John Walker's Electronic House

Birthday And Baseball

by on Oct.28, 2008, under The Rest

Birthday 31 has come and gone, re-revealing the previously known truth that with age comes less significance for the day. I had a lovely evening having dinner in the company of lovely people, which was a fine time. The rest of the day before it, however, was spent playing a very average and tiresome videogame for work, while the phone incessantly rang two rooms away, cleverly ensuring that it was a stupid robot bank lady calling for someone else only 50% of the time, so I couldn’t ignore it.

The day was bookended, however, by baseball. Stop reading now if you don’t care. I’m going to talk about baseball at length, and don’t care if you’re not interested. But I’m going to talk about it to an imagined audience who doesn’t already know much about it. Proving that I am magic, my following the Philadelphia Phillies this year, at the expense of my other team-of-interest, the White Sox, has seen them through to the World Series. (Just as my following the White Sox properly in 2005 saw them win the whole thing). And by “properly”, I mean staying up until stupid hours to watch them throughout the year. It requires a strange level of dedication to keep up with it all in a country that doesn’t even know the sport exists.

Sunday night/Monday morning’s game was an excellent thing. The Phillies, already 2-1 up in the series against the Tampa Bay Rays (the World Series is a best-of-seven thing), finally saw their starting line-up wake up, and start hitting some batters in. The Phillies have left something like four hundred million batters stranded this WS (batters on base, but then not being able to score before the inning is over), and if their sluggers would only have hit some home runs, they’d have been trouncing the Rays rather than squeaking past. That game proved it, with a 10-2 win.

Last night, however, was back to wasting every opportunity, leaving the bases loaded in the first, and generally flapping around. This, however, proved to be the least of anyone’s problems. My hopes had been for the ideal ending to my birthday – seeing the Phillies win the World Series at home (if they lost, they’d have then had to go back to Florida for games 6 and 7, which would mean winning in front of a crowd of 60,000 people booing – it’s never as much fun). However, madness ensued. In the form of rain.

The Rays, oddly enough, play in an indoor ballpark. It is a structure that makes you wonder at mankind, vast beyond comprehension and only for the purpose of playing a sport. The Phillies, however, despite being in the seasonal East, brave the elements. The result was odd. Baseball has some strange rules. They play in the rain, and quite a surprising amount of rain. Where most sports would pack up and go home, they persist. And the reason is the deeply odd attitude to the need for a win in the sport. (I should note I know nothing about any other US sports, so this might apply to many others). In baseball, you aren’t allowed a tie. Ever.

So if a game reaches the end of its 9th inning, and the score is tied, you keep playing. And you keep going until one team is ahead at the end of an inning. This leads to games going into a 15th or 16 inning, the crowd gone home, the club having to send the 3rd base coach up to pitch. But it’s even more confusing when the weather stops a game.

If the rain stops action before the middle of the 5th inning, the game is declared void, and starts over at the next possible opportunity. So they can be playing for two hours, and the scores are wiped. Not good for a team in the lead. If it gets past that point, then amazingly, if the game is delayed and then cannot resume that day, the result is based on whoever was in the lead when things stopped. Bonkers.

So last night was a little problematic. The Phillies were ahead 2-1, and the game was in its fifth inning, and things had gone beserk. The rain was so strong by this point it was flooding the base lines, with the ground staff out trying to fix things constantly. It was clearly dangerous, rules were flying out (such a clever pun) the window from the umpires, but it was screamingly obvious that no one was going to stop the game. If they had, they’d all futilely wait in the locker rooms for rain that wouldn’t stop, then at a certain point it would be declared that it was game over, and the Phillies would win the World Series by default. It would have been the worst way to win imaginable, and certainly for the Rays, the worst way to lose. It would have caused so much controversy, with the media calling for rule changes, and the Philadelphia crowds robbed of the moment of seeing their team win (a city that hasn’t seen a team win anything in any sport in 25 years). (A Fox announcer declared that a win would “heal an entire city,” which was perhaps a little strong).

So they were clearly going to carry on until the Rays tied the score. Even more madly, previous to last year had this happened, and then the game interrupted, the Rays would have had their run removed and the series won by the Phillies, which would have caused America to catch fire, despite the rain. Instead, they’ve now gone so mad and crazy as to allow a game to be picked up the next day from where it stopped – seemingly the most obvious thing to do, but apparently for baseball a radical departure.

So now the game is set to resume in the 6th, the score 2-2, tonight in Philadelphia. A night forecast to have worse weather than last night, so this could be hilarious. And whatever happens, it’s going to be a stunningly controversial result. Presumably the Phillies won’t be able to put Hamels out to pitch for a second night (throwing balls at 90+mph 100 times in a row does horrible things to a human arm, and pitchers can’t do it more often than once every three or four days). Fortunately their relief pitching staff are incredible. If they lose from this point, Phillies fans will be outraged. If they win, Rays fans will claim the moral victory. But whatever. The good news is the Phillies will get the chance to win in front of a home crowd. And I will get the chance to stay up until hurting hours of the morning once more. But not on my birthday.

6 Comments for this entry

  • Neil

    I am now interested in baseball, too. For some reason, I feel somewhat hip watching the game on a flat screen TV hanging over the counter in a bar.

    And the institutional dislike of tied games applies to American football too.

  • km

    they’ve already pushed the game back to tomorrow night now as it’s SNOWING HERE. clearly the apocalypse.

  • Pace

    Yeah that was an odd game last night. Even I learned some new rules in that one. Interestingly, Bud Selig (the commissioner)
    said afterwards
    that the game would’ve been finished (to a full 9 innings) no matter what the score was, by declaring a rain delay that would’ve been extended for days if necessary. It’s bending the rules a bit, but not actually breaking them. It’s interesting that this had never happened before in the world series. (It is however normal procedure to continue a game at a later date when the game is called due to weather when the score is tied after 5 innings. Or for other wacky reasons.)

    Is soccer (alright, football) ever called off due to weather? (American) football almost never is, resulting in some games played in hilariously horrible conditions; blizzards, heavy rains, mud, fog, hail, bitter cold, they play through it all. I remember a game where the fog was so thick you couldn’t even see the players. The only time I remember a (American) football game being called was due to an impending hurricane.

    Oh, and go Phillies! (for now…)

  • Del Boy

    (Real) football is called of with extreme snow or a water-logged pitch.

    This happens pretty much throughout the whole of winter in the Scottish league what with it being, y’know, Scotland.

    They really should move the games to later in the summer…

  • The Poisoned Sponge

    Happy Birthday, and well done for making a Baseball match sound interesting!