Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Baseball: Kellogg, Brown, and Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

So, I had this great idea: compare the Red Sox to the Democrats, and the Yankees to the Republicans. Seemed like a natural. After all, the Dems are meeting in Boston, and the Repub confab is in New York. And Kerry actually threw out the first pitch at Fenway, and said "go Red Sox" on national TV.

But, Mike Pesca at NPR seems to have nailed it. Of course, he did it on National People's Radio, so he had a little bit different spin. I am still going to take my shot, but with a little more edge to it.

Consider the key features of the two teams. (Color hint: Red Sox are for blue states, Yankees are for red states)

Red Sox

  • Extremely, embarrassingly weak on defense. As a team they had 79 errors, as of Monday. Suppose we could tack on a new stat, "suck." The Sox might lead the league. It certainly describes the Sox' outfield: "Oh, gosh, that last play was a Suck-7! Manny turned the wrong way, completely misplayed the bounce, and then made a bad throw! Actually, there could have been two sucks on that one play!"
  • Center Fielder Johnny Damon looks like a street person, someone who needs government handouts right away, so he can get out of the "Quest for Fire" look. He's very fast, but has an incredibly weak arm. (Actually, this may be a problem for my theory, because Damon can't get the ball to second base. A real Democrat, like Bill Clinton, Mario Cuomo, Jesse Jackson, Gary Hart [I could go on], gets to second base every time, as long as their wives are not in the room.)
  • The Sox strike out a lot. 738 times, for an average of 7.5 strikeouts per game. Why in the world does John Kerry think he can get the UN to help out in Iraq? He'd just strike out again.
  • You might think of the Democratic approach as standing around a lot, talking about things, and then deciding not to do much. And...that's the Red Sox. They have a total of 40 stolen bases. One guy, Carl Crawford of the Devil Rays, has stolen more (41) than the entire Red Sox team.
  • The Red Sox have a team payroll of $105 million, fifth highest in all of baseball. So, it's not like they are poor or anything. You'd think they would realize how hypocritical it is to whine about those "rich people," when they have tons of money, too. (I was talking about the Kerrys; I was also talking about the Edwards; did you think I was still talking about the Red Sox? Jeez, pay attention.)
  • The Red Sox pitchers are handing out free passes to pretty much everyone who comes to the plate. Their 184 walks given up, combined with the total of zero times (I'm not kidding) they have held their opponents scoreless, tell me one thing: The Red Sox, like the Democrats, really don't want anyone to be shut out, or to feel bad about themselves. Can't we just all get along?
  • That is worth emphasizing: The Sox starters have given up nearly 30% more walks than the Yankees starters. That is a lot of free passes. But liberals can't help it. They see a guy standing there...and they say, "You go ahead...go to first base. You don't have to swing, or do anything, just go. But we won't give you any real credit for it. We won't count it as an at bat, and it won't help your average. We just want you to take this free thing, and become dependent on it as your way of getting on base. That way, you won't ever learn to hit on your own, and you can vote Democrat forever."


  • A bunch of strong-arm guys. They have perhaps the TWO best shortstops in baseball, so one of them (A-Rod) has to play third. You'd think they would say, "No, we already have a great shortstop (Jeter); we'll share the extra one." But that would not be the Republican way.
  • The Yankees payroll is by far the largest in baseball. They pay their players $180 million per year. If you add up the lowest paid teams, you get FOUR TEAMS before you get the Yankees' total. That means the Devil Rays, Expos, Brewers and Royals, COMBINED, still make less than the Yankees' roster. ( I can't resist adding that the best team in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals, has a relatively modest $101 million payroll.)
  • The Red Sox have 27% more errors than the Yankees. So, yes, the Yankees are strong on defense.
  • The Yankees have stolen nearly 20% more bases than the Red Sox. They think you should try to get something started. Of course, if you get caught stealing second, you can go back to the dugout. If you get caught without any allies in Iraq, you have to stick around and take casualties for a long time. Maybe it's better to be aggressive on the basepaths than on foreign policy....
  • The Yankees starters have given up 145 walks, which is really stingy. This is the equivalent of telling panhandlers, "Hey, buddy, get a job!" On the other hand, the reason the Yankees starters haven't given up as many walks is that they don't work very hard. The Sox starters stay out there and sweat, like good working men: Sox starters have thrown more than 606 innings. The Yankee starters don't need to work that hard (560 innings). Besides, the Yankees starters have some foreign worker come in and clean up the mess they have left: Mariano Rivera has 35 saves, and an ERA under 1.45.
  • None of the Yankees seem to have that much fun. When your team spends $ 64 million more in payroll than the next guys (that would be Mets: second in payroll, first in suck, now motoring along at five games under .500), you are SUPPOSED to win. It would be like some guy who was born into a wealthy, politically connected family, and ended up being President. How could you say that he really achieved anything? He hardly deserved to win, but he was SUPPOSED to.

