In researching sweeps, I noticed something that may be significant (though I did not run a formal test, because of the smll numbers). Leaving out the two Series in which there was also a tie game, there have been seventeen World Series sweeps in history. Of the 17, the team that swept had the first two games at home 11 times (that’s 64.7% of the time). The White Sox this year, as well as the Red Sox last year, fall into this category. (more…)
11 July, 2007: Well, since the drafting of the following, the NL actually managed to win a World Series of five games or less, but the AL has won two more (close) All Star Games.
Continuing on the theme from yesterday, prompted by the White Sox sweep of the World Series, it is worth noting that the White Sox are the third different team to sweep a World Series in the last seven yearsâ€”all from the AL. In fact, the AL has swept four Series since the NL swept its last one (1990, Cincinnati), and before 1990, the last NL sweep was in 1976 (the Series that gave Bob Hope the great line about how he could see the headline in Pravda: â€œReds murder Yanksâ€).
On the other hand, the only NL teams to have won a World Series since 1990 have all required six or seven games to do so. The length of a Series that a leagueâ€™s champion requires to win is at least as good a measure of a leagueâ€™s dominance as is the number of series it wins. So, that suggest that the American League has been pretty dominant in the last 15 years or so.
To look at this more fully, it makes sense to bring All Star Games into the analysis. Whereas the World Series features (in theory) the best team each league can offer in a given year, the All Star Game (in theory) features the best players of each league, regardless of the teams they happen to play for.
In the 1960s and 1970s it was routinely said that the NL was dominant, and the usual evidence was its total dominance of the All Star Game (winning 11 in a row at one point, few of them close). But I distinctly remember AL partisans (like myself) being consoled by the fact that their league was doing pretty well in World Series during the same period. Since the mid-eighties, no one has tried to claim that the NL remains dominant. In fact, the AL has won over three quarters of the All Star Games in the last 20 years while also winning most of the World Series, many of them by sweeping.
But is the AL more dominant now than the NL used to be? (more…)
First, congratulations to the White Sox on winning the 2005 World Series!
On October 26, David Pinto at Baseball Musings mused that the odds of a team with a 0-3 deficit in a series taking it to a fifth game only three times in 21 tries was 0.0007. Of course, as David noted, this is on the assumption that the two teams are evenly matched.
As David said:
But given the propensity of sweeps after a 3-0 start, I wonder if this start isn’t telling us something about the superiority of the sweeper.
That is, sweeps happen when the teams are not evenly matched. One way to approach this question is to look at run differentials in sweeps over time. There have been 17 four-game sweeps if we disregard the two in which a team won 4-0 but there was also a tie (1907 and 1922).
In those series, the sweeping teams have combined for 369 runs and the swept teams for 160. That is an average score per game of 5.43-2.35 and an average differential of 12.3 runs per series.
In other words, sweeps tend not to happen the way this 2005 sweep did: with four straight close games going the same way. (more…)
47.2% of respondents say the system worked badly, and only 38.4% said it worked well. (14.5% don’t know/no response.)
Discontent is rather natural, given three aspects of the results:
â€”National was by far the largest gainer over 2002, yet is out of government, while the three parties that will share ministerial posts with Labour all declined from 2002 to 2005.
â€”Labour explicitly promised to form a government with the Greens, but allowed two other smaller parties (including one with half the seats of the Greens) to veto this governing formula.
â€”Winston Peters, a maverick populist who could not even retain his long-held constituency seat, was granted a key ministerial post (Foreign Minister), even though he had promised to support a government without seeking “the baubles of office.”
While discontent is natural, there are no obvious governing arrangements that would have been better at reflecting what New Zealanders voted for. The three center-left parties (Labour, Progressive, and Green), could not form a government because they lacked the seats to do so. That opened the way for the small center-right parties to demand the exclusion of the Greens on grounds that voters had not endorsed a narrow left government (which they indeed had not). At that point, Labour could have held firm to its pre-election commitments, at cost of probably seeing United Future and Peters’s NZ First make a deal to support a National-led government.
(My view is that Labour should have let National form a government, gone into opposition but committed not to let it fall if it followed a non-radical policy direction, and then fought for the idea of a Labour-Green coalition in 2008. But they did not ask me and most likely would not have appreciated my advice.)
