Many scenarios for American League final weekend

UPDATE (Oct. 1, 2:22 PDT): The three-team tie scenario is now gone. What a shame. We could still have a tiebreaker on Monday for the wild card between Cleveland and Boston at Fenway, if the Red Sox beat the Yankees Sunday and the Indians manage to salvage their last game in Chicago. But it looks like the Angels will draw the now-crowned east-division champion Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. Hmmm, that would be a repeat of 2002. I liked the way it turned out last time!

Well, the final weekend is upon us. In the American League, we were deprived of considerable drama when the Chicago White Sox clinched before the start of their season-ending series against the Cleveland Indians. However, the Indians remain in the wild-card hunt. More importantly, we have yet another epic showdown between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Three games, and because Cleveland remains alive, the Red Sox and Yankees series is potentially winner-take-all.

The most interesting scenario of all is a 3-way tie between Cleveland, New York, and Boston. This will happen if Boston takes two of three from New York and Cleveland takes two of three from Chicago. In that case, the Yankees and Red Sox play a one-game playoff for the East division and then the loser plays Cleveland for the wild card.

Of the sixteen possible outcomes of the two series, five of them involve at least one tiebreaker game early next week. Three scenarios (and a fourth that requires the Yankees to win a one-game playoff) involve both New York and Boston advancing. That means that if they were both to win their Division Series playoffs, they could meet in yet another potentially epic ALCS. But that could not possibly be as interesting as the last two, so better to avoid it by elimianting one of them this weekend or in a tiebreaker and/or seeing the Angels win the Division Series!

This will be an interesting weekend, and who can possibly keep all the scenarios in one’s head? Luckily, you do not have to. Just download my handy guide to the scenarios (PDF).

German coalition update

Via Deutsche Welle’s Election 2005 coverage, leaders of the two main parties—the Chistian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD)—are engaging in talks that are expected to lead to the formation of a grand coalition.

Both parties claim that these are not (yet) formal coalition negotiations. For one thing, there is the by-election in Dresden yet to occur (this Sunday). But it is clear that they are staking out positions.

For instance, Norbert Röttgen, parliamentary spokesman for the CDU, said a grand coalition could be formed in October:

We can do it if [Chancellor Gerhard] Schröder comes to his senses quickly.

In other words, the CDU position is that Schröder must give up his claim to remain Chancellor. Not so fast, says the SPD, through Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement:

I don’t think it’s wise to start the discussions by stating pre-conditions.

It seems to me that both major parties’ chancellor candidates have lost this election and that the best solution would be for someone other than Schröder or CDU leader Angela Merkel to get the top job. But for the time being, at least, each party is standing behind its leader—of course, as a means to keep leverage in the ongoing talks.

On the possibility that the grand coalition might prove to be just what Germany needs to move on stalled policy reforms, Röttgen noted:

A grand coalition can address unpleasant questions that have not been resolved by the policies of the last 15 years.

It is quite clear by now that a grand coalition will result. But the bargaining over its precise shape and program will take a little more time. In the end, a government containing both big parties could be more able to take chances and accomplish reforms than a coalition containing only one of them.

After all, the 15 years of deferred reform (since German reunification) that Röttgen refers to includes eight years of center-right coalitions led by his party, as well as the last seven years of the SPD–Green coalition.


Second day in a row here at Ladera Frutal with a temperature of 100 or more.

Not good for next season’s avocado crop, which will be our first big crop if the weather does not ruin it. Nor is it good for the water bill.

That’s farmin’.

Congratulations White Sox

The Chicago White Sox have just clinched the 2005 AL Central Division championship. They once had a 15-game lead, and looked like they would squander it as the Cleveland Indians surged in August and September. This weekend’s series between the teams appeared to be a looming showdown, but not now, as Cleveland’s three-game losing streak (all by one run and two to the Devil Rays) and a just-in-time recovery by the White Sox put the dvision away the day before the “showdown” would have begun.

