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Robbery or common sense?
2008-10-29 07:30
by Bob Timmermann

With all the caterwauling that has accompanied Bud Selig's decision, all I can do is plug my ears and hope that the din dissipates. And yet, the only way there won't be any complaints is if the Phillies win the conclusion of tonight's Game 5.

People can quote the rule book day and night about this (especially since the game has taken that long), but I'm still convinced that Commissioner Bud Selig, despite all of his PR miscues, did the best job he could and made the correct decision once he was forced into it. You can make an argument that the game shouldn't have started or been called before five innings and I would see your point.

But if you think that under any circumstance that the Phillies should have been awarded a win for a rain-shortened game, I will object. I will strenuously object.

Baseball's rule book is not the Code of Hammurabi. It is not the Ten Commandments (although it used to have 10 sections, it's been recodified to have 11, although 11 is the index and God didn't give Moses an index. Something like "Kill, Thou Shalt Not - 5"). The baseball rule book has been molded and shaped as situations occur.

This is not unlike American common law. If the baseball rule book were enforced to its letter all the time, there would be violations noted all the time. People would argue and the games would take forever. If your state's penal code were enforced as rigidly as some want baseball's rule book to be, prisons would be overflowing with people. (Oh wait, they are. Pick a better example to illustrate my point on your own. You can do it.)

Game 5 of the World Series will go at least 9 innings. Why? Because it's fair. It's a radical concept.

Somewhat related to this: A Las Vegas sports book is paying off people who bet on the Phillies to win for Game 5.

Even though the suspended game is tied 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Phillies were 2-1 winners in the eyes of Vegas.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Nevada gaming rules state that for betting purposes, the final score of an official baseball game is determined by reverting to the last completed inning. The Phillies held a 2-1 lead after five innings.

“We’re just following the regular baseball rules. This is a common rule,” Las Vegas Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay told the newspaper. “We can’t make exceptions.

This is why you shouldn't bet on baseball. The rules that Kornegay are referring are the sports books rules on betting baseball, not the rules of baseball.

2008-10-29 08:47:42
1.   110phil
What freaks me out, is, why would the Phillies want to win that way? If I were a Phillie, and Bud Selig wanted to hand me a World Series trophy based on a five-inning game, I'd throw it back in his face.

Seriously -- would you want to win that way?

I am always perplexed by the win-even-when-you-don't-deserve-it mentality of professional athletes. An umpire calls an obvious foul ball a home run. Eventually he confers with the other umpires and changes his mind. And what happens? The OTHER manager comes out and argues! What's he saying, that he demands the home run even though it wasn't really a home run? That it actually doesn't matter whether it was earned or not, that because the original call went his way it should be upheld?

I just don't understand.

2008-10-29 08:54:08
2.   Bob Timmermann
Blood on the stick!
2008-10-29 09:37:26
3.   Xeifrank
I think Phillie fans are trying to set themselves up for an excuse if/when they lose in seven games. Any argument that says the Phillies should be the winner of game 5 from monday night is irrational as Bob points out. For an example of this irrationality read almost any Phillies blog.
vr, Xei
2008-10-29 09:40:45
4.   Gagne55
"Something like "Kill, Thou Shalt Not - 5""

When I read that I was like, "that's the 6th commandment." But then I remembered that in the Catholic tradition it's the 5th commandment.

2008-10-29 09:42:46
5.   Bob Timmermann
Your Decalogue may vary.
2008-10-29 11:02:25
6.   Andrew Shimmin
The only reason I'm outraged by this is that I like being outraged at Bud Selig. Of course I don't want the World Series to end with a short game rain out. But I'm willing to suspend my actual preference, and argue only from blind hatred and bitterness that Bud Selig is a tyrant and an imbecile.

Because I care that much.

