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Baseball And Politics--an October Primer

The Tampa Bay Rays just defeated the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. For the Rays, it means a date with the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. For the Red Sox, it means no repeat of last year's World Championship.

As a Sox fan, I'm obviously disappointed. And I'm still not over the shock that the Rays, cellar dwellers for nine of the ten years they've existed, even made it to the postseason.

But at least one person predicted this, more or less, and he deserves some credit. A certain Baseball Prospectus analyst plugged the numbers into an algorithim he'd developed and audaciously suggested the 2008 Rays would post 88 wins, 22 more than they won last year--and well within range of playoff contention.

I'm talking, of course, about Nate Silver, who was impressing students of baseball long before he was impressing students of politics. You can read his pre-season forecast for the Rays here. When you're done with that, be sure to check out his latest forecast for the presidential election here.

P.S. For those fans who, like me, will be watching somebody else's team playing for the championship, I highly recommend the "The Green Fields of the Mind" by the late A. Bartlett Giamatti, which begins and ends thusly:

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today ... a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.


Of course, there are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion. I am not that grown up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun.  

--Jonathan Cohn