Apart from being led by the second largest party and by a leader much less popular personally than Labour PM Clark, a National-led government would have needed four small support parties, and also would have required a breaking of a pre-election commitment. In this case the broken commitment would have been National’s stated intention to abolish the special constituencies for Maoris. Four of those seats were won by a new Maori party (at the expense of Labour), and this party would have been needed to sustain a National-led coalition. Despite the conflict over the Maori seats issue, such a government appears to have been close to being formed days before Labour announced its deal, and the threat of a center-right government was probably why Labour offered the ministerial posts to Peters and to UF leader Dunne.
So, that leaves us with a question: Would NZ have a government more reflective of the voters’ preferences if it reverted back to the old first-past-the-post system?
Probably not. Consider the fact that the largest party (Labour) in the 2005 election, under MMP, had 41.1% of the votes. That is more than the largest party won in three of the last six elections under FPTP. Yet two of those governments (elected in 1984 and 1990, with 43% and 48% of the votes, respectively, but huge majorities of seats) pursued radical policy changes that were skewed to the benefit of the single governing party’s constituenciesâ€”thereby violating the alleged benefit of FPTP in producing centrist governance. The third government of that period to have been elected with more than 41% (in 1987) provided anything but the stable governance that is alleged to be another of FPTP’s strengths. It was the discontent of this period that opened the way for MMP to be adopted (via two successive popular referenda).
Tying all this together, I would guess that maybe around a third of the electorate wanted Labour+Green, while another comparable share wanted a clearly conservative government, but for each of these groups the actual government they got (Labour + center-right parties) has to be better than the alternative favored by the opposite third. It is a centrist governing formula that will prevent either the relatively extreme social-policy agenda of the Greens (and portions of Labour) or the deep tax cuts of National from being adopted until such time as there is a national consensus to do so.
Compromise is messy, but I would hope that New Zealanders would not have such short memories of unrepresentative governments past that they cannot see that MMP brings benefits even as it, like any electoral system, has its drawbacks.
One more win, and the White Sox will have won their first World Championship since 1917.
The White Sox are the 22d team in World Series history to win the first three games of a series. Number of the previous 21 teams that were down 0-3 to have won game 4: three. Number of those three to have gone beyond a fifth game: zero. Last time a team started a World Series 0-3 and took the series to even a fifth game: 1970.
Last time the White Sox lost a game: Game 1 of the ALCS, to the Angels. Last White Sox loss before that: Sept. 27 in Detroit. Record since that game in Detroit: 15-1.
The White Sox ended the regular season with a three-game sweep of the still-in-contention Indians (93 wins during the regular season). They then swept the Red Sox (95 wins), won four straight after the opening-game loss to the Angels (95 wins), and now have won three straight against the Astros.
Houston: You have a problem, and it is not that your roof is open.
Major League Baseball has decreed that the roof will be open in Houston for the first World Series game ever played in that city.
I am surprised that the decision of whether to open or close a retractable dome is in the discretion of MLB and not the home team. The Astros openly favored having the roof closed, as it was during this year’s NL playoffs. However, those games were played when the weather was much warmer and less pleasant than it is today.
It is often said that the high noise level of a domed stadium provides an additional advantage to the home team. There is some evidence to support that contention, small sample-size issues aside:
During the regular season, the Astros were 36-17 at home when the roof was closed, 15-11 when it was rolled back and 2-0 in games that began indoors and finished in fresh air.
However, as the story notes, the roof was open only twice after May. It does not note, as it should, that the Astros team did not get hot until well after the weather did, and so the correlation between the team’s record and the closure of the roof may well be spurious.
I am pleased at MLB’s decision not only because I am rooting against the Astros and thus am happy to see any potential advantage taken away from themâ€”as if starting Roy Oswalt were not enough!â€”but also because I will admit to being something of a purist when it comes to baseball. The game was meant to be played in the open air. Having visited Houston in some less-than-nice weather, I understand why they have a dome, but the new dome, unlike the old Astrodome, has the capability of being opened, and so it should, weather permitting. “It is a gorgeous day,” baseball commissioner Bud Selig said.
