The Cardinals aren’t the only club to not recognize play during the 1880s while in the American Association, but not doing so muddies the historical water.
Yesterday I posted an item that explains in detail the St. Louis Cardinals’ official position regarding the origin of their franchise. The reason for its timing is that the next victory by the club will be their 10,000th according to a number of historical sources, yet will only be the 9,219th according to the organization.
It all gets down to how strongly you believe the 1882 through 1891 St. Louis Browns of the American Association were linked to the 1892 and beyond St. Louis Browns/Cardinals of the National League and whether AA stats should be included with NL results.
While many baseball historians including me take the former position, I am not here to debate the Cardinals on the way they recognize their lineage. Given they dedicated the entire 1992 season to a celebration of the team’s centennial, that horse has long been out of the barn.
Yet even though the team won’t reverse field now, a reason remains as to why this continues to bother me. It puts the Cardinals on uneven ground against their longest-time competitors, the hated Chicago Cubs.
Let’s start with what seems to be the prevailing view of historians. The highly-respected sites Retrosheet.org and Baseball-Reference.com are among the many that go with the 1882 date as the Cardinals’ origin.
Even if one accepts that the Cardinals’ victory over San Diego on Thursday was number 9,999 in their history, St. Louis would become just the fourth major league club to reach the 10,000 plateau – or maybe only the third. More on that in a moment.
MLB wins, history (record through Friday, August 21)
|Team||1st year||wins||losses||win pct.|
Now we will switch lenses and consider how the various teams view themselves.
The top two teams’ positions remain unchanged.
Having been a charter member of the National League in 1876, there is no debate about when the Cubs became the Cubs. Chicago won their 10,000th game on April 23, 2008.
Same with the Giants, as they entered the NL as the New York Gothams in 1883 and have played each season since. They were the first to reach 10,000 victories, in July, 2005 and have the most wins by any count, currently at 10,323.
Let’s look into some of the discrepancies, starting with St. Louis.
By using the 1892 date instead of 1882, the Cardinals’ historical win percentage drops below the Cubbies, moving from .517 down to .509, compared to Chicago currently at .514.
Using the 1892-based win count of 9,218 also lowers the Cardinals from having the fourth-most wins in the history of major league baseball to eighth. With 9,549 wins, the most successful founding member of the American League, the New York Yankees, are among the four teams that move ahead of the Cardinals.
Earlier this season, the Los Angeles Dodgers were in the same exact situation as the Cardinals. They won their 10,000th game if you believe their beginning was in 1884. The Dodgers’ predecessor, the Atlantics/Grays/Bridegrooms, competed against the Browns in the American Association from 1884 through 1889.
Like the Cardinals however, the Dodgers recognize their founding to have been at the time they joined the NL in 1890.
One club actually goes in the other direction timewise as the Cincinnati Reds officially celebrate their beginning with the National League in 1876. They were expelled from the NL in 1880 and helped found the startup AA, which began play in 1882. The Reds rejoined the NL in 1890.
In their team stats, the Reds include their NL results, including 1876-1880, and exclude the AA years from 1882 through 1889. Retrosheet, B-R and the others simply start with 1882.
Further, the Pirates recognize their founding to have been in 1887 when the Pittsburg Alleghenys joined the NL, excluding the five years prior during which the club competed in the AA.
Following is the revised listing based on how the clubs each view their respective histories.
MLB wins, history, club view (record through Friday, August 21)
|Team||1st year||wins||losses||win pct.|
* 1881-1889 AA results excluded. Bold year indicates change from first table.
As I said at the start, it all gets down to whether or not you give the American Association respect as having been a major league.