Two things I have enjoyed reading and thinking about in the last few days, with a quick take on each:
- Baseball is changing in the post-season. Ben Morris had what I thought was the most interesting take on the new system. See also Jon Bernstein on what the system won’t fix, and Christina Kahrl and Jayson Stark from espn for some other insta-reactions.
I think the baseball playoffs are both amazing and stupid. Amazing because there is simply nothing in all of sports like high-tension baseball. It’s incredible to watch. But stupid in that they aren’t really a legitimate mechanism of determining the best team; it’s more or less a crapshoot, just a fun bonus add-on at the end of the season. Baseball as a spectator sport is about two things: the thrill of really getting to know a team over the course of a spring and summer through the monotonous grind of seemingly meaningless game after meaningless game; and the live-or-die excitement of a September pennant race. I know MLB has money it needs to make, but the long-term viability of baseball is not in trying to structurally duplicate the product that the NFL and NBA and NCAA basketball produce. It’s about playing to the strengths of baseball. Every step that expands the importance of the post-season, in my opinion, takes baseball one step in the wrong direction.
- The dust-up over election forecasting and the relative importance of campaigns vs. fundamentals continues unabated. John Sides post was excellent and provides a good set of references to the whole conversation. The reads and reactions section of Nate Silver’s blog also has a nice digest.
I don’t have much to add to this debate, except to say that I think a lot of people get clouded by their normative desires for democracy when they think about this issue. People want to believe in the importance of ideas and the importance of leadership and the ability of impassioned advocates swaying votes through powerful speeches that change voters hearts and minds. They don’t want to believe that voters will toss honest men with good ideas out of office and replace them with crooked hacks simply because time are tough. And so I think many people tend to overestimate and romanticize the electoral/campaign system. Obviously, campaigns have some marginal effect on outcomes. But in my view, assuming you get candidates who are of a minimal-threshold of competency, the cake is baked more often than not well before the campaign starts.