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Why MLB was wrong

posted the evening of October 26, 2011, after Game 6 of the World Series had been postponed

I attended Game 1 of the ALCS. There were storms off to the west of Arlington that night, and every so often, rain would find its way to the ballpark. In fact, there were two rain delays at different points in the 5th inning. I heard that Fox *hated* the delays, probably because when a rain delay started, viewers left and never came back.

Consequently, when there was rain in the forecast for the following evening, MLB announced five hours before gametime that Game 2 would be postponed. It was bad enough that it was being moved from a Sunday until a Monday (a weekday), but they also scheduled it for the afternoon on Monday. Oh, and it never rained a drop the entire evening on Sunday.

So I arrived in St. Louis yesterday in preparation for Game 6 of the World Series, scheduled for this evening. Yes, there was rain in the forecast, but all of the weathermen and women said it would rain in the afternoon and taper off in the evening. Once again, though, MLB announced five hours before gametime that this evening's game was being postponed.

Where's the rain?

I think you know where I'm going with this.

I took a walk around the outside of my hotel this evening. I didn't need an umbrella whatsoever. I checked the weather radar for the entire evening, and downtown St. Louis had a few patches of the lightest shade of green (meaning barely drizzling), but for the vast majority of the time, there was no precipitation falling at all.

Could the game have been played? Absolutely, without question. Might the start of it been delayed, or might there have been a brief rain delay at some point during the game? Possibly, but probably not.

I love Joe Torre, but unfortunately, he's been MLB's major spokesman for matters such as weather delays this postseason, so he's been at the forefront of having to rationalize these premature postponements. This evening, he was on the MLB Channel, trying to justify the way the decision was made. He said it wasn't a matter of how much rain was expected to fall this evening. It was just that the weather was expected to be much drier tomorrow, so they decided to play Game 6 then.

Did I hear that right?

Really? Really?? Well, if that's what is important, why not postpone the game until next spring, when it will be delightfully sunny and 70 degrees?

In hindsight, there is absolutely no doubt that nine innings of baseball could've been played tonight. That's not conjecture. I'm in St. Louis now, and I'm testifying as to the weather here. But my point is that it was highly likely that nine innings could've been played when MLB looked at the forecast this afternoon! There was a possibility of a brief delay or two, but it wasn't like a hurricane was passing over the area. All of the forecasts said that any showers would be breaking up by evening.

The point is that Fox hates rain delays. The ratings were already pathetic for this World Series (obviously because there were no East or West Coast teams in it, even though it's been an intriguing Series so far), and Fox probably detested the idea of rain delays costing it even more viewers.

So my assertion is that this postponement -- as well as the one of Game 2 of the ALCS -- wasn't done for the benefit of the fans or the players (or as one sportswriter wrote, for the "integrity" of the World Series). It was for Fox. And as a consequence, the sport was compromised because it chose to please a television network instead of doing the right thing.

Now, I'm not so naive as to believe that this is an isolated example of the television tail wagging the dog. It happens in all sports all of the time. But when people travel to see a sporting event that could've been played, it would show some respect to the fans to actually attempt to play the game.

I picked up a good friend at the St. Louis airport this afternoon who flew in to attend the game with me. Within minutes of his landing, we learned the game had been postponed. I turned the car around and took him back to the airport so he could fly home, because he couldn't stay until Friday like I could. He told me this evening that everywhere around him at the airport, people were flying out who had hoped to attend tonight's game.

Realizations

I realize several things about this:

1. My displeasure over this will not cause sports leagues to do things differently in the future. It is very rare that the best interest of the fan is ever taken into consideration;

2. MLB isn't going to offer to reimburse me for the significant extra expense I'm incurring to stick around St. Louis longer (or for my friend's extra charges for changing his flight);

3. It doesn't trouble me all that much that MLB changed the rules for postseason games so that games are never ended early due to rain (instead they are "suspended" and picked up the following day). It does bother me greatly, though, that incredibly different standards are applied for games in October than in April through September. All through the regular season, games are subject to delays and, when field conditions or weather patterns dictate, postponement, but almost never ahead of time ... especially when the forecast suggests that inclement weather will be breaking up during the time when the game is scheduled to be played;

4. Rainouts don't bother me. Many, many times over the years, I've sat in a ballpark watching it rain, only to have the game postponed after a couple of hours of waiting (I once waited five hours for a game to start on a rainy afternoon at new Yankee Stadium). I take it a lot better when I recognize that an honest, legitimate effort was made to "get the game in." Absolutely no such effort occurred today in St. Louis. (And that rain-delayed game in New York? They played all nine innings after the five-hour delay);

5. And while it's maddening that the game certainly could've been played, it's even more infuriating that all the weather forecasts indicated that there was a great possibility that it could've been played!

Oh, and tomorrow evening's forecast in St. Louis for the rescheduled Game 6? Very little likelihood of rain, but temperatures will be in the 40's for most of the game, which is certainly chillier than this evening. But that will be OK with Fox, because they won't have to deal with even a tiny chance of a pesky rain delay.

No glee at Busch Stadium

And those of you at home who tuned into Fox to watch Game 6 this evening? I hope you enjoyed those reruns of Glee.

ADDENDUM

I wrote the article above the evening of the postponement. As you probably noticed, I didn't address the possibility that the needless postponement might have an impact on the outcome of the Series itself. Well, now that the Series is over, and the Cards won in seven games, there is further analysis that can be done.

Obviously, St. Louis' ultimate victory in Game 7 was at least partly due to the fact that staff ace Chris Carpenter was able to start the game and pitch into the 7th inning, blanking the Rangers for the final six frames in which he appeared. Had game 7 occured on Thursday the 27th, as originally scheduled, he certainly wouldn't have started on two days rest. I'm not saying he wouldn't have appeared in the game at some point, but definitely not for the 91 pitches he was able to throw on Friday the 28th.

Please understand: this is not a conspiracy theory that MLB wanted a Game 7 on a Friday night with marquis pitcher Carpenter starting for St. Louis, or that the postponement of Game 6 was so that St. Louis would have a competitive advantage. But I do submit that it turned out that way, because the Rangers certainly didn't seem to benefit from the additional day off. In particular, their bullpen was a mess, twice having the Cards down to their last stike in Game 6, only to have the Comeback Cards shock them in the bottom of the 9th, 10th and 11th innings, to force a Game 7.

Oh, the Rangers could've found a way to lose the last two games of the Series in St. Louis even without the needless postponement of Game 6, but MLB did no favors to the Rangers -- or any of the fans -- by delaying Game 6.

What do you think? Have you had a similar experience? Say so below!