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Nationals haven’t played in a week. Is that a problem?

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You’ll hear the question posed in the headline a lot in early going of tonight’s Game 1. If the Astros jump out to a lead and/or go on to win the game, it’ll likely transform from a question to an assertion. The “[Team] had too many days off between games” thing is often cited by commentators and fans as a reason for the team with a lot of time off after the LCS woofin’ it in the World Series.

Does more rest hurt a World Series team compared to a team that played more recently? Yes, at least in recent years.

The team with less time off before Game 1 of the World Series has won nine of the past ten World Series, with last year’s Red Sox team — which had four days off to the Dodgers’ three before Game 1 — being the exception. In the three years before that — 2006 through 2008 — the team with less time off won two of three. Ah ha! it’s settled then.

Or not. Because before that — from the advent of the Wild Card round, which was first played in 1995, through 2005 — the team with more rest won the World Series ten of eleven times.

Perhaps that doesn’t make a total wash — the current pattern is certainly interesting — but it does make it hard to be 100% confident that the rest factor is more than just somewhat oddly-ordered randomness.

But let’s look a bit more specifically. Let’s look at teams that not only had more rest, but which had an unusual amount of rest for a baseball team.

The Nationals have had six full days off before today. That doesn’t happen that often, at least not recently, especially since MLB stopped letting Fox arbitrarily set the start date of the World Series which often created longer wait times. Let’s look at how having six full days off or more before the Fall Classic begins helps or hurts a team.

Here’s everyone who has fit that description since 1995:

  • 1995 Braves: 6 days off: WON
  • 1996 Yankees: 6 days off: WON
  • 2006 Tigers: 6 days off: LOST
  • 2007 Rockies: 8 days off — EIGHT DAYS OFF?!! — LOST
  • 2008 Phillies: 6 days off — WON
  • 2009 Phillies: 6 days off — LOST

So, it’s three wins and three losses for the teams with six or more full days off. One of those wins and one of those losses came from basically the same team, the 08-09 Phillies. One of those losses came from a 2007 Rockies team that, most people would agree, was seriously out-classed by the Red Sox.

Which means that . . . it kinda doesn’t matter? Indeed, to the extent I think people think it does matter was because after it happened to the Tigers in 2006 manager Jim Leyland made a big point to say that the extra rest was a problem while most managers haven’t really cited it, at least with any amount of passion or definitiveness. If I remember correctly Leyland cited it again in 2012, and that year the Tigers only had five full days off. When someone like Leyland says something, narratives tend to be formed.

Anyway, just know that if/when someone mentions the Nats’ being rusty, the time, in and of itself, is probably not the whole story.

Myles Garrett and Mason Rudloph: meet Juan Marichal and John Roseboro

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Last night the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Cleveland Browns. No one is gonna be talking nearly as much about the outcome today, however, as they are the carnage.

Specifically, the carnage that led to Browns defensive end Myles Garrett getting ejected from the game after ripping Steelers’ quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet off, swinging it at him and connecting with Rudolph’s skull as the game came to a close. Things were already chippy as all get-out, but that obviously led to a brawl which will lead to a ton of suspensions, including a possibly record-breaking one for Garrett. For all your analysis on that, check out PFT, obviously.

The incident will dominate the sports shows today because malicious attempts to injure another player with a piece of equipment are pretty rare in professional sports. There was at least one incident in baseball history, however, that was analogous to what went down in Cleveland last night.

It took place on August 22, 1965 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco during a Dodgers-Giants game. That’s when Giants ace Juan Marichal, playing the role of Garrett, took a baseball bat to the head of Dodgers catcher John Roseboro, standing in for Rudolph.

The Dodgers and Giants are rivals, of course, and in 1965 the two teams were in a pitched battle for the N.L. pennant, with the Dodgers leading San Francisco by a game and a half as the day began. Pitchers in 1965 were a bit more aggressive about claiming the inside part of the plate than they are today, and on that day, everyone seemed cranky. Marichal knocked Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills down with some chin music in the top of the second for, it appears, committing the terrible transgression of bunting for a single in his first at bat of the game. In response Koufax fired a fastball over Willie Mays’ head, sending the ball to the backstop. So everyone was even, yeah?

