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Selig made correct call in suspending Game 5

Updated: October 29, 2008, 5:03 PM ET

Stark, Caple World Series Blog: Game 5 Suspended

PHILADELPHIA -- Lost in the confusion, frustration and exasperation of Monday night's suspended Game 5 was this clubhouse exchange with Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley:

Reporter: "Would you want to win a World Series based on a rain rule?"

Utley: "No, absolutely not."

And with that, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig is officially removed from the controversy hook. There are questions, legitimate ones, about the decision-making process and if he would have truly stopped the game in the middle of the sixth inning had the Tampa Bay Rays not tied it at 2-2 minutes earlier. But the simple truth is that the Citizens Bank Park field had become a swamp.

"The infield was basically under water," said Utley, adding later: "The field was not playable."

Selig isn't the most polished public speaker, so at times, his late Monday night news conference conducted in a stadium basement interview room took all sorts of twists and turns. But all that matters is that he ended up in the right place: with the game on indefinite hold.

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As he took his place behind the microphone, Selig clutched a baseball rule book in his left hand, a finger marking the page where Rule 4.12-6 resided -- suspended games. And in his own distinct Selig-ian way, he eventually explained that under no circumstances would a team win a World Series championship on his watch because of a rain-abbreviated (but perfectly allowable) game result.

"I would not have allowed a World Series to end that way," Selig said.

It was a bit clumsy, but Selig made the right decision. In the best interest of the game -- and his legacy -- Selig revealed long before the first pitch was ever thrown that Game 5 would be played in its entirety. Phillies management knew it. Rays management knew it. Did the players know it? Good question.

So now we wait. Tuesday night could be worse than Monday night, which was like standing in your freezer while someone sprayed you with a garden hose. It was beyond miserable.

"We'll stay here if we have to celebrate Thanksgiving here," Selig said.

Selig insisted the game would have been delayed in the middle of the sixth inning no matter what. Of course, his decision to suspend the game became incredibly easy (and wonderfully convenient) when the Rays splashed across the tying run in the top of the inning. If Carlos Pena hadn't driven in B.J. Upton with an RBI single, I wonder if Selig would have really pulled the plug on the game in the sixth.

Bud Selig

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Bud Selig was not going to allow Game 5 to end without there being at least nine innings of baseball.

We'll never know for sure. But we do know, according to Utley, that the field was no longer playable. And umpire Tim Tschida said the wind and rain threatened to make the game "comical." It didn't reach that point, but it was getting dangerously close.

Selig had no choice but to suspend the game. There were still at least 3, possibly 3½, innings left in the game. The rain was going nowhere. The temperature was dropping. The wind was stiff.

"I thought I was back in Beaumont, Texas, in 1985," said Rays manager Joe Maddon, recalling a game played in a downpour when he was a minor league manager.

Selig said he and MLB officials consulted three different weather forecast services to determine whether to even play Monday night's game. The forecasts were favorable -- no more than one-tenth of an inch of rain was expected -- so Selig and team officials agreed to go ahead with the first pitch.

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"And obviously I made it with some significant trepidation," Selig said. "But had the forecast held, we would have been OK."

But it didn't hold. And if Selig had "significant" concerns, why wasn't the game time pushed up by 60-90 minutes? It still would have allowed for a 7 p.m. start, plenty of time for fans to reach the game after work. And the bulk of the game would have been broadcast in prime time. If major golf tournaments can adjust their start times based on weather, why can't the World Series?

Instead, Selig trusted those forecasts. Memo to Bud: Fire your weather forecast services.

Game 5 could be completed Tuesday night (there will be no day games, Selig said), Wednesday night or Thursday night. It all depends on the weather.

In the meantime, the Rays -- who checked out of their hotel Monday afternoon and had to go searching for a new one Monday night -- and the Phillies cool their cleats.

"We've been playing for seven months," Utley said. "Another day or two is not going to hurt us."

He's right. So was Selig.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.


Related Topics: MLB, Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays