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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Yet Another Baseball Analogy

Professor Bainbridge argues that Harriet Miers is like Crash Davis -- not a bad minor-leaguer, but someone who doesn't belong in the big show. (No word on whether she believes there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter). Bainbridge has some good points, but let me suggest a counter-analogy. It's October, and Harriet Miers is the Padres.

The Padres are a perfectly respectable small market team. (I should know -- I live in San Diego, and I read the sports page). They have some decent players, and they won their division. They even finished above .500. Barely.

The Padres -- a perfectly respectable, decent ballclub -- are in the playoffs only because the baseball gods decided to play a joke on the rest of the world. At 82-80, they have the worst record of any team ever to make the playoffs. They were outscored by their opponents over the season, by a total of 42 runs. (That means that over the course of the 160 game season, they scored roughly a quarter run less, per game, than their opponents).

Until the last week of the season, it was an open question whether the Padres would become the first team ever to make the playoffs with a losing record. As it was, they took five of their last six, meaning that at the very least they wouldn't be going to the playoffs with a 78-84 record (which would have been even more of a travesty).

But the fact is that, while at least three objectively better teams sit (Philadelphia with 88 wins, and the Mets and Marlins with 83 each), San Diego is playing baseball in October. Not because they're better than Philly or the Fish -- they aren't. They're playing in October because they had the luck to spend the regular season in an awful division. Even in their awful division -- where every other team had a losing record -- they barely pulled off a winning record. Contrast Philadelphia, playing in a division where no one had a losing record, which still pulled in 88 wins.

Now there is something to be said for division play, for rewarding division leaders, for maintaining geographical rivalries. The system that produced an 82-80 playoff team is not itself irrational. But the result is still frustrating. It's October, and instead of watching objectively better teams on the field, I can watch the Padres. (Not that there's anything wrong with watching the Padres, but they're an objectively less worthy team than many others. There's nothing wrong with the Padres themselves -- it's just that an 82-80 team doesn't belong in the playoffs).

If I had to stretch this analogy, I'd say that John Roberts was the Yankees, or perhaps the Red Sox. Some liked him and some hated him, but there was never any doubt that he was good.

And Harriet Miers is definitely the Padres. Pleasant, likable, nice . . . and also the worst playoff team in history.

Posted by Kaimi Wenger on October 6, 2005 at 03:28 AM in Current Affairs, Law and Politics | Permalink


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... and if *I* got to pick the MVP, it would be me -- Bubba Crosby! That sure would be a treat for Bubba Jr.... But even though S.Ct. nominations/votes are every bit as unboundedly discretionary as MVP choices, we still can and should distinguish good from bad choices. (Wait, did I just analogize myself to Harriet Miers? How embarassing....)

Posted by: Bubba Crosby | Oct 6, 2005 8:09:32 AM

But Scott, if I got to pick the MVP, I would pick Matsui. The rules don't say that the President must pick the most qualified person, as measured by some objective standard. The rules allow W to pick whoever he personally thinks is the best SJ nomineee. The only check is the Senate's role. Like it or not (and I don't like the pick), it's why we have elections. And everyone must now deal with the consequences.

I gotta get back to managing the Yankees, but I wanted to chime in. Also, it you legal/baseball wizards could tell me who to start in game four and, potentially, game five, I would greatly appreciate it. I'm pretty sure that "The Unit" is a good choice for game 3.

Posted by: Joe Torre | Oct 6, 2005 7:52:02 AM

Another analogy: what if the MVP award went to Yankees' OF Hideki Matsui? Yes, he's a talented guy; yes, he's been a key player on a winning team; and yes, MVP awards certainly have gone to worse players in the past; but no -- he isn't even close to one of the top candidates for the award....

Posted by: Scott Moss | Oct 6, 2005 7:10:00 AM

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