Did anti-semitism prevent Hank Greenberg from breaking Ruth's home run record?

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Hank Greenberg.jpgHoward Megdal thinks so, arguing that Greenberg experienced an uncharacteristic spike in walk rates towards the end of his 1938 season.  Megdal says “the American League didn’t seem exactly thrilled with Greenberg’s
pursuit,” and concludes that “the statistical record stands as evidence that Greenberg’s religion
might have been an additional barrier” to him in surpassing Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in a season.

Jack Marshall simply isn’t having it. He notes just how small a sample size Megdal is looking at, notes that Greenberg’s 1938 walk total isn’t exactly a big outlier for him and notes that other record-challenging sluggers walked and awful lot, likely due to the fact that their home run tears struck fear in pitchers’ hearts. Marshall acknowledges that Greenberg had to deal with significant anti-Semitism during his career, but sees no evidence that it had anything to do with him hitting 58 homers in 1938 instead of 60.

I’m with Marshall on this one. The antisemitic mood of the nation in general and baseball in particular in the late 30s is beyond dispute, but the evidence Megdal presents here is less than compelling. Is it possible that Greenberg wasn’t getting anything to hit because he was a Jew? Most definitely. It’s just not the sort of thing, I think, that can be divined from the statistical record alone.  At least this record.

The Dodgers tied a dubious major league record yesterday

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My old memory
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The Dodgers beat their arch rival last night and expanded their lead in the NL West over those Giants to two games. That’s good! They also set a record for the most players on the disabled list in a season. That’s bad!

Los Angeles placed Brett Anderson and Scott Kazmir on the disabled list yesterday. Anderson has a blister on the index finger of his pitching hand. Kazmir has neck inflammation. Kazmir is the 27th different Dodgers player to go on the DL this year, which ties the record held by the 2012 Boston Red Sox. No word on whether Anderson has set any records for any one individual’s trip to the DL, but he has to be getting up there.

Records on this particular mark only go back to 1987. I’m sure its possible some team lost more than that due to the 1919 influenza pandemic or to some iteration of a Yellow Fever epidemic or something, but this is easily the most since antibiotics were invented.

Orioles place Chris Tillman on the disabled list

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 20:  Chris Tillman #30 of the Baltimore Orioles is taken out of the game by manager Buck Showalter #26 in the third inning against the Houston Astros at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 20, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
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Bad news for the Orioles, as they placed their best starter, Chris Tillman, on the 15-day disabled list last night with an inflamed shoulder. Tillman received a cortisone shot but he’s getting the time off nonetheless. He’s expected to be activated on September 5.

The Orioles’ rotation has been thin all year, but Tillman has been great. He’s 15-5 with a 3.76 ERA in 153 innings of work. His last start, however, on August 20, was awful. He gave up six runs on six hits in two innings. Tillman says it was the result of rust due to a nine-day layoff, but it’s hard to imagine that whatever is bothering his shoulder didn’t have an impact on the outing. Ubaldo Jimenez will get the start in Tillman’s place Thursday. He has . . . been less than reliable on the year.

Baltimore wakes up this morning two games behind Toronto and Boston in the AL East but safely in the second Wild Card position for the time being.