It was good to see Bobby Jenks—once a top Angels prospect who was foolishly left unprotected this past winter—snapping off some beautiful curves and zinging his 96-MPH heat to earn the save in the clincher.

The Indians remain alive in the wild card race. One of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Indians will be left out. And the Angels await the outcome of these last games to find out who their first round opponent will be.

Public Choice 2006 New Orleans

This just in, via e-mail: Public Choice 2006 will be held as scheduled, in New Orleans.

Dear Public Choice Society Colleague,

The next Public Choice Society Meeting will be held at the Intercontinental Hotel in New Orleans, March 30 – April 2, 2006, the same venue as last year’s meeting (registration beginning on Thursday and concluding with the last plenary session Sunday morning). There are several reasons for affirming this earlier choice, including

–our contractual obligation to the Intercontinental;
–other Intercontinental hotels we could have switched to would have been considerably more expensive
–the New Orleans Intercontinental expects to be fully operating soon; and
–New Orleans deserves our support after the disaster it suffered.

If not back to normal, we expect New Orleans to be an attractive location six months from now—and hope as many of you as possible will participate in the 2006 Meeting.

Angels Fight Song

In the comments to an earlier post, Kao Hsien Chih asked about the Angels Fight Song.

Angels are the champions!

The Fight Song was the introductory music for all Angels broadcasts on KMPC, the team’s first flagship and a station Gene Autry owned even before he was awarded the Angels franchise. (Golden West Broadcasting; the original corporate name of the team was Golden West Baseball Club.)

After Autry, and after the broadcasts bounced around from station to station, it fell into disuse. But it was rehabilitated (along with the halo) in 2002. And it blared from the stadium loudspeakers when they clinched the AL pennant (I was there, naturally), and again when they won Game 7 of the World Series (right after the Hallejuah Chorus!—and, yes, for sure, I was there, as I was for Game 6, to see the greatest comeback from the brink of elimination in World Series history).

Fortunately for all long-time Angels fans, the team has brought the song back on the radio. It is, after all, one of the three greatest songs ever written (right up there with “It’s a Beautiful Day for a Ball Game” and, of course, “Take Me Out the the Ball Game.”)

Here is a nice thread about the history of our Fight Song. Stephen Smith asks a question I also have about the song: Does any other major league team have a fight song? I think the answer is no.

And it has words! I never knew that till the day after the Angels clinched their first-ever division championship, in 1979 (I was there that night, of course). KMPC played the version with the lyrics throughout that day in celebration.

So, here you go. The official lyrics to the original Angels Fight Song. Let’s all sign along, and GO HALOS!

California Angels A-O-K!
California Angels all the way!
Hear them shout that you’re the best, clear throughout the golden west
Watch ’em play, night and day, Keep the crowds in the clouds!

California Angels, Win that game!!
California Angels, Win that fame!!
Everybody blow your horn!
With the Halo we adorn the California Angels team!


What is legitimacy?

(This seems like a good topic to follow my post about the Padres winning the NL West.)

I said that I would use this Weblog from time to time as a place to think about questions that come up in my PMP course but that I don’t have a chance to address at length in class.

On the first day, a couple of students asked about political legitimacy. This is one of those concepts I am never quite sure what to do with. It is one of the ultimate “slippery” concepts in political science (or in political discussion more generally).

It seems that ‘legitimacy’ has two rather distinct meanings—at least in the way it is used with reference to governments or political regimes. On the one hand, there is the meaning that is closest to its root. The word is derived from the Latin, lex (genitive, legis), meaning law. By this root of the word, a government (or, for that matter, a division champion) is legitimate if it holds its position according to the law. But it is often used in a broader sense, to denote a government that people accept. That is, independent of their preferences for this or some alternative government, they accept that the current government has a right to rule.

Now, is either meaning useful for objective political analysis? I doubt it, and that is why I encourage my students not to use it in class discussion or in their papers. How do we know a government is legitimate, and even if we could know it, of what use would that knowledge be?

