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The Indians’ winning streak needs to reach 26 to be a record

The 1916 Giants had a tie game in the middle of their 26-game winning streak, but there’s more to the story.

Just 24 hours ago, like an idiot, I wrote that one of the reasons I’m in love with the Indians’ winning streak so much is that it doesn’t require context. It doesn’t require granular inspections of what was different with each decade of baseball. It’s just a team winning a lot of games without losing, which is always impressive.

Today, it would appear that it’s time to discuss the context of another winning streak and compare it to the Indians’. I’m so, so sorry. But at least we get to do a deep dive into the rewarding world of semantics!

The issue is this: The Cleveland Indians have won 21 consecutive games. If they win one more game, they will have set a new record for the longest uninterrupted winning streak in baseball history. That’s not my verbiage; it belongs to SABR, and it’s pretty mindful of this stuff. There isn’t a lot of willy-nilly when it comes to SABR, unless you’re talking about the actual Willy Nilly, who was the center fielder for the ‘39 Bees.

UPDATE: Cleveland won their 22nd straight on Thursday night!

The reason there’s a distinction between the longest uninterrupted winning streak and the much simpler longest winning streak? We’ll let Baseball-Reference.com tell the story:

It sure sticks out. That T is right in the middle of a W sandwich, and I must forcefully remind you that there are no ties in baseball. THERE ARE NO TIES IN BASEBALL. Take any arguments to the contrary back to Düsseldorf, pal. And there are no ties in a winning streak. The 1916 Giants have the longest win-tie streak in baseball history. The 2017 Indians are a win away from the longest win streak in baseball history. It’s settled.

Glad we could clear that up. And now we move on to our next order of business, which is to point out that Kyle Blanks and Nate Freiman are both on the Acereros de Monclova in the Mexican League, which means there’s a non-zero chance they could get in a clubhouse fight. While they’re both supposedly very nice people, we have to guess at who would win if this w ...

Except, hold on. It turns out that it isn’t that simple. It never is.

The score for the second game of the doubleheader on Sept. 18, 1961 reads as a tie on the Baseball-Reference schedule because there’s no other way to include those stats. For the purposes of Baseball-Reference, the game has to be included because the statistics count. Benny Kauff hit an inside-the-park home run, and that home run is a part of the 49 home runs he officially hit in his career. Max Carey was 3-for-4 in that game, which is the reason he hit .285 for his career, not .284. What the players did in that game was recorded.

What the teams did in that game was not. The Giants finished 86-66, not 86-66-1. That’s because the game was rained out and never resumed. It wasn’t an official game, other than the official stats that accrued in that game. Those were the rules of the day.

The game was rained out and never resumed ... but it was replayed. They started over from scratch. Carey got to keep his three hits and Kauff got to keep his home run, but the actual effects of those hits were negated. They were trees eternally falling in the woods, and they will never make a sound.

But the game was replayed. And they won.

What do we know about the rainout? We know it was a 1-1 tie into the eighth inning. We know that Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes was pitching masterfully. We know that the Giants were the home team, and they would have had a chance to win.

We know they would have had a chance to lose.

We know that because the stats counted but the game didn’t. Baseball-Reference has to put a “T” next to the game on the schedule.

The most important thing, though, is that the game was replayed. The discussion ends there. If the Royals score two runs in the first inning against the Indians, who go scoreless in the first, and rain forces them to stop, the game will be replayed, not resumed.

A postponed game shall be a “No Game” and shall be treated in the same manner as a game called before it has become a regulation game within the meaning of Rule 7.01(e).

That Rule 7.01(e) leads to Rule 7.02, which leads to...

No game called because of a curfew (Rule 7.02(a)(1) (Rule 4.12(a)(1)), weather (Rule 7.02(a)(5) (Rule 4.12(a)(5)), a time limit (Rule 7.02(a)(2) (Rule 4.12(a)(2)) or with a tied score (Rule 7.02(a)(6) (Rule 4.12(a)(6)) shall be a suspended game unless it has progressed far enough to have been a regulation game pursuant to Rule 7.01(c) (Rule 4.10(c)). A game called pursuant to Rules 7.02(a)(3) or 7.02(a)(4) (Rules 4.12(a)(3) or 4.12(a)(4)) shall be a suspended game at any time after it starts.

... and dizziness. But after reading that for an hour and making a flow chart, I’m pleased to announce that my scenario is probably right. If the Royals lead 2-0 after the first inning and rain dumps down on them, it’s a “No Game,” and it’s started over from scratch.

In this scenario, there is no controversy about the Indians’ win streak. It would still be wholly intact. We can all agree on that, I’m sure.

The Giants-Pirates game from 1916 was like that. Just ... much more so. It was a No Game, with the only differences being that a) the stats counted, b) it went into the eighth inning, and c) it was a tie game. But the rules counted it as a No Game, and the game was replayed in a doubleheader the next day. The Giants won that game. Which means they really won the tie game, by definition.

Would the 1916 Giants have won 26 games in a row without that rainout?

I’m a big butterfly-effect guy, so I’m pretty confident they wouldn’t have. If it takes a million baseball cards to build an Eiffel Tower, pulling just one of them can change everything. It takes so much for a team to win that many games in a row, I’m guessing that with even one more inning played, something changes and prevents the streak. Also, if the 1916 Giants aren’t rained out, you’re never born and President Springsteen has a 69 percent approval rating. But that’s not what we’re here to question.

There was a rainout. The game was replayed. The Giants won that game, just as they won the 12 games before it and just as they won the 13 games after it. I went into this thinking that the term “longest uninterrupted winning streak in baseball history” was something of a farce, an attempt to have it both ways.

Instead, I’m pretty sure it’s too unforgiving. The Indians are chasing 26 wins if they want the all-time record. But that doesn’t take away the fact that they’re in the middle of something amazing and that it hasn’t been equaled since baseball players were paid in oxen and traveled on the tops of train cars. If you want to ignore anything that happened 101 years ago, it’s more than understandable.

If you want to get technical, though, 26 games is the official record, and it’s a lot less ambiguous than you might think. The 1916 Giants had 26 games on their schedule between Sept. 7 and Sept. 30, and they won them all.

Except, wait, the Sept. 29 game was rained out and replayed as the second game of a doubleheader the next day, and that was the loss that snapped the winning streak. Which means the winning streak might technically be 25 games because ...