The Political Lesson of the 2002 World Series

When you think of presidential politics, you probably don’t think of the 2002 World Series.  But in overlooking that event, you miss an important lesson for this election season.

Anaheim Angels
Photo hosted by MLB.com

The 2002 Series pitted the Anaheim Angels (today known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) against the San Francisco Giants in an all-California series.  It was the first World Series where both teams had entered the playoffs as Wild Card teams.

This World Series went the distance.  By the time the series ended, the Giants were obviously the better team, having scored 44 runs to Anaheim’s 41 runs—almost a 10% advantage.  The controversy erupted later when for some reason, Major League Baseball inexplicably awarded the World Series trophy.  Despite clearly winning the run total for the Series, the Giants were cheated out of the title they had obviously earned.

Actually, there was no controversy. It wasn’t inexplicable at all.  And San Francisco wasn’t cheated.  Anaheim won the series because they won four games, while San Francisco only won three.  The Series is decided by who wins the most GAMES, not scores the most runs.  So, despite being outscored in total runs, the Angels had won their first World Series.

2002 World Series Ring

Now, just because Anaheim didn’t score as many runs, does that mean that, if the contest had been based upon run totals, San Francisco would have won?  Not at all.  If that had been the deciding criteria, each team would have changed its strategy so as to maximize their run total, not their win total..  Perhaps they would have left starters in longer.  Perhaps they would have taken different chances.  There is no way to know who would have won if run total had been intended FROM THE START to decide the winner.

Much is being made in the media today of the fact that Hillary Clinton’s popular vote total has exceeded that of Donald Trump.  But the simple fact is that the popular vote count is irrelevant.  Each candidate ran his/her campaign based upon winning an Electoral College victory, not a hollow popular vote victory.  In the Washington Post article, “Donald Trump says he would have won a popular-vote election. And he could be right.”,  Aaron Blake states:

”An electoral-college election involves making explicit appeals to and advertising in around 10 or 12 out of the 50 states. It means Trump didn’t campaign or advertise in California or Massachusetts or Washington state and that Clinton didn’t campaign in Oklahoma or even Texas (despite polling within single digits there). They knew it would be wasted effort to try to turn a 30-point loss in those states into a 22-point loss, or a 14-point loss into an eight-point loss.”

In many non-swing states, many people on both sides don’t vote.  In California, it was a given that the state would go Democrat.  As a result, many Republicans don’t even bother to vote.  (For that matter, many Democrats don’t either, because their vote wouldn’t make it MORE of a victory).  However, if it had been a popular vote election, each person would probably have been more diligent about getting out and voting, regardless of party.

But either way, the fact that Hillary Clinton got more popular votes in the 2016 election matters no more than those extra runs San Francisco got in 2002.

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