Jimmie Lee Solomon, executive vice president of baseball operations in Selig’s office says MLB:
followed the Astros’ regular-season guidelines, which he said call for the roof to be open when the temperature is under 80 degrees and there is no rain.
Apparently, there is some dispute about this:
Astros spokeswoman Lisa Ramsperger said there are no specific guidelines.
Good. A little World Series controversy!
If the Astros do not win tonight, they are in rather deep trouble. Only one team has ever come back from being down 0-3 to win a best-of-7 baseball series, and I have to believe it probably will not happen for a second year in a row.
On October 19, in my Policy-Making Processes course, I used the process of approval of new pharmaceuticals in the US as one of several examples of how the statutory delegation of authority to the bureaucracy establishes a burden of proof that the agency must certify has been met before making a decision.
In the case of drug approval, the burden of proof is on the manufacturer seeking the approval to show that its drug is safe and effective. Only once that has been proven may the FDA licence the drug for general use in the United States.
Just days after that session of the course, a front-page story from the LA Times shows the drug-approval process in action: “Drug nearing OK comes under fire.” [emphasis in quotes is mine]
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic analyzed data provided to the FDA by the drug’s developers and found that the medicine, Pargluva, also more than doubled the risk of congestive heart failure and transient ischemic attacks, also known as mini strokes.
This research was posted just days after:
the FDA issued a letter notifying Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Merck & Co. that their drug was “approvable” once some follow-up safety information was provided. An FDA advisory committee, in an 8-1 vote, recommended approving Pargluva to treat Type 2 diabetes last month.
Dr. Steven Nissen, who directed the stufy at the Cleveland Clinic, argues that:
the failure of the FDA panel to recognize the drug’s health risks showed a continuing weakness in the government’s drug-approval process.
In an editorial accompanying the study, Dr. James M. Brophy of McGill University said that the drug makers skewed the data to downplay Pargluva’s safety risks.
The story later notes:
The drug, generically known as muraglitazar, is the first of a new class designed to combat Type 2 diabetes, which affects more than 16 million Americans, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are several drugs already on the market to increase a patient’s sensitivity to insulin or to combat the high-cholesterol problems that often accompany diabetes.
Pargluva is the first combination drug to tackle both problems at once.
Obviously, I cannot sort out the contending claims about the safety of the drug or the quality of the studies financed by the manufacturer seeking its approval. Rather, what I want to note is that the approval process is set up precisely to do two things:
1. Facilitate the dissemination of information regarding drugs being proposed for entry into the market;
2. Provide protection to incumbents in the market by making it difficult to licence competitors.
Clearly the publication of the studies questioning the drug’s safety shows that the first purpose is being met. As for the second, if these doubts result in the drug not being licensed, incumbent protection, too, will have prevailed. The impact of this burden of proof is sometimes to prevent dangerous drugs from being licensed (as alleged here by the Cleveland Clinic study), but other times to delay or prevent efficacious drugs from being approved. Either way, it serves to limit competition for manufacturers currently in the market.
Lawrence B. Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, has an important op-ed in the LA Times this morning. The entire piece is well worth reading, but I will provide a few key excerpts:
I knew that what I was observing [in the preparations for the war in Iraq] was not what Congress intended when it passed the 1947 National Security Act. The law created the National Security Council â€” consisting of the president, vice president and the secretaries of State and Defense â€” to make sure the nation’s vital national security decisions were thoroughly vetted.
He later asks why we should care about such procedural niceties as outlined in the congressional statute creating and delegating authority to the NSC, noting rhetorically:
Isn’t it the president’s prerogative to make decisions with whomever he pleases? Moreover, can he not ignore whomever he pleases? Why should we care that President Bush gave over much of the critical decision-making to his vice president and his secretary of Defense?
His answer includes the following observation:
Discounting the professional experience available within the federal bureaucracy [...] makes for quick and painless decisions. But when government agencies are confronted with decisions in which they did not participate and with which they frequently disagree, their implementation of those decisions is fractured, uncoordinated and inefficient.
