MLB, Umpires Make Mockery of World Series

Tampa Bay Rays @ Philadelphia Phillies, World Series Game 5The decision to keep the game going until the bottom of the sixth in the nagging cold and biting rain has to rank highly on MLB’s list of blunders. There was the 2002 All-Star Game that Commissioner Bud Selig chose to end in a tie, of course, but tonight’s baffler might even top that.

Unlike football, which is a game that can be played during the apocalypse, baseball requires precision down to the millimeter. Non-baseball fans often don’t understand why games aren’t played in inclement weather and it’s because it cheapens the game significantly.

Maybe anti-Phillies fans got some cheap schadenfreude laughs out of watching Jimmy Rollins go back a few feet, then race in 15 feet to attempt to catch a fly ball hit by Rocco Baldelli. Overall, it’s a mockery of the way baseball is meant to be played.

Obviously, I’m a Phillies fan and there’s no question that the umpires’ moronic decision to move the game forward only benefited the Rays, but I’d say the same thing if the Phillies were the beneficiaries. After Cole Hamels got two quick outs in the top of the sixth, B.J. Upton hit a grounder to Rollins, who booted it due to the poor playing surface and the wetness of the baseball. Upton then stole second in part because Hamels did a poor job of holding him on but also because it was incredibly tough on catcher Carlos Ruiz to get a handle on the baseball and make a strong, accurate throw 127 feet away. And Upton was knocked in on a single to left field by Carlos Pena.

Then the game was halted. (Insert me giving a very sarcastic thumbs-up)

In truth, the game should have been halted before it became an official game. I don’t care how many days you have to wait to get the full nine innings in, you want the fairest conditions in which both teams can play the sport’s most important game.

This is not just Philadelphia bittnerness; this is overall baseball fan bitterness.

As usual, I am gracious to FanGraphs for the use of their excellent charts. (Insert me giving a very non-sarcastic thumbs-up)

UPDATE: The game has been officially suspended to be resumed tomorrow at 8 PM EST. Again, the Phillies get shafted because their best pitcher and NLCS MVP is done at least for a couple days (more likely done for four days, as Cole Hamels doesn’t pitch on short rest), while the Rays have the option of either resuming with ALCS MVP Matt Garza or James Shields, who won Game 2 of the World Series. The Phillies get to use Brett Myers, who’s been more impressive with his bat than with his pitching, and then Jamie Moyer, who’s been hit or miss in the post-season.

I’ve been reading some point/counter-points and there’s really no argument that the delay benefits the Rays exponentially. Mitch Williams made a great point on Comcast SportsNet that Hamels pitched in the sixth inning — when he gave up the tying run — on a sloppy mound. When play resumes, the Rays’ pitcher will have a freshly-manicured mound.

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14 comments

  1. Greg Burgas

    October 27, 2008 11:57 PM

    I don’t know what the weather forecast is, but I hope it rains until Saturday. Then they can just bring back Hamels on normal rest! That’ll work!

    This is ridiculous. It’s embarrassing for MLB, and Selig needs to grow some balls and stand up to FOX. They need to schedule more double-headers during the regular season, get the season done sooner, and stop scheduling break days during the postseason when the teams don’t travel. And if both teams finish their series sooner, they need to push the World Series start date up. It wouldn’t make a difference this year, as the ALCS went seven games, but it’s still something that needs to be addressed. Selig needs to stand up to the television networks. If all this had been in place, they could have played this a week ago. Playing baseball in Philadelphia and other cities in the Northeast in late October is idiotic. I really hope it rains for days and days. The more embarrassing to MLB the better.

    That being said, this is going to be a bullpen game when it resumes, and I have more faith in the Phillies’ pen than the Rays’. I just hope they can get this one, no matter when it resumes. If it goes back to St. Petersburg not only will it be harder for the Phillies, but the media will slobber over the Rays even more than they already are.

  2. EH

    October 28, 2008 02:22 PM

    ” I have more faith in the phillies pen, then the rays.”

    Why’s that? Rays pen was better than the phillies in a better league, and a better division.

    Bill, What do you think about the Phillies moving Howard in the offseason, signing Big Tex, and going after a Holliday type player with the prospects they get back for Howard?

  3. Bill B.

    October 28, 2008 03:15 PM

    I don’t see any of that happening. I see them picking up fringe outfielders when Burrell leaves, and Howard’s going to continue being the first baseman. They might pursue a starter, but not of the C.C. Sabathia variety… maybe Odalis Perez or Randy Wolf.

    Also, the Rays’ bullpen was not better. They had a bullpen ERA of 3.55 while the Phillies’ bullpen had a 3.22 ERA.

    Here is a look at each league’s OPS at each offensive position. The NL has the edge at five of eight positions, they tie at catcher, the AL barely gets the edge at second base. The only significant advantage the AL has is in right field.

    The NL is actually stronger, despite having the pitcher hitting.

  4. ShooterB

    October 28, 2008 04:39 PM

    In his defense, Selig may have a large sum of money bet on the Rays to win (consider the odds in April). I’ve been wrong once or twice, but I think this conspiracy theory is right on the mark. If Tampa Bay wins, Selig will win enough money to take over the planet.

