Thursday, August 21, 2014

Protest the Zero: The Sullen Giants, the Sudden Rain, and the Serendipitous Tarp of Wrigley Field

In my life to this point, I have witnessed several acts of protest. It's part of our backbone as Americans, and frankly, as humans. Often times, however, this act of free speech is in vain. Still, it is our right to stand against a decision we believe is wrong. As I write on Wednesday night, protesters in suburban St. Louis are again clashing with police. While I believe the events happening there are the most relevant and important thing happening in our country right now, this is a baseball blog. It just so happens that in the midst of that unrest, an MLB game protest was upheld. The San Francisco Giants challenged the ruling of a rain-shortened loss to the Chicago Cubs and won. Thursday afternoon, the game will resume. For the first time in my lifetime, a win and a loss will be wiped from the table, and justice will be served.

In an instant, the floodgates above Wrigley Field opened faster than the grounds crew could react. On the other side of town, the White Sox were playing a game uninterrupted. The storm on the North Side of Chicago was brief but powerful enough to cause trouble. In one of the most bizarre sequences in all of my years of watching baseball, the Wrigley Field grounds crew was unable to properly cover the infield. They resorted to using relatively tiny tarps to make a patchwork covering  around the infield dirt. This left several gaping holes in coverage, resulting in a near-pond situation at shortstop. After four hours of drying and testing and adding dirt in attempt to make the field playable, the game was called complete in the middle of the fifth inning. The Cubs, who had scored two early runs, were victorious. Pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada was given a complete game victory despite not reaching the requirements for a quality start.

Wednesday morning, the Giants filed a protest with the league. While an overturned call was somewhat unlikely, their claim to a fair decision was heard. It is likely that the mishap of the home field attendants was seen as a haphazard and possibly nefarious action by the club to pinch a win out of a close game. As of right now, no full details are available, but that thought ran through my head from the moment I watched the tarp malfunction. Nevertheless, the Giants believed that it was their right to finish the game. Lingering in the National League West division race, San Francisco had much more weighing on the game than the bottom-feeding Cubs. Wednesday afternoon, the ruling came down. The game would be completed Thurdsday afternoon before the regularly scheduled 7pm match-up.

Protesting often lands on deaf ears. Many times, a cause will fizzle and die due to lack of growth and promotion of the core idea, ultimately being brushed under a rug with last week's cause-du jour. Yet even with the percentages against them, people still find need to voice their opinions, if only to make sure those in power know there are many who find their actions counteractive to the greater good. In the United States, decisions tend to boil down to the Constitution. In Major League Baseball, it's the rule book. Rule 4.12a states that a game can only be suspended in certain circumstances. In the case of weather,  the game can only be suspended if the game is called in the middle of an inning with the home team trailing. This, of course, was not the case Tuesday night. However, the league ultimately ruled that the fair decision would be to allow the game to be completed. I should stress that even though I am a devout Cubs fan, I believe this is the correct call.

Thursday at around 4pm local time, Tuesday night's game will resume. The Cubs will lead 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth. Hopefully the skies are clear. What is left to be seen is the possible rule changes that will come from the Wrigley tarp debacle. Will rule 4.12 be amended? Will there be mandatory tarp inspection, or possibly even penalties for future accidents such as this? Baseball is a game of tradition, but it is also a game of change. Just as laws change by precedent and public opinion, so do the rules that govern baseball. Instant replay and manager challenges were added this year to a game that ages ago outlawed curveballs for their deceptive nature. Whats important here is that the Giants' plea was heard and awarded. This is proof that protest is not always a momentary act done in vain. Sometimes if you believe in a cause, its worth speaking up. The Giants will get their chance. For what its worth, they could still lose the game. But that's the great thing about baseball- there's always a chance, and the outcome is about as predictable as the weather in Chicago.

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