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Owners approve two rule changes

Owners approve two rule changes

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Two significant rule changes affecting the postseason and one-game tiebreakers were approved by the 30 Major League Baseball owners at their first joint meeting of the year on Thursday.

The first involved one-game tiebreakers, where coin flips will no longer determine host teams. Instead, now that host will be decided by a series of on-field tiebreakers, beginning with head-to-head records. If that's tied, the next is highest winning percentage within a team's division, followed by the highest winning percentage for each team in intraleague play during the second half of the season.

Baseball's general managers had been down on coin flips, and at the GM Meetings in November they asked Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, to propose an alternative. Solomon did, and presented the change at the Winter Meetings to the GMs, who approved it.

"That was a general managers' recommendation as you guys know," Commissioner Bud Selig said after the four-hour meeting on Thursday, "and it was a good one."

The custom had always been to flip a coin several weeks before the possible game to determine which team might host. The rule now becomes the same as the one that determines postseason seedings if two teams finish tied for the division title and both are going to the playoffs, one as the division winner and the other as the Wild Card winner.

There have been only eight one-game tiebreakers for a postseason spot in Major League history and seven of them since 1969 when the multitiered playoff format went into existence. Home teams are 4-4 in those games.

Two of them have been the past two seasons. In 2007, the Padres lost the flip and had to travel to Colorado where they lost the National League's Wild Card berth to the Rockies, 9-8, in 13 innings. In 2008, the Twins lost the flip and went to Chicago where the White Sox defeated them, 1-0, to win the American League Central title.

The White Sox had to play a game rained out earlier in September at home against the Tigers on the Monday after the last day of the regular season to force the tiebreaker against the Twins. Chicago won, and then defeated the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday night.

The White Sox had a 9-10 record against the Twins this past season and would've had to go to Minneapolis to play that game had head-to-head records been the first criteria.

The Twins voiced their displeasure that they had to travel after winning the season series.

The other rule change approved by owners is that all postseason games suspended by bad weather will be played to their conclusions.

"I'm delighted [with the change] given my experience during Game 5 in Philadelphia," Selig said. "It's important to have the rule clarified. The rule is now clarified the way I had interpreted it anyway."

Selig wouldn't let pouring rain end Game 5 of the World Series between the Rays and Phillies at Citizens Bank Park this past October. Just after the Rays tied the score, 2-2, in the top of the sixth, umpires halted play and the game ultimately was suspended for 46 hours. The Phillies won the game, 3-2, and the series after it resumed in the bottom of the sixth two days later.

Under regular-season baseball rules, which remain the same, games are supposed to be official as soon the team trailing records 15 outs. If the game is canceled by weather after a prescribed waiting period, the team in the lead at or after that juncture is declared the winner.

Selig used rules governing suspended games at the time, but he said had it been stopped with the Phillies leading, 2-1, in the fifth, the game would have gone into a rain delay until it was safe to resume.

"We'll stay here if we have to celebrate Thanksgiving here," he said.

The new rule won't apply to All-Star Games, said Selig, who became concerned again last year when the Midsummer Classic at old Yankee Stadium went 15 innings before the American League won it. But that had nothing to do with inclement weather.

Selig had to end the 2002 All-Star Game at Milwaukee in a tie after 11 innings because both teams ran out of pitchers.

"We talked a lot about that and I certainly wouldn't have minded it," he said. "We left the Commissioner with a little more flexibility in that area given that you play [regular season] games 24 hours later. Hopefully we'll just have nine-inning normal [All-Star] games, or at most 11 or 12 innings."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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