoon game today, the Orioles are facing another early wake-up call.
If the Orioles lose out to the Rays for the wild card, last night’s game will probably stick in their craw. However, all’s fair during a 162-game schedule. Or is it? The Cleveland Indians might not be able to answer that question with a straight face.
The Indians were holding onto a slim 2-1 lead over the Astros when the skies opened up in Cleveland. Considering the closeness of the game, not to mention its playoff implications, the Indians seemed headed on their own long journey into night, but crew chief Dale Scott had other ideas. After a delay of only one hour and nine minutes, the game was called and the Indians were awarded a crucial victory. Without having to defend the last two innings, Cleveland leap-frogged over Texas into sole possession of the second wild card slot.
Why did Scott decide to call the game so early? Did he make the decision on his own, or did he consult the commissioner’s office (late season postponements have traditionally been coordinated with the league)? You can bet there are at least five other American League teams that would like some answers, chief among them being the Royals and Rays. Not only are both teams battling the Indians for a wild card slot, but each had to endure extremely lengthy rain delays at Progressive Field this season. Why didn’t Scott and his crew wait as long this time around? So far, an explanation has not been forthcoming.
If Scott had waited longer, would the game have been able to resume? According to weather.com, skies were fair in Cleveland around midnight, just about the time the Rays and Orioles were settling in for their second seventh inning stretch. If the game could have been played, it makes Scott’s decision unconscionable, but even if there was an angry storm cloud still hovering over Progressive Field, it behooved Scott to wait as long as possible. And, if the crew chief was unaware of the playoff implications, it was Bud Selig’s responsibility to remind him.
Nothing can be done about the Scott’s decision now, but at the very least, baseball needs to readdress how it handles rain shortened games. After weather disrupted the 2008 postseason, MLB decided to suspend all playoff games shortened by delay, regardless of inning and score. Perhaps, it’s time for the same rule to be applied to the regular season? Or, at the very least, every official game should be suspended, not abbreviated, when a delay prevents the resumption of play. If fairness matters in October, it should also be a concern during the regular season. In the meantime, Selig and Scott had better hope the Indians don’t win the wild card by only one game. Otherwise, their combined incompetence could go down in postseason infamy.