Now, there are some possible counterarguments. One could say that Billy Crystal, who made "61*" and has long worn his Yankee-love on his tiny little sleeve, is a big Democrat. There was Billy, calling the President a thug, and laughing at Whoopi's very clever "Bush" jokes. Okay, there was only one joke, about the President's name and a woman's private parts, one W probably heard in the third grade, but gosh did Billy Crystal (Yankee fan) think it was funny, over and over. How can a Yankee fan be a Dem?

The answer is this: Bill Kristol, the conservative editor of the Weekly Standard, is a big Red Sox fan. So, I can explain the apparent anomaly: someone just got their crystal ball mixed up.

FOLLOW UP: See Frederic Frommer, of AP, with a little different take on the same idea. (Thanks to MWT for the tip...)


Mungowitz said...
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Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention that the Yankees are often referred to as 'the evil empire', most notably by the Red Sox owner, John Henry. Spending time now in Germany, I can say that many people in 'old' Europe would apply that label to the Bush Administration and the good ol' US of A. No one likes a bully. And, as a Nader supporter in 2000, I would also say that a choice between the Red Sox and the Yankees is no choice at all. If only our electoral system was as open as the Major Leagues...

Anonymous said...

First of all, errors are a really bad way to decide the suckitude of a team. fielding percentage would be slightly better (rate stats better than
counting stats for obvious reasons). using FP we see that MFA have only a slight edge, .982 to .979. not a whole lot to get excited about when the teams are ranked 10th and 12th. but the errors/FP route still sucks. bill james has suggested a rating called defensive efficiency which is just the out-rate for team on batted balls hit into play, MFY: .6905, BOS:
.6836. for reference the best teams are the dodgers, cards, and tampa bay, all with a defensive efficiency over .71. considering that the mantra of the MFY radio broadcast team is "past a diving jeter." we can understand that the yankmees are pretty close to suckitude as well. notice also that the difference between the best and worst teams are only a couple of
points. this is different than something like on-base percentage where the difference between the best and worst teams is about twice as great.

And...Damon has probably been the 2nd best CF in the majors this year at the plate behind jimE. i'll take damon's range over bernie "cut's off the double" williams' increasingly crappy routes towards balls. but hey, i hear he plays a mean guitar. maybe he can perform with orin hatch?

On striking out: let's just stick to some simple offensive stats so not to hurt anyone.

BOS .280/.359/.470
MFY .264/.352/.457

in addition the sox are 1st in OBP and SLG and 3rd in BA in the AL. this seems pretty good. stikeouts and all. its clearly been republicans who have convinced us that strikeouts are much worse than any other kind of
outs. and they are wrong. for the record, here are the k/PA numbers:
MFY:.186, BOS:.156. at this point i feel like perot.

Stolen bases? Give me a break. Stolen bases generally are not worth the trouble. its all sizzle and no
steak. both the yankees and the red sox steal bases with the same ability, .70 success rate. and again we are talking about the 10th and 12th most SB teams in the AL. stolen bases are like ronald reagan, overrated.

The sox pitchers also have the best strikeout rate in baseball. so they just really like making other
hitters wave around a lot.

On the MFY shortstops: a-rod is the real deal, but jeter would be a 2b on most teams. most overrated player ever.

Again, on stolen bases: outs like lives are precious, you might say that in baseball we only get
27 lives. george will small ball conservatives might yearn for a world where there is a draft and lotsa bunting, but both are bad ideas.

on pitching usage: the yankee starters have sucked. to the extant that they have walked less its cause they have pitched less, because they suck.
and its killing the bullpen. even the great mo rivera has sucked in july. his era for the month is over 4. so is quantril, heredia and gordon's is up a bunch too. this is because they have had to pitch soooo much. they
are being used more than basically any team in contention. i'm too tired to do the math, but its like 30+ more innings than everyone else. even larussa has shown more restraint than quick hook torre. but then i think the yankees only have one starter that's managed to throw over 100 ip. this is b/c they are running a collection of never will bes out there to make up for the whole kevin brown thing. by the way, my sources tell me his arm has actually fallen off. the only reason we don't know is because "the boss" is hiding him out in the same secret bunker as halli cheney. i
guess all those illegal campaign contributions buy favors after all.

What are you talking about!??!?! giambi has genital herpes. it must suck now, but contracting it might have been fun.

Crystal did one great thing (when harry met sally), otherwise he has been dead to me since cityslickers 2.

A counterexample: doris kearns goodwin! come on, history's biggest cheater is a sox fan. plagiarism is really bad. like stealing an election, like bush.

One more thing: the red sox have a better run differential than the yankees (run scored
561 to 556, runs allowed 488 to 490). generally, we expect teams with a better run differential to win more games to those teams with a worse run differential. using bill james' pythagorean method for predicting wins
from runs scored and runs allowed we would actually expect the red sox to be a game ahead of the yankees in the standings...this is pretty much like winning the popular vote and losing the electoral college. sucky.