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MLB suspended a game in the first inning earlier this month

This is a good thing. MLB should keep this rule.

Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

It was a rainy, chilly day at Citi Field Sunday, April 11. It started raining just a bit after noon, and didn’t really stop until after sunset.

Even so, the Marlins and Mets began their game anyway. It was raining when the game began, and it rained steadily through all nine pitches Marcus Stroman threw in the top of the first inning. From Gameday, here’s all the baseball they played in New York that day:

Yep, that’s it. Nine pitches and the umpires said they’d seen enough and halted play. There was one out and a runner on first base. The count was 2-0 on the third batter of the game, Jesus Aguilar. Just look at how hard it was raining!

If baseball rules in effect before 2020 had applied, none of that would have counted. The game would eventually have been called and replayed from the beginning. The few pitches that were made by Stroman would have vanished into the ether, as if they had never happened.

Major League Baseball, though, revised its suspended-game rule for the 2020 season and that revision has carried over into 2021. Any game that’s started, no matter how many or few pitches have been thrown, can be suspended at any point if weather or other conditions prevent play. And so, the Mets/Marlins game started April 11 will be completed August 31, prior to the regularly-scheduled Mets/Marlins game on that date.

This is an excellent rule. What it accomplishes is this: Teams no longer have to play through horrendous conditions to get to five innings (“official game”) or, almost worse, sit around for several hours waiting for bad weather to clear the area.

I’ve written about this before. Playing through downpours or waiting several hours to finish a game after midnight inconsiderate to fans, media, gameday workers and players. As I wrote after a 2019 Cubs/Cardinals game in St. Louis was delayed more than three and a half hours:

Which of these two scenarios is better?

Sit around for three and a half hours, then resume the game in front of maybe 2,000 fans, play till 1 a.m. and then have players have to return to play 12 hours later, or

After perhaps an hour’s delay, allow the game to be suspended, send everyone home around 9 p.m. and resume play at noon the next day?

The new suspended-game rule is a good one. It’s true that decades of baseball history have created the “rain check,” where you can get a refund if the game isn’t “official.” (In some cases, that is, some teams won’t do that.) But I believe the “rain check” is a relic of an outdated era. From my 2019 article:

Perhaps you’ll say, “Al, in your scenario the original ticket holder doesn’t get to see an official game.” My response to that: Most of the fans at Saturday’s game, which had an announced tickets sold total of 46,297, left before the resumption of the game anyway and so they didn’t see an official game by their own choice. Further, it’s very likely that a significant portion of Saturday’s crowd also attended Sunday’s game, either Cardinals season-ticket holders or Cubs fans who traveled to St. Louis for the weekend. This type of fandom is far different from the way things were decades ago when the “rain check” language was first put on tickets. Most teams had very few season-ticket holders until after World War II and the number of Cubs fans you’d have found in St. Louis (or any other road city, for that matter) for games in that era could probably be counted in the dozens instead of the thousands.

Thus the reality is, when games go into long rain delays, most people leave anyway.

Again, from my 2019 article:

To me, there’s no reason anymore to force games to be played through five innings for “rain check” integrity (or, beyond five innings, to not allow games to be suspended regardless of the score). The idea of teams playing four innings (for example) and then having all statistics washed out if it rains, starting the game over, seems weird and anachronistic. Once a baseball game starts, the stats should count. If there’s one pitch thrown... suspend the game and finish it the next time the teams play. (This would likely almost never happen. If weather conditions are such that a game could be delayed after one pitch, it’s probably not even going to start.)

Well, this scenario nearly happened in the Mets/Marlins game. Granted, they probably shouldn’t have even started that game, but since they did, good for MLB to have what happened on the field — all nine pitches of it — remain on the books when the game is resumed four months from now.

The rule was instituted last year as part of MLB’s pandemic operations. They ought to keep it for good.