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The 1918 Cubs and the fallacy of 'clean' statistics - and the big Dodgers news
Thanks to Poppy for alerting me to this story that raised the possibility of the 1918 Cubs throwing that World Series against the Red Sox.
I have no idea whether it's true, of course. I might be feeling old lately - I thought the rule was that men either go bald or turn gray, but not both at the same time? What the hell? - but I'm not old enough to remember the '18 Fall Classic.
But if you've done any reading on baseball's early days - I recommend "The First Fall Classic," by my pal Mike Vaccaro - you know that gamblers were an infestation to the game. They were everywhere, they were unchecked and they were dealing with players who were largely uneducated and not paid well.
In other words, if you think the 1919 World Series represents the only baseball games to be impacted by players with bad intentions, then I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you.
Every statistic in the game's grand history - every at-bat, every game - has a story behind it. Maybe it's a 1915 player who wasn't trying hard to win due to his association with gamblers. Maybe it's Babe Ruth dominating his all-white opponents. Maybe it's Roger Maris excelling in baseball's first-ever year of expansion. Maybe it's Hank Aaron playing for the team that moves to the ballpark known as the "Launching Pad."
Maybe, of course, it's Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or Manny Ramirez using illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
The game has never been "clean," from a statistical standpoint. I understand that not all backstories are created equal; it's not The Babe's fault that Major League Baseball was rampantly racist during his time, nor did Maris decree expansion. But while that rightly acquits Ruth and Maris of any wrongdoing, it doesn't make their numbers any less "pure."
All stats are a product of their environment, and no one environment is the same. They're like snowflakes.
--OK, the Dodgers. You know by now that Major League Baseball has taken over the franchise. We've known for a while that Bud Selig was angling to dump Frank McCourt _ whom, as Sandy pointed out in the comments, Selig rewarded the franchise back in 2004. Selig has no one to blame but himself for this.
Then again, with his actions - or inaction, in some cases - towards the Dodgers in the last year or so, Selig has behaved as though he knew full well this was his fault, and he has worked to clean up the mess.
McCourt released a statement of protestation late last night - I'd love to know why it took him some seven hours to publicly respond - but you'd have to think he's toast. It would be a stunner if he ever ran the Dodgers unilaterally again. Selig wants him gone, and Selig has the support of the other 29 owners.
As for the impact this will have on the 2011 Dodgers, I'd assume MLB will set a budget just as it did for the Rangers last year. The Dodgers certainly have a chance to be in contention, so they'd obviously like some money to spend come July.
--In the linked story, I mentioned the differences between the Dodgers and the Mets regarding their respective financial difficulties. To reiterate: Bud Selig wants McCourt out badly. He wants the Wilpons and Saul Katz to survive, somehow, just as badly.
--Kudos to Bartolo Colon, who defeated the Blue Jays last night to pick up his first victory since 2009. And to Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who stockpiled low-risk options to plug the dam until better pitchers become available on the trade market come June and July.
--Phil Hughes continues to work on his velocity.
--The Mets lost, again. I'm not sure how much there is to be said about the Mets until, say, the amateur draft. We'll closely monitor their selections, make sure they're not being cheap regarding the recommended slots, and then we'll see how they shop their veteran players following the draft.
--Jason Bay will return to the Mets' lineup tonight, Jim Baumbach writes, but it's hard to know what to expect from him.
--Bobby Parnell will go on the disabled list, making room for Bay on the roster.
--Have a great day.