Game 5 of the World Series became a farce the moment Jimmy Rollins - one of the finest defensive shortstops of his generation - dropped that zigging, zagging pop-up in the fifth inning.

This doesn't happen to Rollins, an all-star and the reigning National League MVP, in playable baseball conditions.

"When you look up into the rain, it's pretty hard to catch a ball," Phillies starter Cole Hamels said.

In April or May, in June or July, in August or September, the umpires would have stopped play at that moment - if they hadn't already. Pop-ups that drop toward unseeing eyes can seriously injure a player. It was pouring rain. Pools of water were forming in front of the infielders. Pitchers were cleaning their spikes after every pitch.

In October, the game went on. And Major League Baseball should be ashamed for allowing its most important game of the year to deteriorate into an embarrassing mess because of slavish obedience to its pimp, the Fox Television Network.

Simply put, Game 5 is hopelessly tainted by what transpired between the time the game should have been called and the middle of the sixth inning, when it was finally suspended.

Whatever happens when play resumes, whether the Phillies celebrate their first World Series championship or the Rays force a Game 6 in Florida, MLB can't justify its decision or its decision-making process.

This night was different from Saturday, when a rain delay caused Game 3 to begin 91 minutes late, at about 10 p.m. That game ended at nearly 2 a.m., but it was played fairly and under perfectly acceptable conditions.

Those things are going to happen in outdoor ballparks in the Northeast in late October. It rained all day Saturday, and the best time to play the game was, in fact, when it was played.

The first problem here is TV's insistence on scheduling these games for 8:30 p.m. or even later. There are plenty of lovely autumn afternoons - and yesterday was one of them - that give way to cold and blustery evenings. When baseball, like other sports, sold its soul to the networks and their craven need for prime-time sports programming, it created a situation where young fans couldn't stay up to watch the most important games of the year.

There is no mechanism for the baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, to look at the weather reports, discern that a night game is doomed, and shift the start time to late afternoon.

That would inconvenience fans, but so does suspending the game for a day. That would be tough on players, but so does suspending the game for a day.

If the fans and players were the priorities, last night's game would have been stopped much sooner. They aren't. Television is, and television won't allow its prime-time program to be moved to 5 p.m.

Rollins, rain pouring into his face, dropped that pop-up in the top of the fifth. The play was rather nastily ruled an error, as if it had occurred in acceptable conditions. Hamels got out of that inning without allowing a run. The Phillies led, 2-1, in the middle of the fifth.

At that moment, a regular-season game would become official. A rainout would mean the game was over, with the Phillies winning.

"This is not a way to end a World Series," Selig said. "I would not allow a World Series to end this way."

Selig is right on that point. The problem is, it appears MLB allowed play to continue in unplayable conditions because the Phillies had a lead. It seems like more than a coincidence that play was suspended after the top of the sixth, when the Rays tied the game on a base hit by Carlos Pena.

That run was scored by B.J. Upton, who hit a two-out grounder up the middle. Rollins ranged to his left, caught the ball deep in the hole and turned to fire a throw to first. The ball slipped out of his hand and Upton was safe.

Now Upton is fast. It may well be that Rollins wouldn't have been able to get him. But it's also impossible to know whether the slick infield slowed Rollins down as well as caused him to lose his grip on the ball. If he throws Upton out, the inning is over.

Upton scored from second on Pena's single to left. Pat Burrell's throw was on target but bounced in the muck in front of home plate. Would a cleaner bounce have allowed Carlos Ruiz to get the ball sooner?

Maybe these are long shots. The point is, no one knows. What we do know is that this game was being played in unacceptable conditions. That's not my opinion. It's Selig's, too. He ordered the game suspended just moments later.

"The weather, it kept changing," Selig said.

Well, yes, sir. We call that Earth.

The tie made suspending the game a lot easier and more convenient. It sure looks as if Major League Baseball let an unplayable game play on long enough to make things easier.

And that's just shameful.