Sunday, March 23, 2008

Never Mix Baseball and Politics

This thought came to me on the toilet:

Here is a list of the last 5 World Series results:

2007: Boston Red Sox (AL) defeat Colorado Rockies (NL) 4-0
2006: St. Louis Cardinals (NL) defeat Detroit Tigers (AL) 4-1
2005: Chicago White Sox (AL) defeat Houston Astros (NL) 4-0
2004: Boston Red Sox (AL) defeat St. Louis Cardinals (NL) 4-0
2003: Florida Marlins (NL) defeat New York Yankees (AL) 4-2

Have you noticed anything yet? I mean, besides the fact that we haven't had a competitive World Series in at least five years? Here's a hint:

The American League champions have come from these four states: Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New York.
The National League champions have come from these four states: Colorado, Florida, Missouri, and Texas.

Do you see it yet? Give up?

All of the AL Champs come from Blue States that voted against George W. Bush.
All of the NL Champs come from Red States that voted for George W. Bush. (Or, in the case of Florida, "voted".)

Yes, you have to go back to 2002, when the Anaheim Angels beat the San Francisco Giants in a Cali vs. Cali match-up, to find the last NL team to come from a Blue State.

The last AL team to come from a Red State? The Cleveland Indians, in 1997, when they lost to the Florida Marlins in 7. (And, again, Ohio "voted" for Bush in much the same way Florida did. You really have to go all the way back to 1985, when the Kansas City Royals beat the St. Louis Cardinals, to find a real Red State representing the AL) (I am counting Ontario as a Blue State, because I just don't see Canadians being big Bush fans in general.)

Is this some kind of conspiracy? A bizarre plot to tear America apart for good, with Democrats always rooting for the American League and Republicans rooting for the National? Is this a sign of these to come, when we do away with democracy for good and just settle our differences on the baseball diamond? (I wish!)

No, not really. But it does say something about demographics. By my count, of the 14 AL teams, only four hail from Red States: Cleveland, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, and Texas. And, of course, two of those four states are Ohio and Florida, which are more purple than red.

By contrast, seven of the 16 NL teams come from pro-Bush states: Arizona, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Colorado, Florida, Houston, and St. Louis. So it is, statistically speaking, a bit of a surprise that no NL team from a Blue State has made it to the World Series since 2002, since more than half of them come from Blue States. But overall, 17 out of 30 MLB teams come from Blue States, 11 from Red, 1 from Washington, D.C. (which is Blue), and one from Toronto. Which is Canadian, yet, for some reason, in the American League. Do the teams that make the World Series reflect this ratio? Not really. In the last fifteen World Series', 15 teams were from Blue States (11 from the AL), 13 were from Red States (11 from the NL) and 2 were Canadian (Toronto in 1992 and 1993). But if you extend the survey all the way back to 1972, you end up with 41 teams from Blue States (18 from the AL) compared to 21 from Red States (18 from the NL).

What this actually tells us is that the Democratic Party and Major League Baseball draw their support from the same places: big cities. In particular, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, but also Boston, San Francisco, Detroit, and others. Historically, the most successful franchises in baseball are the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Cardinals, the Giants, the A's, and the Red Sox.

But that is just in terms of World Series appearances. Financially speaking, the most successful teams based on 2006 payrolls are: the Yankees (duh), the Red Sox (also, duh), the Angels, the White Sox, the Mets, the Dodgers, and the Cubs. Or: New York, Boston, LA, Chicago, NY, LA, Chicago. (

My point? That MLB is getting its [financial] support from the same places that the DNC gets its [political] support. And this means that, politically, it's more useful to be thinking about our national divide not in terms of East vs. West, North vs. South, Blue vs. Red, or even AL vs. NL, but as Urban vs. Rural.

But, because of this fact and because of some misconceptions about what it means, it is easy for the Republican Party to make it seem as if they represent a majority of Americans. Also, because of the way the Electoral College is set up, it favors the Republican candidate in the only national election in America, the Presidential election.

Come November, watch CNN. They will give you state-by-state "analysis" showing where McCain's and Obama/ Clinton's support is coming from, and every state will follow a very basic pattern: The Democrat will be depending on a large turnout from the cities to counteract the Republican's support in the rural areas. I would say that the inverse is true, but it's not; the Republican Party is always hoping for low voter turnout, as this generally improves their chances of winning. CNN will also give us a map that looks like this: (This is a map of the Kerry/Bush results that I lifted from

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Wow! Look at how much more Red there is on that map than Blue! You have to really stop and think about what this map means. If you just glance at it, it seems as if there is a clear Republican majority in the United States. But let's look at the next map, which reflects voting county-by-county:


Still a lot of red, but now we can see where Kerry's support was coming from: the cities. To emphasize this again, here is a map that includes "shades" of purple to better show the percentages each candidate received county-by-county:


Try to see if you can identify the following cities on this map: Boston, MA, New York, NY, Washington, D.C., Miami, FL, New Orleans, LA, Cleveland, OH, Detroit, MI, Chicago, IL, Los Angeles, CA, San Francisco, CA, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA. (Hint: Look for Blue.) If you need more help, this next map "distorts" each county to show its relative population. See if you can find the blue spots now:


Seen this way, we get a different sense - some would say "more accurate" - of our nation's political tendencies. Instead of a few islands of blue awash in a sea of red, you have a crazy psychedelic swirl of different shades of purple with some very solid blue core areas, and most of your real Reds are on the fringes, a minority. This is what we should see when CNN shows us that first map with only red and blue states.

James Carville, who worked for Bill Clinton's campaign and is a supporter of Hillary, once called Pennsylvania "Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between." And this is why Pennsylvania is a swing state: it has a fairly balanced ratio of urban to rural population. (Unlike, say, New York, which is dominated by the 8,143,197 inhabitants of New York City, 18,747,320 in the greater metro area, even though most of the rest of the state is very conservative.) Most of the rest of the swing states follow this pattern. Nevada is the most striking graphically: it will look like a sea of red with a tiny blue dot in the corner called "Las Vegas". But the actual number of votes will probably be very close to 50-50.

Hillary Clinton makes the argument that she is winning all of the "important" states in the primary, and that this makes her the stronger potential candidate against McCain. But the states that she has won are mostly the traditional strongholds: California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, etc. But I would bet money that all of these states - homes of the Angels, Yankees, and Red Sox, just to bring back kind of randomly my analogy here - will go Democratic no matter what. You could run my labrador retriever against McCain and he would carry Massachusetts. (Actually... not a bad idea...) The big exception to this is that Clinton did win Ohio, which a Democrat has to win, and Florida, although Florida "voted" again in that way that it likes to "vote".

What I like Obama is that he's getting votes in Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, etc. I'm not saying that he can carry Wyoming or anything, but if his presence can get out the vote in the general election the way that has in been in the primaries, especially among young voters and southern blacks, then suddenly a lot of states that are off the board for Clinton are in play for Obama. When was the last time a Democrat actually campaigned in the South? It could be a big step towards re-drawing the political map, and getting rid of the Red-Blue dichotomy that has been a taint of the Bush years. Literally, a taint. And one of many.

The World Series starts on October 22, 2008. The election is November 4.

Four years ago, the Boston Red Sox reversed the curse after 86 years. But a Senator from Massachusetts still lost the presidential election.

Maybe the Democrats just need someone from the NL.

Go Cubs.

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