2008-10-29 11:11:55
7.   dianagramr
Next thing you know, Selig will proclaim that the winner of game 5 will get to host the All-Star Game next year.
2008-10-29 12:00:03
8.   Eric Enders
While I agree with you that Selig made the right decision, I don't think it's too much to ask for this situation to be covered by the rulebook. When you make a habit of tossing out the rulebook whenever you feel like it, you make yourself susceptible to charges of favoritism. If the situation were covered in the rules as it should be, then there would be no controversy.

Basically, I agree with Bill James who wrote that it's dangerous for a society to have laws on the books that it doesn't enforce, because that places every policeman in the role of judge and jury, selectively enforcing the laws against those people they don't like.

It's the same in baseball. We don't need two sets of rules, one that's in the rulebook and a different one that's used in practice. The rulebook, which is an out-of-date fossil, not to mention extraordinarily poorly written, should be rewritten to reflect the way the game is actually played. There are so many differences between rulebook baseball and baseball as it's actually played.

- The strike zone
- The phantom force play at second
- The rule that says a batter must try to avoid getting hit by a pitch
- The rule that says a batter must stand in the batter's box
- The rule that says a pitcher must make a pitch within X number of seconds or a ball will be called. (Is it 20 seconds? I forget.)
- The rule that says a batter can't run inside the baseline.

There's no reason these discrepancies should exist. Either change the rulebook to reflect these practices, or start enforcing the rulebook as is. Having two different sets of rules is just stupid.

2008-10-29 12:06:01
9.   Andrew Shimmin
I'll see your Bill James, and raise you a Bunny Colvin.
2008-10-29 12:53:55
10.   Bob Timmermann
If you don't want selective enforcement of laws or allow for any interpretation, the good people of Louisiana are willing to introduce you to the Napoleonic Code.
2008-10-29 13:10:29
11.   Bob Timmermann
Furthermore, the police already selectively enforce laws against people they like and dislike. And that's been going on in this country since it was a country. And it's been going on in other places forever.

It's the nature of society.

The codification of laws helps make society more orderly, but it's never been a guarantee that life will be perfect for those who aren't in a position to fight. At least that's what the ancient Babylonians that I was talking to last night told me.

2008-10-29 13:23:37
12.   Sam DC
8 It seems like the examples here are quite different than Selig calling a World Series audible on the rain delay/suspension thing. You are pointing to common gameplay situations that don't seem to be called according to the rule book. This judgment which only indirectly affects game play (mostly because if the players and coaches had known for sure there would be a full nine innings that might have effected their strategy/substitutions etc.) is different than those examples.

Seems reasonable to me to come up with a practical solution here and then "clarify" the rules going forward based on what we learned from this.

2008-10-29 13:31:49
13.   Eric Enders
"Seems reasonable to me to come up with a practical solution here and then "clarify" the rules going forward based on what we learned from this."

As it does to me. But the chances that MLB will actually clarify the rules going forward are between slim and none. And really, there's no good reason for them not to do it.

My philosophy is, if you're going to have rules, then follow them. If instead you're going to go by seat-of-the-pants judgment calls, then that's fine, too, but then you should go ahead and dump the pretense of a rulebook. It's not that I'm a stickler for following a rulebook. What I find distasteful is pretending to follow one set of rules while actually following another.

2008-10-29 13:38:31
14.   Bob Timmermann
I really don't see how baseball is any different in selective enforcement of some of its rule than other sports, especially basketball and hockey.

If every hockey penalty were called, guys would be taking a number to get into the penalty box or calling ahead for reservations.

And basketball games would have lots of traveling and 3-second calls.

And football would have holding called on every play.

2008-10-29 13:54:55
15.   Eric Enders
That's true, Bob. And frankly, it's annoying in those other sports too. The failure to enfore the two basketball rules you mention makes NBA games painful to watch. At least for me.

Again, the rules presumably exist for a reason. If you think NBA players should be allowed to travel, then hey, that's cool. Change the traveling rule to allow five steps. Call a spade a spade.

And guess what? If you start calling holding, then pretty soon guys won't be holding on every play anymore.

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