Nothing is sacred in sports anymore. So who’d be surprised if the scheduled resumption of Game 5 of the World Series tonight got the powers that be in baseball to think about fundamental rules changes?
1. Why not just play in the rain?
The only real argument against this is: Baseball has a tradition of rainouts.
Sure, games in lousy weather suck for spectators and players.
But baseball, like all pro sports, stopped being about the fans at the venue a long time ago. There used to be a payback for the local fans after rainouts: a double-header was coming. Owners no longer offer the two-for-one games; for greedy purposes, the old twi-night doubleheaders were ditched for day/night combos requiring separate admissions, parking, etc. And, as we saw Saturday night/Sunday morning, it’s not that great to make fans stay at the park until 2 a.m. either.
As for what rain does to the quality of the game, well, weather changes have always altered playing tactics for other outdoor sports. Some of the most memorable football games of all time were played in snow or fog, and the weather, not the quality of play, is the reason they’re memorable.
The only famous rain-related baseball moment, however, was provided by O’s catcher Rick Dempsey doing a Babe Ruth imitation during a weather delay at Fenway Park back in 1977.
Besides, league officials, for panicky reasons, let the Phillies and Rays play two innings in hard rain last night, so it ain’t like it can’t be done.
2. Why play nine innings?
Sure, that means throwing baseball’s precious record book out the window. But damn if the stats from the Dead Balls Era™ didn’t take care of that already.
If tonight’s game, a three-and-a-half-inning sprint, draws a bigger rating than previous Phillies—Rays outings, don’t think it won’t be considered.
The networks hate baseball already. You think Fox wouldn’t prefer a World Series game they could fit into a two-hour slot, so it could be used as a lead-in for an original episode of House?
Selig has already proven he’s got no qualms about cutting a game short: He stopped the 2002 All-Star Game and forced fans in Milwaukee—-who were screaming in unison “Let them play!”—-to just accept a tie.
And league officials circumvented tradition even to set up tonight’s mini-game: Were it not for a made-behind-closed-doors rule change put in place only last year regarding rainouts, the Rays’ run in the top of the sixth would have been washed away, and the score after five innings—-Phillies 2, Rays 1—-would have been the official score. So the Phillies would have been declared World Series champs in the locker room.
’Course, if they just let ’em play in the rain, all that would be moot.