Yes, and one could go farther with this. Any time a President seeks to streamline policy-making by circumventing the complex procedures established by statute, that executive is circumventing the very system of checks and balances itself. Like it or not, our system of political and policy-making institutions is intended to frustrate executive power, because an executive that is not responsible to the legislature (as it is in a parliamentary system) creates an enormous risk of runaway power “not unlike the the decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy,” as Wilkerson says.
Wilkerson concludes with:
Given the choice, I’d choose a frustrating bureaucracy over an efficient cabal every time.
Indeed. An efficient bureaucracy would be nice, and no, that is not an oxymoron. But our system of governmentâ€”mainly, the separation of executive and legislative branchesâ€” does not lend itself to that. The 1947 National Security Act was actually an effort by Congress to make the process of policy-making in the area of national security more efficient, and yet presidents still frequently try to circumvent that process. But none as much as the current administration did in 2002-3.
Nowhere is the danger of a runaway executive greater than in war powers, which is why it is worth concluding with some important words from the birth of the republic:
In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.
As I mentioned back in early September was a possibility, the twins have made electoral history. (That link takes you to a nice picture of the twins as little child stars!)
Poland, a semi-presidential system in which there is both an elected president with real powers and a prime minister dependent on parliamentary confidence, has just completed its cycle of parliamentary and presidential elections. It was the first time in Poland’s brief democratic experience that the two institutions (presidency and parliament) had been elected in such close succession, and one of the leading parties is headed by twin bothers.
The Law and Justice Party, headed by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, came out on top (though well short of a majority) in the parliamentary elections of September 25. On Sunday, Lech Kaczynski, the current mayor of Warsaw, won the runoff and is now president-elect.
It would be possible for the twins to be president and prime minister, although Jaroslaw had already promised not to seek to be PM if his brother won the presidential election.
MarekNYC has further details on the coalition that will have to be formed involving both Law and Justice (PiS) and the Civic Platform (PO) party of the presidential runner-up, Donald Tusk.
On policy, MarekNYC concludes with the following observation:
On economic policy the PO wants to slash taxes for the rich and mildly cut expenditures on the poor while PiS wants to cut taxes for the middle class and raise social spending. Considering Poland has a large budget deficit as it is, these programs could not be enacted. My best guess is that they’d meet in the middle and keep things roughly as they are now, with some tweaking around the margins – but that is just an educated guess. On foreign policy you’d see a strengthening of Polish-American ties, somewhat greater hostility to Russia. And while the PO is Europhilic, it is also strongly neo-liberal. That combined with the knee jerk Europhobia of the PiS would make a POPiS government hostile to any attempts to create a more `social’ EU.
As Marek notes, the PiS is playing a stronger hand by having won both the presidency and the largest bloc of seats in the Sejm.
One of the things that I tell my students ever year in the Policy-Making Processes course is that there are, very broadly speaking, two ways in which policy may be made: In a programmatic fashion, or in a particularistic fashion. The good old “pork barrel” is an example of particularism.
As Chris notes, when politicians, commentators, or regular citizens label government spending programs, “one manâ€™s pork is another manâ€™s necessary infrastructure project.”
But then Chris adds the kicker, with respect to post-Katrina projects like rebuilding the Ponchartrain bridge as a 6-lane highway and other big “revitalization” spending (which Porkbusters are trying to have Congress appropriate money for instead of projects like the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere“):
a real â€œporkbusterâ€ would favor letting the FHWA bureaucracy, not Congress, decide where the money would best be spent.
This is the crux of the matter. If policy specialists in the bureaucracy are given fairly wide leeway to apply their expertise and merit criteria in determining which projects should have priority, we are probably looking at programmatic policy-making. If, on the other hand, committees of politicians are establishing which projects will have priority, we are almost certainly looking at particularism/pork.
It is worth adding, however, that bureaucracies can also produce pork. It depends on the authority that has been delegated by their political principalsâ€”whether to implement the broad program of the governing majority or to reflect the preferences of politicians’ particular organized or localized constituencies. (This is “structural politics,” as Moe and Caldwell call it; that reference to a reading is for the benefit of my students).
Sometimes it is a fine lineâ€”and it clearly is a continuumâ€”but the distinction between these two basic types of policy-making comes down to the extent of specific political criteria imposed on the bureaucracy. And that extent, of course, depends on how the politicians build their own election/reelection constituencies.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4