The standard of complying with the law is too low. Virtually all governments, even those that have just taken power via a coup or revolutionary overthrow, engage in exercises to establish a basis in their country’s legal order for their rule. So I do not doubt that rulers want to claim to be legitimate. But this is a pretty low threshold for them to cross to be branded as “legitimate” by objective analysts. As an example, the Chilean military junta that took power on September 11, 1973, almost immediately issued a decree saying its actions were consistent with the 1925 constitution and that all institutional acts of the junta took the form of amendments to that constitution. And, voila, we’re legitimate!

So, if the root of the word—a basis in law—is too low a standard, how about the “right to rule”? Is this a better standard? I don’t think so. I like to use the illustration of the former Apartheid regime in South Africa. It is hard to imagine a government with less of a right to rule over its own population. It ruled by explicit exclusion of the 90% of the population that was not white. What moral authority did it have to do so? Yet it ruled, and was a legal government under the country’s political institutions. It survived a very long time for a government with such a narrow base, and it was never subject to the widespread resistance that might have been expected for a government that surely was not accepted by large swaths of the population as fit to rule over them. (There were sproadic incidents of resistance, including some violence, but never anything resembling widespread manifest opposition.) And it ultimately negotiated a transition to majority rule. It was not overthrown. Was it actually illegitimate all along? By the right to rule standard, probably. Yet accepting the South African Apartheid regime as illegitimate helps us understand exactly what about the process that ultimately led to its transition to democracy? Beats me.

I don’t know what standard to impose on a government to determine whether it is “legitimate” or not. So I just eschew the term entirely when engaging in objective analysis.

Perhaps someone can convince me that the term is useful. Give it a shot.

Now back to those Padres. How legitimate is a dvision champion that has won only half its games, may still wind up with a losing record, and will be one of the four playoff teams from the league despite finishing with no better than the fifth best record in the league—and maybe as low as 10th? Should they not be replaced by another wild card team with a better record? Would that not be more legitimate? Well, the rules say you are entitled to a playoff berth if you have the most wins of all the teams in your division. The Padres are. Is that legitimate? By the literal meaning of the word, and in the absence of an anti-mediocrity rule, yes. Do they have a right to be one of their league’s four teams to compete for baseball’s top prize? Well, that can’t be answered objectively, can it?

[UPDATE: Of course, the Padres wound up with a marginally winning record: 82-80, thanks to the hapless Giants and Dodgers. They face the 100-win Cardinals in the Division Series. And they might even be said to have a “legitimate” chance to win the series, but that’s a topic for another post.]

NL Mediocrity watch, continued

You would almost get the idea these guys were a winning team.

Padres win the NL West

Their record upon clinching the NL Mediocrity Division title: 79-79.

With four games left—one against the Giants and three against the Dodgers—the Padres need to sweep to avoid the mantle of the worst playoff team ever. The 1973 New York Mets won 82 games, but lost “only” 79 (there was a rainout that was not made up). The Padres have already lost 79, and so losing only one of their remaining four would put them at .506, just behind those ’73 Mets (.509).

They have to go 1-3 to be the first team in the playoffs with a losing record. Can they do it? Keep the faith.


This is sweet. Two years in a row, three postseason appearances in four years. Here’s hoping this one is more like 2002 than like 2004.

First team in the AL to clinch. May the Indians and White Sox and the Yankees and Red Sox wear one another out over the next five games!

In the meantime, get in the mood with the Angels Fight Song.

Go Halos!

The problem with high thresholds in PR

The Beer Lovers Party, which got representation in Poland’s 1991 election, has never returned since the threshold was raised. Thanks for Alan at the Good Beer Blog for the reminder of this overlooked dimension of electoral systems. Given the awful selection of parties in last week’s election, the Beer Lovers Party is needed more than ever!