Nah. Marichal responded in the top of third with an inside fastball that sent Dodgers first baseman Ron Fairly sprawling to the dirt. At that point home plate umpire Shag Crawford issued a warning, indicating that that the next close pitch from either team would result in an ejection. Walter Alston’s Dodgers, though, were a clever bunch. Sure, maybe a close pitch was going to get an ace ejected in a pennant race, but there are other ways to buzz someone’s tower, right?

Pitchers batted in every game back then, of course, and Marichal came to bat in the bottom of the third. Koufax didn’t throw at him, though. Instead, Roseboro, catching for L.A., threw the ball back to Koufax in such a way as to have it sail close to Marichal’s head as he stood in the batter’s box. He later admitted in his autobiography that it was no accident, he was trying to intimidate Marichal.

Marichal flipped out, clubbing Roseboro with his bat, after which all hell broke loose (all photos Getty Images):

 

Juan Marichal holding bat, John Roseboro attacked, and Sandy Koufax closes in.

 

Roseboro throws a punch at Marichal while latter swings bat and Koufax comes in to try and break it up.

 

On deck batter Giant Tito Fuentes pulls Roseboro away while Marichal wields bat at Koufax while umpire Shag Crawford and Giant coach Charlie Fox try to break it up.
Umpire Shag Crawford wrestles with Marichal while Dodgers Jim Gilliam (19) and Kaufax come in. Rear is Giants coach Charlie Fox. Marichal falls to the ground on top of Shag Crawford while Giants Orlando Cepeda joins the melee.

 

Umpire Shag Crawford is shown here wrestling with Marichal as Dodgers Jim Gilliam (#19) and Sandy Koufax join in. In the rear is Giants’ coach Charlie Fox.

 

Identifiable L-R: Dodger Jim Gilliam (19); John Roseboro (with chest protector); Giants Orlando Cepeda (30); Cap Peterson (17); Warren Spahn; and Mgr. Herman Franks (3).

Willie Mays was credited by keeping the brawl from getting worse. Roseboro had military and martial arts training and, as you can see in the second photo, he was not slowed by his head injury — an injury that would require 14 stitches — from trying to take Marichal apart. Mays was the one who ultimately pulled Roseboro away and out of the fracas. He even held a towel to Roseboro’s head which by then had begun to bleed profusely. The fight eventually ended, with several players sustaining injuries due to kicks and accidental spikings of hands and legs and stuff.

The incident delayed the game for 14 minutes but the fallout beyond that was pretty tame compared to today’s standards. Marichal got an eight day suspension which, because of scheduled doubleheaders, caused him to miss ten games. He was also fined $1,750, which is around $15,000 today. Roseboro only missed two games due to his injury. The Dodgers would lose this game thanks to a big homer from Mays off of Koufax, but the Dodgers would go on to win the pennant and defeat the Minnesota Twins in the World Series.

There was additional fallout: Roseboro sued Marichal for $110,000 in damages. They’d eventually settle, with Roseboro receiving $7,500 from Marichal.

But there was no lingering bad blood. In interviews after the incident both players admitted that there was much more on their minds in 1965 that might’ve contributed to their aggression on that day. There was the rivalry, of course, and the pennant race. But Marichal had been much more personally distracted by a civil war in his native Dominican Republic that raged in 1965 and would not end until September. Roseboro had been, understandably, affected by the Watts Riots in Los Angeles which had taken place just over a week before this game. When you feel helpless about situation A, you often channel your feelings into situation B and both men said that something like that was probably simmering.

Marichal would play for the Dodgers for two games in 1975, the final year of his career. Roseboro had already retired, but Marichal’s cup of coffee with L.A. allowed them to meet up at a Dodgers old-timers game in 1982. There they posed for this photo: 

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“There were no hard feelings on my part,” Roseboro told the L.A. Times in 1990. Roseboro died in 2002. Marichal was an honorary pallbearer at his funeral.

Let’s check in with Garrett and Ruldolph in 37 years to see how they’re doing.