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Hey, MLB: Change Your Suspended Game Rules

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Some rainy and stormy games this year have called this situation into clear focus.

Aroldis Chapman during a torrential downpour in New York on June 27
Aroldis Chapman during a torrential downpour in New York on June 27
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, the Chicago area suffered through several outbreaks of severe thunderstorms.

Games between the White Sox and Tigers were affected by these storms Thursday and Saturday. Here, from someone who attended both games, are some important times.

Thursday: First pitch 7:10 p.m., rain delay called at 9:18 p.m., game called after two-hour, five-minute delay at 11:23 p.m. The White Sox lost 2-1 in a rain-shortened game.

Saturday: First pitch 6:20 p.m. (after 10-minute delayed start), one-hour, 14-minute delay after two innings, 46-minute delay after eight innings, game suspended at 11:00 p.m.

Wait a minute. Similar situations, similar delays, yet one game was called, the other suspended.

Why? Because MLB rule 7.02 (a) says:

A game shall become a suspended game that must be completed at a future date if the game is terminated for any of the following reasons:

And reason (6) under that rule is:

It is a regulation game that is called with the score tied

So, under the current rule, the game has to be tied to be suspended, and that Saturday White Sox/Tigers game was tied 3-3 after eight innings, when the delay was called. It was completed Sunday afternoon before the regularly-scheduled game between the teams.

Why should that be so? Why should the game situation determine whether a game has to be suspended or not?

You probably remember the Cubs/Giants game at Wrigley two years ago, in which the grounds crew had trouble with the tarp in high winds and the infield was drenched. That led to a three-hour delay in which the crew tried to get the field in shape, only to have the game called after 1 a.m. with a Cubs victory. The Giants -- rightfully so, I think -- complained, and the game wound up suspended and completed the next day. That led to a rule change for suspended games, which is under rule 7.02 (a) and reads:

Light failure, malfunction of, or unintentional operator error in employing, a mechanical or field device or equipment under the control of the home club (e.g., a retractable roof, a tarpaulin, or other water removal equipment)

Last month, in a Yankees/Rangers game in New York where it had rained through much of the game, the rain became too hard (in the opinion of the umpires) to continue -- in the top of the ninth with the Yankees leading 6-5 and then-Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman on the mound. This led to a delay of more than 3½ hours and the game resuming at 2:15 a.m., by which time Chapman couldn't continue. The Yankees wound up losing 9-6. Both teams were upset with the way the rain had been handled.

SI's Jay Jaffe argued, after that fiasco, the suspended game rule should be changed to accommodate situations like this:

Rule book aside, coming back from a delay with the field in such rough and potentially hazardous conditions makes less sense than resuming the game at a later date, with the field in better shape.

In light of Major League Baseball's efforts to protect its players by outlawing collisions at home plate and takeout slides on the basepaths, it’s something commissioner Rob Manfred and the players’ union should consider revisiting. When things get as bad as they were at Yankee Stadium on Monday night, player safety is compromised and the quality of play suffers dramatically. Fans and teams deserve better.

I wholeheartedly agree. There have been suggestions that MLB should create a centralized weather department with professional meteorologists on staff to deal with situations like this. Instead of letting the home club or umpires decide on weather delays, if this comes up, the MLB office could be consulted on whether conditions are too poor to play, or continue play. This is especially necessary in the case of severe weather, as it was for one Cubs/Cardinals game in St. Louis in June 2015.

So I'd make this suggestion: Change the suspended-game rule to allow any game that's past the five-inning mark (making it official) to be suspended, regardless of the score. The only exception would be if the game is the last one of the year between the two teams, in which case you'd have to call it as a shortened game if conditions warranted. This would be an unusual circumstance. If the game was the final game between the two clubs in one city, but they would meet again in the other team's home park, the game could be completed there, with the visitors being the "home" team and batting last for the remainder of any such suspended game.

It used to be that there were a handful of unplayed games every year, and quite a few shortened to less than nine innings, due to weather. MLB has made every effort to play all 162 games for every team, and shortened games have almost disappeared: there were just four all of last season, and only five so far this year.

But MLB should change its rules in order to not risk player injury, and not make everyone at the park sit for several hours waiting for weather to clear, since suspending games delayed like the ones I described above is a reasonable solution, regardless of the score.