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Big League Stew

The 30-game wall claims another victim in Andre Ethier

Ian Casselberry
Big League Stew

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Andre Ethier was facing some rather formidable history in trying to extend his hitting streak to 31. As we know now, Ethier went 0-for-4 in the Dodgers' 4-2 loss to the Mets on Saturday, ending his streak at 30.

Not only did Ethier fall short of the Dodgers' club record hitting streak of 31 games, set by Willie Davis in 1969. But he's also the latest player to trip over a hurdle that's been extremely difficult to clear throughout baseball history.

Fifty-three players have reached hitting streaks of 30 games in the 135 seasons the sport has been played. Yet only 20 of those players extended their streaks to 31 games or more. The last player to make it over the 30-game hurdle was the Phillies' Chase Utley, whose streak made it to 35 games in 2006.

With that streak, Utley joined a five-way tie for the 11th longest in baseball history. A list of hitting streaks that lasted 30 or more games can be found at Baseball-Reference. {YSP:MORE}

Obviously, putting together any sort of sustained hitting streak is difficult. Extending such a streak to double-digit games is noteworthy. Ethier also carved out a little piece of history for himself by beginning his streak in April. Hitting in 23 straight games during the month set a major league record, previously held by his former manager, Joe Torre.

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But what is it about the 30-game mark that has presented such an imposing obstacle? In Ethier's case, injuries may have caught up with him a bit. With his streak at 29, Ethier sat out Tuesday's game against the Cubs with inflammation in his left elbow. Does all that swinging, all that contact between bat and baseball, eventually take a physical toll?

Or does 30 games create more of a mental hurdle? According to MLB.com, 31 players with hitting streaks of 28 or 29 games couldn't reach 30. Luis Gonzalez, who had a 30-game hitting streak of his own in 1999, believes such a nice, round number might compel a player to relax once it's reached.

From MLB.com:

"When I got to 30, there was almost a feeling of relief. In the 20s, everyone started to pay attention. Like most players, I was superstitious and didn't want to talk about it. But that's all anyone wanted to talk about. Then, getting to 30 was just a significant number. Also, I was just exhausted mentally."

Losing games may also have contributed to Ethier's burden. His hitting streak has somewhat obscured the fact that the Dodgers just aren't playing very well right now. Saturday's loss was their fourth straight, and eighth in their last 11 games.

Not to mention the continuing debacle that the Dodgers' ownership situation has become. Saturday's Los Angeles Times reported that even if MLB seizes the team from Frank McCourt and takes over operations, he could still own Dodger Stadium and the land surrounding the ballpark.

How is that possible? After McCourt bought the team in 2004, he soon divided the team, stadium and surrounding parking lots into separate assets among different companies. McCourt admitted in testimony for his divorce trial that he did so in case he ended up losing the team.

MLB would obviously fight McCourt on this, and the LA Times reports that Bud Selig has the authority to take over a team, its ballpark and "any other property," though it's not entirely clear whether parking lots or other undeveloped land would fall under that category.

Hoo boy. Wasn't it much more fun to read about a player's hitting streak than that stuff?

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