Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Now they're telling us a Bombers' win is good for the economy. Damn Yankees!

Monday night, I was delighted to see the Philadelphia Phillies dig in, man up, and win a do or die game in the World Series. They may, of course, have merely staved off what seems inevitable: a Yankees win.

A Yankees win.


As an American League fan growing up when the Red Sox were cellar-dwellers and the World Series meant the Yankees, I was an October-only Yankees fan as a child. But that changed when the Red Sox became a contender, and the last time I rooted for the Yankees to win was in 2001, when they were America's Team and should, by rights and corny story-telling, have won it all.

That was then and this is now, so it's boo, hiss, Yankees, buying their way to contention and beyond with a checkbook as big as the Empire State Building.

Their 2009 payroll was $201 million, surpassing the next in line NY Mets' paltry $135 million. What better metaphor for the overall American rise of the super-rich and decline of the middle class?

Not that the middle class has no chance. It can be argued that the Phillies, with a $113 million payroll that places them 7th among the 30 MLB teams, is (upper) middle class. (In case you're wondering, the Olde Towne Team ranked 4th at $122 million - a hefty amount, but one dwarfed by the big spenders in pin stripes. Source for payroll info: ESPN.)

But a conversation on relative baseball spends, and America's lurch into banana republic status, will have to wait.

The topic du jour is an amusing article in the WSJ that argued that history shows us that if the Yankees win the Series, the economy will hum back to life in 2010. However, if the Phillies win, the economy will remain in dire straits.

The Groundhog Day argument is, admittedly, specious, but it's still fun.

Since 1930, the Yankees...have been a harbinger of average of 5% GDP growth in years following a series victory, healthy by any measure. In years in which the Yankees didn’t win the World Series (either they lost or didn’t make it) U.S. output expanded at an unspectacular 2.9%.

Win or lose, just an appearance by that Yankees in the World Series seems to foretell the next year’s growth. The economy grew an average of 4% in years after the Yankees lost the World Series. We’d also note that the last time the Yankees played the Phillies in the World Series (the Yankees won in four games) the economy grew a robust 7.7% the following year.

On the other hand, while the Phillies have a far skimpier World Series record to draw on, their victories in 2008 and 1980 foretold paltry (2.5% in 1981) or even negative (2009 numbers aren't in yet, but they'll be lousy) growth. When the Phillies lose, however, growth averages 5% in the subsequent year - same as with a Yankees win.

I really don't like where this 'head's I win, tails you lose' story is going.

Who wants to feel that it's a matter of economic patriotism to root for the Yankees? Talk about 'lie back and think of England.' No thanks.

Post hoc, of course, doesn't necessarily translate into  propter hoc. Although, as WSJ "Numbers Guy" Carl Bialik observed,

“Perhaps the Yankees thrive in years in which their rate of outspending other teams surges, and that their investments stimulate the economy. Or they only outspend when their staff economists forecast economic growth.”

Something to think about, anyway, in those breaks between pitches when I want to tune out Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

But I do not buy the argument that what's good for the Yankees is good for the country.

For the duration I will keep calm and carry on, cheering for the Phillies to take it all. (Go, Pedro!)

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