    But the main problem isn’t “fairness”, or the integrity of the game. The main problem is…humans should not be forced to watch The Simpsons’ Halloween special in November. It’s ridiculous.

  5. Paul

    October 28, 2008 06:53 PM

    I don’t really think either team has a great advantage when things resume. But i do like how mitch Williams failed to mention that Kazmir / Balfour also pitched off a sloppy mound in the bottom of the fifth.

  6. Bill B.

    October 28, 2008 07:20 PM

    Shooter, that may be the greatest injustice of all (re: The Simpsons).

    Paul, look at it this way…
    – Phillies IP w/ sloppy conditions: 6
    – Rays IP w/ sloppy conditions 5

    When play resumes…
    – Phillies IP w/ fair conditions: 3
    – Rays IP w/ fair conditions: 4

  7. Eh

    October 28, 2008 11:05 PM

    Bill,

    TB’s pen also had a lower BAA, and lower OPS than the phillies.

    Also, the AL was 149-103 in interleague play this year. 46 games is pretty substantial.

  8. Eh

    October 28, 2008 11:10 PM

    Also, sorry to make a second post, but i can’t see the phillies extending howard. he wants 20 mil per, he probably isn’t worth half that? considering he is a terrible defender, who can’t throw. I’d doubt they’d extend him as he can’t move being 28 now. imagine him at 34/35.

    Also, his stats show he’s on the decline, pretty seriously too. He really needs to right the ship next year. Tex would be a better fit, as Tex is a superior baseball player.

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  10. deal

    October 29, 2008 08:23 AM

    Can you check into the pitcher borderline ball/strike charts for Kazmir and Hamels – like you did for game 1. Apparently the Fox crew thought that Kazmir was getting squeezed in game 5. I am curious if the evidence points in that direction. I am also curious about the Jamie Moyer game.

  11. Bill Baer

    October 29, 2008 02:18 PM

    TB’s pen also had a lower BAA, and lower OPS than the phillies.

    Frankly, the two teams’ ‘pens are too close to make any definitive statement that one is better than the other.

    Also, the AL was 149-103 in interleague play this year. 46 games is pretty substantial.

    Overall inter-league records are bad for saying that one league is better than another. Why do the contests of the Royals, Pirates, Mariners, and Padres interest us in a discussion about the World Series?

    Also, sorry to make a second post

    Don’t be sorry, post here as often or as much as you’d like!

    i can’t see the phillies extending howard.

    Unfortunately, unless Ruben Amaro is the analytical type (which he hasn’t shown), the Phillies will continue to make their decisions based on intangibles like team chemistry, as well as business (Howard is likable and thus very marketable). Those reasons, and the fact that traditional statistics do a bad job of showing Howard’s weaknesses, lead me to believe that Howard will get an extension similar to and exceeding that given to Chase Utley.

    he wants 20 mil per, he probably isn’t worth half that?

    If my understanding is correct, a free agent replacement player is worth $3.33 million per win. Howard has been worth, on average, 7.6 wins per season using WARP-3 from Baseball Prospectus. Their replacement level is ridiculously low, so I will lazily chop off 2.5 wins since it sounds about right.

    5 wins per season at $3.33 million per win = $16.65 million. Howard would technically be overpaid by my pseudo-scientific analysis, but not by much. However, if you incorporate the fact that he’s declined for two straight seasons and has either already hit his peak or will be hitting it very soon, his value declines significantly quickly, so a long-term deal is a bad idea for the Phillies.

    He really needs to right the ship next year.

    The biggest reasons for his decline from 2007 to ‘08 were half as many walks (35 to 17) and a lower BABIP than usual (.289 this year to an expected BABIP of .343 and a career average of .334).

    If anything, I’m actually optimistic for Howard next season. Although his walk rate is lower, it’s almost entirely because of a lack of IBB’s, and his strikeout rate decreased while still keeping up a very good line drive rate (22.3%). The lower BABIP is basically a result of bad luck and the shift, which probably won’t change. I think that if Howard hits more fly balls than ground balls, or makes a more conscious attempt to drive balls to left field, he’ll be more successful in 2009.

    Deal, click the following links for the normalized strike zone maps for Games 3 and 5:

    – Game 3: Click here
    – Game 5: Click here

  12. EH

    October 29, 2008 03:40 PM

    “Overall inter-league records are bad for saying that one league is better than another. Why do the contests of the Royals, Pirates, Mariners, and Padres interest us in a discussion about the World Series?”

    Well, if you are looking at the leagues as a whole, i would include the outliers.

    Outside of that, I agree with everything you said. Also, it should be noted, Howard’s OPS, in fact, all numbers have taken a huge dive as well aginst lefties throughout the past three seasons.

    If he wasn’t so impatient, and knew how to take a walk, he’d be in a lot better position.

  13. Bill B.

    October 29, 2008 04:21 PM

    Well, if you are looking at the leagues as a whole, i would include the outliers.

    League adjustments are important, but the NL had about as high an OPS as the AL despite the DH/P difference. The NL hit for a .744 OPS and the AL hit for a .756 OPS.

    If he wasn’t so impatient, and knew how to take a walk

    He’s walking unintentionally at the same rate; he just had a huge dip in intentional walks.

    As for facing lefties, as his OPS against them has decreased, his PA against them has increased. I expect that trend to continue.

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