Their Czech counterpart never did make into parliament (those pesky high thresholds again), but at least they rehabilitated one of Prague’s finest pubs. From As Think Magazine describes it:

At no. 2, right at the bottom of the street, is U Kocoura (House at The Cat). A rarity in this area, this pub makes no attempts to make itself into a magnet for passers-by. No tri-lingual menus, no welcoming hostess, no nothing. Just a few tables covered with dirty table cloths, 22,5Kc for a half litre of Budvar, and a big picture of Garfield on the right hand wall.

The double doors are opened when it’s warm, and the atmosphere is airy and relaxed. It used to be (and maybe still is) owned by (Pratele piva) The Friends of Beer, a former political party…

Yes, former political party. Sigh. And they still own the pub, as far as I know. But I have to admit I have not been to U Kocoura in my last two visits to Prague, having been just a little disappointed that the Friends of Beer changed their pub’s tie from Pilsner Urquell to Budvar and prettied the place up a little too much for a real Czech pub experience. Oh, a topic for a future post…

Proportional representation–a common misconception

In Stephen Karlson’s post to which I replied the other day, there is one passage that I left on the siding as I chugged on by. But it deserves to be addressed:

The United States Constitution apportions representation by states. Many other republics apportion representation by political parties.

The misconception here is the implication that it must be one or the other—states or political parties.

In fact, there are very few proportional representation systems that do not apportion their seats by state or province (or whatever their subunits might be). Almost all PR systems have district lines that coincide with existing subnational units. In that sense, they are just like the US, where states are allocated House representation in proportion to their share of the national population.

The apportionment to subnational units is a separate dimension from what the districting arrangements are, and how seats are won within those districts.

It would not be necessary (though it would be possible, even under federalism) for a hypothetical PR-USA system to allocate seats by national proportion of the vote. Supposing no such national party allocation, PR simply would mean that a state’s seats (for those states with more than one) would be allocated by party share of the vote cast within that state. Districts would be multi-seat, whether statewide or, in larger states, with intra-state districting.

PR without national calculation of party shares would be easier to manage in a larger House (so fewer states would have small numbers of seats to divide among the parties), but the question of increasing the size of the House is a separate question and would be a good idea regardless of whether we ever jump on the PR train or not.

The bottom line is that in no sense would proportional representation by party compromise the principle of apportioning representation in the House by state. I find that this point is often not well understood (and thus I am by no means picking on Stephen!)

More on congressional independence in Mexico

I don’t think Michelle and I actually disagree about much substantively in the discussion we are having about congressional independence in Mexico. (See her original post, my response, and her follow up). However, I continue to take issue with her use of the term “monopoly” to describe the information advantage that the executive is said to have on the more technical aspects of some policies.

I don’t dispute that congress as an institution has a shortage of technical information, relative to the executive (as do individual members).

However, Michelle continues to say “monopoly” even as she mentions other sources of information and appears to agree with my point that congress (or, I would say, the parties therein) are likely to continue to increase their independent information sources. Thus there is no monopoly, and there is likely to be less imbalance over time.

It is an empirical question whether the opposition parties in congress (which, note, is not the same thing as saying “Congress” or “members of Congress”) have sufficient information with which to build a critique of government policy proposals—whether that critique is based on technical or ideological grounds. It defies logic that the opposition parties would tolerate an executive monopoly on policies in opposition to which they might want to build some part of their collective reputations. But a logical argument is hardly the same thing as saying something is so. Basically, I am pleading for a research strategy that takes seriously the question of how congress, the parties, and individual members cope with the greater technical capacity currently held by executive ministries, rather than one that assumes Congress lacks independence because the ministries have more technical data than Congress as an institution has.

Regarding Joy Langston’s paper and the question of who are the principals of Mexican deputies, Michelle’s recollection is correct: it is not always so clear. Mexico uses a mixed-member (and relatively majoritarian) electoral system, and its parties are among the world’s most disciplined in legislative voting. How important are the closed lists for this discipline? (As an aside, I would note that it was Michelle, in the second paragraph of her original post, not me, who first raised the issue of closed lists as a feature that supposedly promotes strong discipline.) In fact, closed lists cannot be the explanation for party discipline in Mexico if the members who are elected from closed lists exhibit no greater aggregate levels of party discipline than those who are elected from single-seat districts (as Weldon shows).

