September 08, 2004
Either we enforce the rules or we don't

OK, I've seen enough cheap shots at the Yankees for daring to ask Beelzebud Selig to enfore the rules of the game viz the Devil Rays not showing up on time for the scheduled doubleheader on Monday. If you're going to insist on making the Yankees out to be the bad guys, would you please read this Jayson Stark column and this Derek Zumsteg piece first? I'll quote a bit from Zumsteg's article for those who don't subscribe to the Baseball Prospectus:

I'm sympathetic to their plight, and even agree with the idea that games should be decided on the field. But Selig's comment bothers me. Isn't the whole point of having a forfeiture rule in place that you want the games to be decided on the field? If you're a half-game up on a team, with a day left in the season, and want to skip a day to get your rotation right, you could just make up some crazy excuse that involves your families and get away with it. "We were on the team charter bus to the ballpark, see, and we saw this kid by the side of the road, see, so we stopped to help him, see, and he told us his orphanage was on fire, see, and uh, we all got out and helped rescue kids from this burning orphanage for a couple of hours and missed the game. It's weird that this wasn't on the news or anything."

There's another valid point that Joe Torre made: "The only thing that bothers me about the whole thing is that we were ready to play a doubleheader yesterday. We had our guys out here all day." And they did. Players don't like doubleheaders. It's six hours guaranteed on the field, even if you play hurry-up ball for one of the games, even skipping batting practice, and that means it's much, much longer than that at the park. There are worse fates, but why should teams be able to inflict that on another team without penalty?

The rule is entirely clear on this. 4.15: "A game may be forfeited to the opposing team when a team (a) Fails to appear upon the field, or being upon the field, refuses to start play within five minutes after the umpire has called 'Play' at the appointed hour for beginning the game, unless such delayed appearance is, in the umpire's judgment, unavoidable."

The Devil Rays didn't appear on the field at all. They forfeit.

What's even stranger is that Selig apparently got on the phone and told the teams to play one game of their doubleheader and that they'd work out the rest later. Technically, 9.04a(6) says that it's the crew chief's duty to decide when a game shall be forfeited, not the Commissioner's. Now, I guess under 4.01, there's a bit of what happened: "Unless the home club shall have given previous notice that the game has been postponed or will be delayed in starting, the umpire, or umpires, shall enter the playing field five minutes before the hour set for the game to begin and proceed directly to home base where they shall be met by the managers of the opposing teams."

The Commish can call the home team, twist their arm, and the home team can give notice that the game's been postponed, but I don't see where the home team has to comply.

Zumsteg, who also blogs at USS Mariner, is nobody's idea of a Yankee apologist. I don't actually have a problem with the Commissioner stepping in here, but neither do I have a problem with the Yankees' expectations that the rules apply to everyone, even their opponents.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 08, 2004 to Baseball | TrackBack

Being with your families to help with preparing for and dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane is something that I'd consider unavoidable. Steinbrenner needs to look back three years and remember what happened in that other burough... you know, the island with three or four less buildings and the "photo opportunity"/gargantuan fixer-upper. Oh, and maybe a little further back to when his All Star catcher decided to drill a hole in the ground with his plane.

Posted by: Laurence Simon on September 9, 2004 4:29 AM

I happen to work with some avid Yankee fans, and not one of us think that they should be given a forfeit win for what happened on Monday. Although I understand the official rules, the commisioner's office indicated that the statement that the Devil Rays fly out of Tampa on Saturday was a "suggestion" and not an "order". Since they chose a safety first approach, it is impossible to think that they could fly out of the city or any nearby airport before Monday.

On a side note, the Yankees did in fact play on the day after Thurman Munson's death (lost to Baltimore, details at as well as the day of funeral (which was attended by the entire team in Canton, Ohio) on national television (ABC). Bobby Murcer won the game for the Yankees against the Orioles. This game is shown on a regular basis on ESPN Classic.

Posted by: William Hughes on September 9, 2004 4:51 AM

The question that needs to be asked is why Selig's office kept insisting to the Yankees that the D-Rays would be there. That's where the blame should be going.

I remember the game on the day of Munson's funeral very well. I also remember Steinbrenner saying that he didn't care if the Yankees wound up having to forfeit that game in the event they didn't make it back from the funeral on time. Turned out they didn't have to, but they were prepared to do so.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on September 9, 2004 7:24 AM

I'm not a baseball fan, and I don't know the details of what Bud Selig promised anyone. However, from where I sit, the Yankees' insistence on a forfeit meets the definition of unsportsmanlike conduct. Hearing they were promised a game doesn't make a significant difference to me. It just makes Selig look like a jerk too.

Bad cess to the Yankees and Bud Selig both.

Posted by: Ginger on September 9, 2004 8:16 AM

The whole thing has devolved into a "he said/they said/we said" thing that is making MLB look bad. MLB should have done exactly what Jayson Stark suggested -- postpone the games late last week or over the weekend, particularly once it was obvious how slow Frances was -- or insist that the Devil Rays leave before the storm hit and tell them that if they didn't, they faced a forfeit. I would have been annoyed if the latter happened, but maybe not quite as annoyed as I am now.

I understand the Yankees' frustration over the situation, but I think it was tacky of them to ask for a forfeit. I'm not saying they're wrong, just that it's tacky.

Posted by: Sue on September 9, 2004 8:35 AM

If they advance by the margin of the forfeited games, it casts a shadow over their accomplishment. It probably doesn't go as far as an asterisk, but it wouldn't look too good.

Posted by: Michael on September 9, 2004 10:47 AM

Typical Yankees waa-waa-waaing. "Waaa -- we had to wait around the air-conditioned locker room with buffets and PS/2s and LaZBoys all day long." Such a horrid infliction...cry me a river.

Frances wasn't an imaginary kid on the side of the road, either. That's about as foolish a thing to say that I can imagine.

Anyhoo -- maybe Steinbrenner can have Bud check the amount of pine tar on the team plane.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on September 9, 2004 11:10 AM