Monday, August 29, 2022

After Marvin Hudson Gets Hurt, the Lights Fail

San Diego defeated San Francisco Monday night, but not after two delays due to an injury to original HP Umpire Marvin Hudson, followed by a light failure at Oracle Park in the 3rd inning. What are the rules for called, paused and suspended games, anyway?

Injury: With none out and none on in the bottom of the 1st inning, HP Umpire Hudson slipped on the infield grass behind home plate on a first-pitch pop fly from Giants batter Tommy La Stella that fell to the ground in foul territory. Crew Chief Hudson was replaced behind home plate by 2B Umpire John Tumpane, while 1B Umpire Ryan Blakney remained at first base and 3B Umpire Adrian Johnson remained at third, additionally assuming acting crew chief duties, which would come into play when...

...Light Failure: At the conclusion of the 2nd inning, as California and the Pacific Time Zone bid adieu to sunlight, Oracle Park became darker and a reportedly pre-existing problem with the stadium lights became hazardous to continued play. 

As a result, the umpires called "Time" (well, it was an inning break anyway) pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 5.12 (a combination of provision (b)(1): "darkness...makes immediate further play impossible" and (b)(2): "light failure makes it difficult or impossible for umpires to follow the play").

As operations staff worked on the light malfunction issue, the umpires pondered whether it would be possible to resume play. Although play did eventually resume after a lengthy delay, the umpires considered Rule 7.02(a) for how to proceed if play were to be impossible for the remainder of the night: "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...(3) light failure."

Although OBR 7.02(a) lists several different possibilities for suspending play—curfew, time limit, darkness unrelated to light failure, inclement weather (rain)—only light failures, equipment malfunctions (e.g., tarp failures), and non-light failure darkness result in a suspended game no matter when they occur. Whether a game gets called due to light failure in the 1st inning or the 8th, it becomes a suspended game to be made up at a future date.

This is different than inclement weather (rain) or a curfew/time limit, which either become a suspended game if it has not yet reached regulation game status (e.g., five innings completed or four-and-a-half innings if the home team is ahead; this rule was changed in 2020 due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols [prior to 2020, non-regulation terminated games were wiped off the books and started from scratch at a later date]), or become a called game in which case the score is final (e.g., 4-3, F/7, signifying the game is final but only seven innings were played).

Finally, because the rulebook is always simple, MLB has decreed that the suspended game rule/decision tree does not apply to postseason games. The Commissioner's Office makes all decisions relative to postseason games and, if worst comes to worst, will suspend even a rain-stopped game, so as to ensure all games are played to the full nine innings (or extra innings if tied).

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Hudson hurt, game delayed for light failure in San Francisco (CCS)


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