However, if the type of electoral system from which members are elected matters, we might expect some evolutionary change here as a result of which party leaders deputies are taking their cues from. The primary source of party discipline in Mexico is not the electoral system but the control party leaders have over careers, given that deputies (and senators) are ineligible for immediate reelection. But if “party leaders” comes to designate a less cohesive group of actors than in the past, in that they fail to reconcile their divisions over policy and patronage distirbution, we might expect a decrease in discipline. For instance, deputies who are elected from single-seat districts (each of which is contained within a single state’s boundaries) might become more responsive to state party leaders (including the governor, when a deputy and the governor of his or her state are of the same party). On the other hand, those who are elected from the regional closed-list proportional districts (for which the district lines cross state boundaries) might remain more dependent on national leaders of their party. There is some evidence from Joy’s research that this may be happening.

I thank Michelle for raising this question. Research into policy-making that takes seriously the variance across policy areas and information flows, as well as the institutional incentives for parties, legislators, and legislatures to insert themselves into the process, is very much the cutting edge of the analysis of policy-making. And not only in Mexico.

Afghanistan–Iraq comparison

I have commented on the striking differences between the fledgling democratic institutions of Afghanistan and Iraq (here and here). Now Robert Farley dicusses differences and parallels between Afghanistan and Iraq on the dimension of counterinsurgency (includings its political aspects), as practiced by the Soviet Union in the 1980s and by American forces now. Recommended.

Also recommended is Tom Grant’s elaboration of Robert’s themes, especially this note of comparison:

In both cases, the occupier tried winning the support of the population by implementing progressive social and economic policies. In both cases, the occupying power was bewildered when these reforms failed to smother the insurgents’ appeal.


After the Soviets withdrew, the regime in Kabul survived far longer than most observers had predicted. […] Nevertheless, the taint of being the instrument of a former occupying power never faded, and the regime eventually crumbled under a hail of rocket fire.

I know very little about the nature of the conflict in Afghanistan that followed the Soviet withdrawal, or the nature of the regime that survived for three (?) years afterwards. But it occurs to me that the Afghan political forces, both then and now, are a good deal more fragmented than those in Iraq currently. If this is the case, it may go much of the way towards explaining the differences in the political institutions that I have noted. And, if we can speak of Iraq, for all its faultlines, as being less fragmented than Afghanistan, the implication would seem to be that the current Iraqi political system stands a much better chance of survival than what the Soviets left behind. Note I mean not because Iraq will prove to be more ‘democratic’ (it may yet prove to be, or it may not), but because it enjoys already deeper roots in a less fragmented society.

I am not sure if that makes sense. Something to think on…

NL Mediocrity Showdown, Part 1

Befitting a late-September showdown series for a postseason berth, the Padres (77-78 coming into the game) and the Giants (74-82, four games back) played a thriller last night in the city by the bay—San Diego Bay, that is.

With two out and one on in the ninth, and Trevor Hoffman on the brink of converting his 39th straight save opportunity, Randy Winn hit one deep to center. The center fielder, Brian Giles (of all people), got a glove on it, preventing a homer. For a moment it looked like a sensational catch that would have put the Padres one win in this series away from clinching the NL Mediocrity Division title. But Giles could not hold it, and it went for a game-tying triple. Hoffman had his first blown save since April, and Winn would score on a single before the inning was over.

Just like that, with 2 out in the top of the ninth, a Padres 2-1 lead became a Giants 3-2 lead, and so it would stand. The Padres have clinched nothing, but the division has clinched having the worst ever record for any division champion.

The Padres, at 77-79, still have a 3-game lead with six to play, despite the ninth best record in the NL.

Well, it was a great game, even if this doesn’t exactly qualify as a great race.