Chris Graham: Bush league? Nah

You’re not supposed to write mad, and here I am, writing at best just this side of mad.

I’m mad that I spent my summer with a baseball team whose season ended because of rain.

The Waynesboro Generals were trailing to the Harrisonburg Turks 2-1 in the top of the seventh inning when heavy rain pushed the game into delay. It was decided about 45 minutes into the delay that the field would not be playable the rest of the night, and so the game was called, and the Turks were awarded the game.

The decision pushed Harrisonburg to a two-games-to-one series win over Waynesboro and sends the Turks to the VBL championship series.

The team that I spent my summer with, meanwhile, packs up and goes home because of rain.

Which begs the question … how in the sam hill is it possible that a deciding game in a playoff series can be decided without going nine innings?

The answer is simple – it’s a league rule.

So what if neither the NCAA or Major League Baseball decides playoff games without going the distance.

This ain’t the NCAA or MLB, folks. This is the Valley League.

I really want to call the VBL a bush league, or what News Leader columnist Patrick Hite called it last year, a “beer league,” and be done with it. But I can’t do that. I’ve made quite a few good friends in my four years calling Waynesboro Generals games on the Internet and writing, editing and otherwise administering the Generals website, and they all work hard for no money (and don’t get to take summer vacations) to make the VBL work.

There are also a few manipulators who use the league as their personal playground to try to recapture one last glimpse of lost youth.

Tonight’s result wasn’t the result of someone trying to recapture anything. It was a flaw in the rulebook that could easily have been amended on the spot by a league administrator, much the same as MLB commissioner Bud Selig did in the 2008 World Series, when he famously proclaimed that he’d wait ’til Thanksgiving to finish a game suspended in the sixth inning if he had to, then pushed through a rewrite of the rules that offseason making it clear that there never will be a rain-shortened MLB playoff or World Series game.

I have no heartburn over how the rulebook was written, or even the fact that the league commissioner was at the game and could have acted to suspend the game to be completed tomorrow night and didn’t.

My heartburn is as a paying customer. I invested an awful lot of time in this baseball season, as did a good number of Generals fans, and we saw our team’s season end not because of something that happened on the field, but rather because of a stupid rule that everybody on both sides knows is a stupid rule, and yet it still happened the way it did, and there’s no turning back the clock now.

We just wanted to see the end of the movie. It may have had a happy ending, it may have had a sad ending, but the way this one ended was with the manager turning on the lights five minutes before the big climactic scene and telling us that, sorry, the projector overheated, and the guy who knows how to fix it is out of town.

Are you going to sit through the whole thing again? You may, but I guarantee you’d find a different theater.

And that’s where I am with this. The people who run the VBL are just as nice as they can be, but I’ve got to find me a different summer theater.

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