The Post-Gazette’s Gene Collier writes “I’ve been going to baseball games for only 51 years, but I don’t think I have ever seen what I saw at PNC Park Tuesday night — the rainless rain delay.” However, muses Gene, after sitting through a 31 minute stall for no explicable reason, such an event is typical “from the franchise that brought you the long-awaited, baseball-only stadium without ever really providing the, uh, baseball, now we get the rain delay without…”
It was not raining, nor would it ever rain in the following two hours, 34 minutes, during which the Rockies would thwack the Pirates, 6-2. It was, at least for me, the total inversion of what used to happen when I was a baseball writer in Philadelphia many rain delays ago. There, it could rain inside old Veterans Stadium for two hours nonstop and the club’s vice president and later its owner, Bill Giles, would say hopefully and famously, “it’s not raining at the airport.”
Of course, no baseball was scheduled at the airport. But this week, in this park, we were not playing because it was raining in Ross Township. In the Internet age, this makes perfect sense. How can we possibly play baseball right here, where it’s not raining, when it’s pouring in Ross? We’re not crazy. Why waste the technology?
But this wasn’t really an Internet delay, not at its core. It was, rather, a pitching delay. Pitchers are nowadays considered so fragile — there were 107 of them on the disabled lists of all 30 teams as the weekend arrived — that the thought of warming one up and then having him sit for an hour frightens managers and general managers into apoplexy. Anyone who doubts that pitchers are being babied beyond all reason need only flip back to last weekend in Atlanta, where Chuck James worked six innings of two-hit shutout baseball against the Pirates and was not allowed to leave the dugout for the seventh. He had thrown 95 pitches (call Amnesty International!). Braves manager Bobby Cox deserved to lose that game just for that, but Atlanta hung on to win, 5-4, behind four shaky relievers.
For the record, the Pirates delayed the start of a game due to threatening weather June 4, 2006, but 26 minutes into the delay, the skies opened and caused an additional delay of some 70 minutes. None of that screwed up Zach Duke. He went out and allowed three runs in the first inning.