The Blue Sox: Why Boston's Boys Are the Democrats Of Baseball

Lewie PollisSenior Analyst IIIOctober 19, 2009

TOLEDO, OH - OCTOBER 28:  Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) wears a Boston Red Sox hat as he greets supporters during a rally October 28, 2004 in Toledo, Ohio. With five days left in the presidential campaign, Kerry and U.S. President George W. Bush are in a dead heat according to polls.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

An objective observer of our two-party political system would be shocked by the exclusionary nature of the United States government.

Many liberals are quite disappointed with the way President Obama has governed so far. They are frustrated by his perpetuation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, his lackluster environmental policies, and his complete abandonment of Single-Payer health insurance, and rightfully so (though if they had read the fine print during the campaign, this would not have come as a surprise).

The Democrats control the White House and both halves of Congress, and the Republicans have been reduced to The Party Who Cried Socialism. So why haven’t the Dems done anything that would actually make a difference?

Because, on an international scale, the two parties' platforms are almost ideologically identical. Because both parties take in lobbyist money by the truckload. And because the vicious cycle that prevents third parties from gaining traction protects the Democrats’ political role as the lesser of two evils for progressive voters.

But I digress. I’m here to talk about baseball.

Comparing the New York Yankees to the Republicans is nothing new. Look no further than their owner, George Steinbrenner. While you might have guessed his political leanings from his military history and exorbitant wealth, the connection runs deeper. In 1974 he plead guilty to making illegal contributions to the Nixon campaign, and later received a pardon from President Reagan. New York City’s quadrennial bid to host the Republican National Convention always includes Steinbrenner inviting party leaders to the Yankee Stadium owner’s box.

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Like the GOP, the Yankees are expected to be in the race every year. When they don’t put up a strong showing, it’s considered an upset. And just as all demographics have at least a few Republicans, no matter how ridiculous it seems that any of their policies will benefit the people who support them, around the country, fans and non-fans alike sport Yankees caps as if completely clueless about the plutocratic leviathan they are endorsing.

But of course, the Yankees aren’t the only super-rich team in baseball. There is another infamous organization with whom they duopolize the national spotlight.

Besides their Massachusetts home, the Red Sox have plenty in common with the Democrats. Both organizations have plenty of money. They’re expected to at least put up a fight each year and many people root for them solely because they hate the YankPublicans.

If that makes the DemocRedSox sound like the YankPublicans, that’s because they are indeed quite similar.

It’s not fair to say that the Democrats and Republicans are the same—they just aren’t very different. Both parties have been generally supportive of our post 9/11 military efforts. Neither side wishes to change the nature of the health care industry from for-profit to for-patient. They achieve bipartisanship on issues of flag burning, gay marriage, and the death penalty. And they have worked together to design an electoral system that makes it difficult for third parties to earn money or gain ballot access. (That’s not to say that a some Democrats have been against the wars, supportive of Single-Payer, etc., but looking at the politicians in power, these progressive causes have few champions.)

Of course, the Red Sox are marginally less plutocratic than the Yankees. Steinbrenner’s crew cut salary in 2009 and still ended up with a payroll over $200 million; Boston, by comparison, spent “only” $123 million, less even than the Mets and Cubs.

The difference between the teams is largely evident in how the rosters are compiled. While the Red Sox are always in the hunt for big-ticket free agents, they also have a great minor league system, as evidenced by their young core of homegrown stars (Ellsbury, Pedroia, Papelbon, etc.) and their ability to trade their prospects for impact players. The Yankees have no such capabilities—can you name any successful big-leaguers their farm system has produced in the last 10 years besides Robinson Cano?

The Red Sox have also been incredibly open-minded with respect to sabermetrics. The hiring of Bill James, Voros McCracken, and (almost) Billy Beane show that they have truly bought into the Moneyball philosophy. Much of the book, in fact, describes Beane’s attempts to acquire Kevin Youkilis, the kind of player that most teams underrate. While I’m sure Brian Cashman cares about OBP and DIPS, he has so much money to work with that overvalue is a non-issue.

That being said, Boston is still playing Steinbrenner’s game. No, their payroll isn’t as high, and yes, they supplement that disparity with some degree of efficient management. But they aren’t innocent, they’re just less guilty. And as the Democrats have proven, “less guilty” isn’t enough to end a war or solve the health care crisis.

The baseball duopoly is not as serious as its governmental counterpart. Baseball fandom is largely arbitrary anyway to begin with. The Phillies and Dodgers have a better chance of winning the World Series than the Greens and Libertarians have of taking the White House. And while fewer people (I hope) would stay up late to cheer for their side in a Congressional debate than they do to watch baseball games, politics are, surprisingly, much more important than sports.

Of course, that’s not to say that people’s team affiliations should match up with their political beliefs. I know plenty of Yankees fans who decorated their cars with Obama paraphernalia. I have no doubt that the conservative Curt Schilling could win many BoSox fans’ votes if he changes his mind about running for the senate. And if every other team’s supporters voted for non-corporate parties, the American political spectrum would be a lot less narrow.

I’m not trying to change anyone’s political views or challenge their team loyalties. I’m just sick of Obama supporters whining about my Red Sox cap.