Commentary

Weather could cause problems in ALCS

Originally Published: October 16, 2009
By Amy K. Nelson | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Game 2 of the American League Championship Series will be played, but the gloomy forecast suggests it might not be Saturday.

"Cold, windy and rainy conditions are likely to make things miserable for fans and players for the second game of the American League Championship Series in New York," said a post on the front page of AccuWeather.com, "if it is played Saturday evening."

After the Yankees beat the Angels 4-1 in Game 1 on Friday night, players in both clubhouses were aware of the forecast and said they'd rather play Game 2 as scheduled at 7:57 p.m. ET.

2009 MLB Playoffs

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The starters slated to go in Game 2, A.J. Burnett for the Yankees and Joe Saunders for the Angels, both plan on pitching.

"I've pitched in pretty bad weather before," said Burnett, who got a no-decision after holding the Twins to a run and three hits in his only start this postseason. "The weather is not going to be a factor. And if I need the extra day because of the weather, I'll do what I have to do to be ready for Sunday."

If the game-time temperature of 45 degrees Friday wasn't bad enough, it could get even worse on Saturday, with wind chills making it feel like 30 degrees. Saunders, who grew up outside Washington D.C., said that the cold wouldn't bother him and that both teams would have to deal with the conditions. Saunders will be making his first postseason start this year and just the second of his career. He pitched Game 3 of the ALDS last year against the Red Sox, allowing four runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings.

"The cold weather is not going to affect me," Saunders said, "and certainly not the rain."

In the postseason, the decision to postpone a game is up to Major League Baseball, which consults with the networks airing the game, in this case Fox. Fox Sports spokesman Dan Bell said that if the game is rained out on Saturday, Game 2 would be slated for 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday.

[+] EnlargeRobinson Cano
Nick Laham/Getty Images The Yankees and Angels played in cold conditions Friday, but at least they got Game 1 in as scheduled. They might not be so lucky with Game 2.

That runs up against the NFL on Sunday, but Bell explained that the majority of the network's games are in the 1 p.m. ET time slot, which means the majority of the country will see Game 2 of the ALCS on Fox rather than on another channel.

"The ALCS will be played primarily on the Fox Network to approximately 85 percent of the country," Bell said in an e-mail message. "For those markets getting the late football game, the ALCS will be shown on an alternate over-the-air channel."

For instance, with the late NFL game being Eagles-Raiders, the Philadelphia area will get the NFL game on its regular Fox channel and there will be a message on the broadcast telling viewers to turn to the ALCS game on local affiliate WPHL. That kind of scenario will impact only 15 percent of the country.

If Saturday's game is postponed and Game 2 is played Sunday afternoon, both teams will fly to the West Coast after Sunday's game, and Monday's game could be played in the early afternoon local time. The Angels would prefer to have the day off, but the Yankees, who are hoping to stick with a three-man rotation, likely would prefer to play on Monday.

If the Monday option doesn't work out, Games 3, 4 and 5 will be played on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The players' union is consulted, but ultimately the decision lies with baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

The weather predicament is one in which Selig now has a road map. It was last year, in Game 5 of the World Series, that the rain was so severe play was suspended in the sixth inning after the Rays came back and tied it 2-2. Had they not done that, there was much debate over whether the Phillies -- already up in the series 3-1 -- would have won the championship on a rain-shortened game and clinched the World Series.

Even though the rules dictated that outcome, Selig vowed that would not happen. He said afterward that he would change the rule, and he did. One postseason game already has been called off in this year's playoffs. Game 3 of the Phillies' NLDS with the Rockies was postponed because of bad weather in Denver.

That game was called well in advance; neither team even went to the field.

Whether that will be the case Saturday is unclear. But it's obvious that Fox already has consulted with baseball and made contingency plans. And the best-case scenario, according to Gary Matthews Jr., the Angels' player representative to the union?

"To play the scheduled games here," he said.

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com. You can reach her at amy.k.nelson@espn3.com.