In the Playoff Pulse series, our MLB editor takes on a hot October topic.
In partnership with NBC Sports Philadelphia
Over the next few hours and days, sports fans are going to be inundated with every possible take on the way Bud Selig handled the events of Game 5. Some of it will be fair and some of it will not be.
My quick take: Selig was dealt a tough hand and played things very poorly. He made a bad situation worse by not invoking his powers as commissioner and suspending the game immediately when it began to rain heavily in the fifth inning. It was not an easy situation, and because Selig is uncharismatic -- because he and the sport he presides over make for an easy target (just ask Congress!) -- he'll take more of a beating than he deserves. Be wary of who you listen to and read on the topic. Many of the columnists and pundits who rip baseball for every single flaw it has, will overlook the very same flaws in other sports, particularly in the NFL.
All that aside, let's not forget that there's still a series to be finished, a championship to be won, anywhere from three innings to two games (and change) left to be played in the 2008 season.
So how are the actual parties involved in this series going to be affected by the weird, wild suspension of Game 5? The answer to that question seems pretty obvious: Everybody except the Phillies and their die-hard fans is a big winner.
The Rays come out of Game 5 in the best position. Put in a 2-0 hole early, things looked awfully bleak against Cole Hamels. Whether they got an assist from the rain or not, Tampa Bay scratched back to tie the game, and now it has three innings to buy another nine at home in Tropicana Field, and then maybe another nine after that.
In most scenarios, the Rays will not have to face Hamels again in the series. On paper, they are at a slight disadvantage for the conclusion of Game 5, but they have a strong bullpen and the best long relief weapon on either team in phenom David Price. If they survive the end of Game 5, they'll have the home-field advantage and the starting pitching edge for Games 6 and 7. And oh yes, Evan Longoria and Carlos Penaseem to be coming out of their funk.
Joe Maddon's crew has been counted out numerous times over the course of the season and risen from the ashes again and again. If ever there was going to be a defining moment for a team of destiny, wouldn't the heavens opening up swiping aside Hamels in the middle of Game 5 be it?
Major League Baseball wins too. It might not seem like it at first glance. After all, Selig and the sport is going to take a beating.
But look at what it gained in the rainout. It gained another night of baseball in primetime (at some point). That means another night of commercial revenue and national exposure from FOX and another night for hardcore baseball fans to postpone the long, cold winter.
It even gained water cooler buzz -- something that seemed impossible when this World Series matchup was set. The bizarre events of Game 5 are pretty much the only way a couple of red-headed stepchildren like the Rays and Phillies could generate interest among casual sports fans. Sure, the World Series has become a bit of a freakshow, but who's going to take their eyes off of it now?
The suspension of Game 5 even vindicates the MLB officials who decided to start Game 3 after 10PM on Saturday night in some ways.
As happy as you have to be for the Rays, and even for MLB in a strange way, it's impossible not to feel for the Phillies.
Everything was lined up perfectly. Cole Hamels was mowing through the slumping Rays. Then Citizens Bank Ballpark turned into a swamp. The momentum is gone. So is the 2-1 lead Hamels protected up until the sixth inning. And now the Phillies have to wait and wonder.
They're still in the driver's seat. They have one more at-bat left than the Rays in Game 5 and they still need just one win in the next three games to wrap up a championship. But for the losingest franchise in baseball history -- for a team that has just one title in more than 100 years of existence playing in a city that hasn't celebrated a major professional sports championship in 25 years -- it has to feel, at least a little, like fate has dealt Philly another bad hand.
It's on the Phillies if they fold now, but would you blame them if they did?
Yesterday's Hero: Carlos Pena, who came alive in a big way to keep the Rays from turning into a pumpkin for one more night.
Yesterday's Goat: Bud Selig is the easy and obvious choice. He could have dealt with an ugly situation much more gracefully.