Look, nothing is going to happen to A-Rod over this poker business

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It was rather notable to see the reports — emanating from the entertainment press, not the sporting press — about Alex Rodriguez and the allegedly high-stakes, cocaine-and-Tobey-McGuire-fueled poker games.  Kind of salacious and, because most people like talking about A-Rod, kind of fun.  But let’s be clear about something: the reports that Major League Baseball is looking into this and could dole out some discipline in A-Rod’s direction are kind of silly.

Oh, I have no doubt that someone at Major League Baseball is saying that they’re really concerned and may do something, but that’s a p.r. thing. Because our society is wired in the puritanical way that it is, they can’t just blow off reports of one of their players being in the same room as drugs, gambling and wicked women.  I mean, this isn’t like players driving drunk or beating their wives which are apparently easy things for MLB to ignore.

So someone tells a reporter that baseball thinks it’s serious. A short meeting — complete with photographers to catch A-Rod entering the building in a penitent posture — is held. Some leak occurs in which A-Rod is described as being on double secret probabtion or something and the matter is considered closed.

And there really is no other option.  Unless MLB has stopped testing for cocaine, there is no basis for it to say that A-Rod was taking drugs. Unless the cops came in, busted the card game and arrested everyone, there is no proof that A-Rod was involved in anything illegal.  Unless A-Rod ran out of chips one night and, in order to call Tobey McGuire’s bluff, he threw a paper with “I.O.U. the outcome of five Yankees baseball games” on it, he did not break any rules of Major League Baseball.

This is all about baseball still possessing some vestigial concern that its ballplayers come off as heroic and clean cut young men, as if the last 50 years of American society and cultural evolution never happened.  It’s actually kind of cute and endearing in some weird way.

But it’s not going anywhere. A-Rod is a big boy. If he wants to play cards, he’s gonna play cards. And if Bud Selig truly wants to punish him for it, he’s going to get into a fight with the union he doesn’t want.

And really, deep down, isn’t the image of A-Rod playing high stakes poker with movie stars cooler than most of the other off-the-field glimpses we get of the guy?  Kind of manly! What a bad boy!  Really, Bud, let this one ride. It’s better for everyone.

Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak ended 78 years ago today

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There’s nothing special about a 78-year anniversary. It’s not a round number or anything and we tend to like round numbers. But (a) I was reminded of this today; and (b) we have no idea if the Martians will have invaded and taken over the planet come 2021, so I feel like it’s best to run this now than wait for the 80th anniversary. Cool? Cool.

Anyway: on this day in 1941, Joe DiMaggio’s still-unbroken and possibly unbreakable (see below) 56-game hitting streak came to end. The game took place in Cleveland in front of a staggering 67,468 fans. Not bad for a Thursday night. The way the streak ended, courtesy of an ESPN Classic post from Larry Scwartz back in 2003:

Third baseman Ken Keltner makes two outstanding plays, grabbing DiMaggio smashes down the line in the first and seventh innings and throwing him out at first base. In between these at-bats, left-hander Al Smith walks DiMaggio in the fourth.

The Yankee Clipper has one more chance to extend his streak when he bats in the eighth with the bases full against Jim Bagby, a young right-hander who just enters the game. DiMaggio hits the ball sharply, but shortstop Lou Boudreau plays a bad hop perfectly and turns the grounder into a double play.

Stuff happens.

To be clear: 56 may not be broken in my lifetime or yours. It’s obviously a SUPER difficult task to string together a hitting streak of considerable length. As we saw when guys like Pete Rose or Paul Molitor or whoever have come within spitting distance of DiMaggio’s record — long spitting distance — the pressure ramps up and it’s hard to do you job with a lot of pressure. Add in the fact that simple base hits are harder to come by in today’s game than they used to be due to prevalent hitting, pitching and defensive trends, and it’d be no shocker whatsoever if no one ever does it.

But I draw the line at “unbreakable,” simply because, as noted above, stuff does happen. And because there’s nothing structural preventing it from happening. It’s not like Cy Young’s 511 wins or something which fundamental changes in the game have made basically impossible. No one is going to win 26 games a year for 20 years straight or what have you. Heck, CC Sabathia is baseball’s current gray hair among pitchers and only has a few dozen more career starts than that. It’s just a different game.

Hitters do play in 150-160 games now, though, and the good ones do average more than one hit per game. Putting them in the right arrangement may never be likely, but doing so is only a matter of stars aligning, not breaking the fundamental rules of engagement. It could happen. Maybe. Because, unlike some other records, it did before under broadly similar circumstances.

OK, that aside, I’ll offer up my favorite and most maddening DiMaggio hitting streak fact.

During his streak, which lasted from May 15-July 17, DiMaggio went 91-of-223, which is a .408 average. Between April 15-September 28 (i.e. the whole dang season) Ted Williams hit .406. And when it was all said and done he was substantially better in virtually every other batting category as well.

Joe DiMaggio won the MVP Award.