Roundtable: Do the Indians already have the longest winning streak in MLB history?

The unstoppable Cleveland Indians stretched their winning streak to an incredible 22 consecutive games Thursday night. They came back to beat the Kansas City Royals (CLE 3, KC 2) in the most thrilling game of the 22-game winning streak. The Indians tied the game in the ninth on Francisco Lindor's two-out double, then won it in the tenth on Jay Bruce's walk-off double.

Here's video of the game-tying and game-winning rallies:

The 22-game winning streak is the longest winning streak in American League history and, according to Major League Baseball, the second longest winning streak in baseball history. Here are MLB's five longest winning streaks:

  1. 1916 Giants: 26 games
  2. 2017 Indians: 22 games and counting
  3. 1935 Cubs: 21 games
  4. 2002 Athletics: 20 games
  5. 1906 White Sox: 19 games

That 26-game winning streak by the 1916 Giants is quite controversial. Why? Because there was a tie in the middle of the winning streak. The Giants won 12 straight games, played a tie, then won 14 straight games.

The tie was played on September 18, 1916, between the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates at the Polo Grounds. It was the second game of a doubleheader. The game was paused by a rain delay with the score tied 1-1 in the top of the ninth. By time the rain stopped, it was too dark to play. Remember, ballparks didn't have lights back then. It wasn't until 1935 that MLB played its first game at night.

Per the rules of the era, games that were unable to be completed due to weather or darkness were to be replayed the following day, schedule permitting. The tie did not count in the standings, though the individual player stats from the game counted. Here's the box score. The Giants and Pirates replayed the game as part of a doubleheader the next day, and the Giants won.

So, even though that tie occurred in the middle of the 26-game winning streak, it does not officially count in the standings. It's like it never happened, except for the whole "the player stats counted" thing. Therein lies the controversy. The game did not count, but it did happen, and the Giants did not win.

That brings us to today's discussion: should the 1916 Giants be credited with the longest winning streak in baseball history? Should 26 consecutive wins be the record despite that tie? Our CBS Sport panel of experts chimed in.

R.J. Anderson: I'm okay deeming the Giants' streak the longest without a loss. But when we're talking about winning streaks, it seems wrong to crown them as the longest ever. I understand there were odd circumstances that led to that tie -- and the game didn't count in the standings. Still, I'm only half joking when I say that's an even better reason why we should award the Indians the honor -- that way we never have to discuss the Giants' streak again.

Mike Axisa: Of course it shouldn't count! The Giants have a 27-game unbeaten streak, but not a 26-game winning streak. The tie happened. The standings say it did not count, but the game was not played. How do you reconcile the individual player stats counting -- Benny Kauff hit the 26th of his 49 career home runs in that game, it's in the record books -- but not the game itself? As far as I'm concerned, the 2017 Indians have the longest winning streak in history at 22 games and the 1916 Giants have the longest unbeaten streak in history at 27 games. Both are tremendous accomplishments. The tie happened though. We can't ignore it because it's inconvenient.

Jonah Keri: It absolutely should NOT count as an intact streak. The only proper way to compare records across eras is to establish equal parameters across the board. We shouldn't recognize, for instance, the 19th-century player Billy Hamilton's stolen-base total as being comparable to Rickey Henderson's, because in Hamilton's day you would be awarded a stolen base for taking an extra base on a ball in play. Similarly with the 1916 Giants, we've got an overly generous ruling on a tie that's completely ludicrous by modern-day standards.

Cleveland has already set the new all-time for longest winning streak, as far as I'm concerned.

Dayn Perry: I'm fine with saying the 1916 Giants have the longest unbeaten streak in MLB history, but they plainly don't have the longest win streak. That's because they won 12 games in a row, tied a game, and then won 14 in a row (the Giants played all these games at home, by the way). Maybe the Giants would've won that game in extras, as the Indians did for win No. 22 of their streak, or in the unplayed home half of the ninth, but that didn't happen. They tied. There's a boxscore to prove it. No, the game didn't count in the standings, but that's a quirk of the times. Ties in baseball happen -- just ask the 2016 Cubs and Pirates. 

While I'll never doubt baseball's ability to concoct bizarre definitions for various words and phrases (observe how " most valuable" occasionally means something other than "best"), this seems a simple matter to me. A win streak is games won in direct succession without interruption. The 2017 Indians and 1935 Cubs and many other teams did that for much longer than the 1916 Giants did. So the 2017 Indians have the longest win streak in MLB history. The 1916 Giants, again, have the longest unbeaten streak in MLB history.

Matt Snyder: Uh oh ... hold onto your hats. 

What part of "didn't count" do you guys not understand? Quirk of the times, as Dayn said, sure, and that's the context. We can always use context, but the fact of the matter is the game didn't count. If the game didn't count in the standings, it's as if it never happened -- in terms of the result. This is the same as a game in today's MLB being washed away by weather before five innings are completed.  

Dayn brings up the 2016 Cubs-Pirates tie last year, but that counted. The Cubs were 103-58-1. That Giants game in 1916 didn't count, as they were 86-66. They didn't go 26-0-1 in that stretch. They went 26-0. That's a 26-game winning streak. Back in those days, games were just abandoned after a certain time because there were no lights in the stadiums. The game in question here was abandoned was the second game of a Sept. 18 doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was delayed by a rainstorm with the score tied 1-1 after eight innings, and by the time the rain stopped, it was too dark to play.

Simply put, this game never became official. It did not happen. Sorry to set you guys straight like this, but sometimes it needs to happen. 

The 1916 Giants have the longest winning streak ever as much as Barry Bonds has both home run records. 


So there you have it. Only one of our five CBS Sports experts strongly defends the 1916 Giants as having baseball's longest winning streak.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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