Monday Superlatives

Debbie Downer Take of the Week: The Indians definitely did not break the record

September 18, 2017

If you were paying attention to sports last week, you already know that the Cleveland Indians allegedly broke the MLB record for consecutive wins. The Tribe went on an unbelievable run, winning 22 straight before the Royals topped them 4-3 on Friday, leading to this terrific moment where the fans in Cleveland gave them a standing ovation despite the loss:

But if you were paying really close attention, you might know that there's also an asterisk. Yes, the Indians passed the '02 Athletics for the AL record, but there's a question nobody seems to want to ask—is the new MLB record actually legitimate?

My answer is an emphatic n-o no. I don't say that to troll Indians fans or take anything away from this remarkable streak, which I firmly believe is the most impressive in MLB history, for reasons I'll get into later. But nor would anyone who took anything more than a cursory look at the details claim that they truly hold the record.

First, let's talk about the 1916 New York (baseball) Giants. If you look at their game log from that year, you'll notice that between Sep. 7 and Sep. 30, they went unbeaten for what looks like 27 straight games. That word, "unbeaten," is critical—there's a reason I didn't say "won 26 straight games." On Sep. 18, playing the second game of a doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Giants gave up a game-tying sacrifice fly to Honus Wagner. With the game still knotted at 1-1 heading into the ninth, rain began to fall, and though it stopped later that night, there were no lights at the Polo Grounds, and the game was declared a tie.

Under current rules, a tie in baseball (though very infrequent) is resumed from the point at which it left off. Under the rules in 1916, the whole game was replayed from the start. That happened the next day, and the Giants won the game. Per USA Today, here's what MLB and the Elias Sports Bureau has to say about the situation:

"...only those 1916 Giants have won more games in between losses, and their streak of 26 was interrupted by the tie, so it really should be regarded as an unbeaten streak instead of a winning streak, right?

No, say Major League Baseball and its official statistician, the Elias Sports Bureau, which deem the Giants’ 26 as the record because, as was the custom at the time, the game was not resumed but played anew. Even though player statistics counted, the tie was not reflected in the standings. The Giants finished with an 86-66 record that season, not 85-66-1."

So, for all intents and purposes, to call it a tie is a complete misnomer. There was no tie! That game was replayed, and the Giants won the replay—it's a pretty simply story.

There are times in MLB when a tie actually stands. This happens when two teams "tie" due to weather, there's no easy chance to make up the game, and the result won't affect the playoff standings. It happened last year, in fact, when the eventual World Series champion Chicago Cubs tied the Pirates in late September. If you look at the NL Central standings from 2016, you'll notice that their W-L records don't add up to 162 games—they add up to 161, and that unlisted game is the tie.

However—and this is the most important point—that's not what happened to the Giants. They replayed the game under the rules of the contemporary system, and they won. In the standings, it counted as a win. That's the ultimate arbiter of any debate, right? It would be like if the Cubs and Pirates resumed their "tie" game the next day, and the Cubs won. For historical purposes, you'd never call that a "tie." No—you'd say the Cubs won. And the only logical way to deal with the result of that Giants-Pirates game is to say that the Giants won.

Facts are facts: There was no tie. The 1916 New York Giants won 26 straight games, one of which came on a next-day replay after a rain delay. They won the most consecutive games in MLB history, and Cleveland came up short of tying that record by four games. Drawing any other conclusion is just dishonest.

That said, I'd like to throw Indians fans a bone—your team's streak was more impressive, because the Giants played every game of their 1916 streak at home. Literally every single game! Baseball was so weird back then.

Your Delicious Hit of Schadenfreude for the Week: Tennessee Football Radio

Did you see that hail mary? I mean, did you see it? Florida beat Tennessee at the death on what I consider the most exciting play in sports, the Tennessee coaching staff and DB made the mistake of their lives, and CBS' Brad Nessler had a great call:

The Florida radio call was also delightfully insane, as you'd expect from partisan Gator announcer Mick Hubert:

But—call me sadistic—there's nothing better in these situations than listening to the call from the losing team. Somehow, schadenfreude is better than excited objectivity or pure one-sided joy. I had to do some digging for the Tennessee radio call (big thanks to Josh Ward from WNML in Knoxville), but I found it, and now I share it with you

That moment is delicious—when the announcer is clearly disappointed, but has to try to hide it because he's doing his job, and yet he can't quite disguise that he's one enormously bummed-out dude speaking to thousands of bummed-out listeners. I DRINK YOUR TEARS, ANNOUNCER!!

Here's the genre's best example ever, which I will always and forever take every opportunity to post:

The inflection on "and he hit it" is just peak announcing schadenfreude. That man deserves a medal. (A silver medal.)

Most Boring Sport of the Week, Despite the Hail Mary: College Football

Might as well end on the same negative note that we've been riding from the start, right? So let me ask: Is there any more dispiriting sports headline to read than this one, from ESPN:

"Clemson now no. 2 in AP poll, behind Bama"

Ugh.

I'm not stupid enough to think there's ever going to be true parity in college football—each year, there are only going to be a maximum of five teams with a real chance to win a title—but I am extremely uninterested in this new duopoly. Clemson and Bama had their vaguely exciting two-year title exchange, but can we please get some new blood in there now? Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney are sucking the life out of the sport, and the prospect of another season where they march to an inevitable championship clash is too depressing to consider. How about some fresh meat, NCAA?

I can't believe I'm saying this, but if we're doomed to the awful inevitability of Alabama and Clemson winning this thing every single year, maybe the anti-playoff people were right?

No, that's crazy. I can't let them infect my mind like that. Still, wouldn't it be great to see a team that hasn't been there for a while break through and win a title? A real feel-good story, backed by great fans, but who has a legit shot to win. A team like....

(looks at rankings)

...Penn State.

God help us all.


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