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By Murray Chass

September 17, 2017

The West Coast road trip immediately following the All-Star break should have provided the Cleveland Indians a soft and productive way to ease into the second half of the season. The Indians were scheduled to play a pair of three-game series with the Bay Area’s two woeful last-place teams.

The Indians, last season’s A.L. champions, were in first place in the American League Central with a 47-40 record, two and a half games in front of Minnesota and three games ahead of Kansas City. Oakland, the Indians’ first post-break opponent, had a 39-50 record, 21 games from first place in the A.L. West. The A’s Bay neighbor, San Francisco, had an even worse record, 34-56, 27 games from first in the National League West.

So what did the Indians do? The A’s swept their series, and the Giants won two of three. As the Indians staggered home, their division lead had shrunk to half a game.

Home, however, was apparently just what the Indians needed. Playing seven games at Progressive Field against the Blue Jays, the Reds and the Angels, Cleveland won all seven, then won the first two on their next trip to Chicago.

As it turned out, that nine-game winning streak was a prelude to the remarkable A.L. record 22-game winning streak the Indians compiled from Aug. 24 through Sept. 14, 22 wins in 22 days, and on the last day the streak was alive the Indians had a 13 ½-game lead. Or as that old baseball adage proclaims, a win a day keeps the contenders away.

When the streak ended last Friday, with a 4-3 loss to Kansas City, the only longer winning streak belonged to the 1916 New York Giants, who won 26 in a row with a tied game mixed in without affecting the winning streak, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

I’m not sure I agree that the 1-1 tie, which was the outcome of a game shortened to eight innings by rain, should be discounted as if it weren’t played. The Giants didn’t lose the game, but they didn’t win it either. If it were considered as a game that ended the Giants’ winning streak because it wasn’t a win, the Giants would have had winning streaks of 12 and 14 games, both impressive but neither a record.

Perhaps in judging the Giants’ record winning streak two other factors should be considered:

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By Murray Chass

September 10, 2017

When George Steinbrenner was suspended in the early 1990’s for paying two-bit gambler Howie Spira to give him derogatory information on Dave Winfield, one of the Yankees’ star players, with whom Steinbrenner was feuding, Commissioner Fay Vincent ordered the Yankees’ owner to have no contact with the Yankees. Steinbrenner, of course, could not abide by such an order. Not have any input into the operation of his team? Not tell his general manager what he could or should do? Ridiculous…outrageous.

So Steinbrenner regularly communicated with General Manager Gene Michael, and Michael regularly recorded in a little black book the dates and topics of their forbidden conversations.

Michael was no dummy. Intelligent, always thinking, he figured some day he might need the records of his conversations with Steinbrenner, if only to protect himself. Michael could have …

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By Murray Chass

September 3, 2017

Can the Yankees fail to make the playoffs for the fifth time in six years? Considering the Yankees’ position in the standings this entire season, that seems to be a preposterous question. Don’t, however, look at where the Yankees have been the first five months of the season; look at where they are now.

Right now they are furiously fighting to keep their heads above the waters that are filled with sharks known as the Twins, the Angels and the Orioles. With four weeks left in the season, there are more than enough games for two of those three teams to overtake the Yankees and send them home to an unwanted and unexpectedly extended vacation.

In fact, if you want to be more inclusive, you might add …

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