(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)
With an assist from the rain, Phil Hughes registered the first shutout of his major league career. It was the kind of performance the Yankees had been waiting for all season, so perhaps it was appropriate they had to also abide two rain delays before getting to fully enjoy it.
Ironically, by delaying the start of the game by nearly an hour because of the “threat of bad weather”, the White Sox ensured there would be another stoppage when the storm finally hit several hours later. In fact, if not for Hughes’ unusual efficiency (despite pitching a season high six innings, he recorded his second lowest pitch count at 65), the eventual delay probably have wiped out the game altogether.
Instead of having a lead washed away, the Yankees were granted an abbreviated victory and Hughes became the franchise’s first pitcher since Sam McDowell in 1973 to author a shutout of six innings or less. Since 1919, there have been 182 no hitters, but only 162 of these “mini-shutouts”, so thanks to the rain, and the White Sox unnecessary caution, baseball was treated to a rare event. Unfortunately, however, phantom rain delays have become much too common.
After the advent of night games in the 1930s, municipal curfews, which had previously existed for Sunday afternoon games, became much more prevalent throughout major league baseball. At the time, contests that reached curfew were treated similar to weather delays. If five innings had been played, the game was deemed official. As a result, teams would sometimes employ stall tactics, creating a baseball version of running out the clock.
In an effort to prevent teams from manipulating the curfews, the National League adopted “anti-stall” rules in1943. These measures called for the suspension of all games halted by curfew. The American League, however, made no such concession until 1958. In the time it took the junior circuit to come around to the suspended game, the National League dropped its league-mandated curfew altogether. From 1949 until 1980, when the N.L. modified its rule to suspend all games delayed by rain after 12:45 AM, the senior circuit had no limitations on the length of a ballgame. Even with the modification, the National League’s more lax restrictions permitted marathon contests like the one played between the Braves and Mets on July 4, 1985. By comparison, the American League regularly had games suspended because of curfew up until the rule was scrapped after the 2000 season.
Presently, baseball does not have any league or municipal curfews to abide. However, maybe one should be reinstated to help pursuade teams from using a more modern version of stall tactics? Otherwise, Major League Baseball should give serious thought to removing the home team’s authority to postpone games before first pitch. Considering some of the recent examples of blatant manipulation and lack of regard for fans and opponents alike, a more centralized approach to postponements seems long over due.