King Kaufman's Sports Daily

The rain says no to Game 4, but what are we doing playing baseball Halloween week anyway? Plus: Fox's rainy-night gift.


Salon Staff
October 26, 2006 8:00PM (UTC)

You gave up? You turned off the TV? You didn't think they'd play Game 4 of the World Series despite the rain in St. Louis?

Oh, ye of little faith. You missed a lot once they got going.

There was a five-run homer and the first-ever quadruple steal. Right around 4 a.m., Albert Pujols pitched an inning. He'd have retired the side in order too, if not for that giant sinkhole in center field that swallowed up Jim Edmonds as he was camped under a fly ball. It took the center-field fence too.

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The game was finally called moments later after someone in the left-field bleachers yelled out, "Won't somebody please think of David Eckstein?"

Not a moment too soon. Is it safe to say the aesthetics of baseball suffer a bit when the wind chill dips below 40, as it tends to do in late October in quite a few major league cities, including the two represented in the 2006 World Series, St. Louis and Detroit?

Or maybe I dreamed the whole thing. I don't see how I could have fallen asleep, considering how wired I was with the anticipation of watching a ballgame that started after 10 p.m. EDT, which was threatened for quite a while. Why, the prospect of getting to watch Tony La Russa make three pitching changes in a single inning -- the sixth -- at midnight local time is enough to get anyone's blood rushing.

I did have plenty of time to think about this whole playing baseball in the last week of October thing, or actually not playing baseball as the case may be. And as the case turned out to be on Wednesday night. Game 4 was postponed after a one-hour, 51-minute delay and rescheduled for Thursday night, with Game 5 shifting to Friday, formerly a travel day.

But more rain is scheduled for the next two days in St. Louis and it's unclear when the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers will get to play again. Things aren't any more salubrious in Detroit, where the Series returns for Game 6 Saturday, if necessary. And if possible.

What are we doing here, trying to stage baseball games in hockey weather? The World Series used to be over by the second week of October, but it's been pushed back a total of 18 days, first by the advent of the League Championship Series, then by its expansion from five games to seven, and then by the introduction of the divisional round.

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It's only going to get worse next year because the new TV contract with Fox calls for the World Series to start on a Tuesday. That's either four days earlier or three days later than the current start. Guess which it's going to be. Coming soon: That crazy Halloween pastime, waiting out a World Series rain delay.

In most of the big-league cities that have winter and lack a roof, retractable or otherwise, the difference between the weather in mid-October and late October is pretty significant. It's the difference between putting on the long-sleeved undershirts and wearing the thick jackets out in the bullpen and playing a game that bears only a superficial resemblance to the one played in July.

Baseball should be making every effort to move the World Series up, not back. We should be done with this stuff by now, not dreading the autumn rain but enjoying it, curling up in front of a fire with a remote as we spend a couple of hours searching for that cable channel the NHL's on.

Bud Selig has pronounced himself vexed by the problem, surprise surprise, saying he's an advocate of shrinking the regular season back to 154 games, which would buy back a week, but admitting the clubs would never go for it. We all know the playoffs aren't going to shrink back down.

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The solution is staring Selig in the face. Move the season up at the beginning. Baseball's already been at this for a few decades, scooting Opening Day up from the second week of April to the last week of March to make up for the fact that there are hardly any double-headers anymore.

So what's another week? Or even two? I think starting a week earlier and adding a few double-headers would work wonders for the quality of play in the World Series, which is only the game's premier event. The quality of play is terrible in this miserable weather. Why should people suffer, physically and aesthetically, just because the Series isn't the Florida Marlins vs. the Texas Rangers?

I know what you're thinking. Mid-March is still the dead of winter in some of the Northern cities. They'll have to plow snow off the base paths to get games in.

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Fine. Let 'em do that. I want to go on record saying that I don't care if a Wednesday night Indians-Royals tilt in late March at the Jake is an aesthetic mess. Or even if it gets postponed and has to be made up as part of a double-header, at the cost of tens of dollars to the teams. I want good October baseball, without the need for mukluks or pontoons.

And without the need for November baseball, which is looming with a few more rainouts.

For the love of Pete, won't someone think of David Eckstein?

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"War at Home": What is it good for? [PERMALINK]

Boy, Fox spares no expense with the World Series. I had no idea. The network produces a domestic sitcom called "The War at Home" to be used only in the case of a long rain delay at the World Series.

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Wednesday night Game 4 was delayed by nearly two hours before finally being called, and Fox showed four episodes of this special series before giving way to local news, episodes that were made and might never have been seen if not for the inclement weather.

It's really a bad show, but you have to appreciate the effort. I mean, it would be easy for Fox to just shovel reruns onto the air during a rain delay. Nobody'd mind. By the middle of the second hour of delay Wednesday, the vast majority of baseball fans had long since given up anyway. Fox could have shown a test pattern and gotten the same ratings.

But instead Fox gave us a lagniappe. "Here," the network seemed to be saying to us, "here's a little show we whipped up in case of rain delays. It's really not much of a thing, but we hope you'll appreciate the courtesy, because we at Fox love baseball, and we especially love baseball fans, and we just want to make you feel special."

The gesture was so loving that I felt compelled to watch the show. It was the right thing to do. So watch it I did. Doggedly. For one of the episodes, I think the fourth one, the one where the dumb husband did that thing? And there was a misunderstanding? That one? I watched for like three minutes before I turned it off.

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Wait, Fox does just produce "The War at Home" only to be used during World Series rain delays, right? Please tell me I'm right.

Previous column: Carpenter dazzles

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