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Barack Obama, Predictions and the Red Sox

As a handicapper who uses current circumstances to construct scenarios about the future, I know full well how unpredictable tomorrow is. In fact, I repeatedly warn readers and listeners that unexpected events can change our lives and our politics overnight.

In the political sphere, the standing of President Barack Obama is a case in point. Obama was elected on a surge of optimism that he could bring about “change,” revitalize the U.S. economy and enhance the nation’s status around the world.

By the spring of 2009, more and more Americans were telling pollsters that the country was headed in the right direction, and the president’s aggressive response to crises in the financial sector and automobile industry gave way to predictions that an economic recovery was not too distant. 

America’s reputation around the world improved as the new president traveled the globe, bringing his personal magic with him. A Democratic special election victory in the spring of 2009 in upstate New York seemed to foreshadow additional electoral problems for the GOP.

But, as the late, great Broadway actor Zero Mostel might have said, “A funny thing happened on the way to the midterms.”

Almost all of the president’s initiatives ran into trouble, even with huge majorities in the House and Senate, and the jobs recovery never occurred. If the situation in Iraq improved, the war in Afghanistan — which during the 2008 campaign then-candidate Obama cited as the more important struggle against terrorism — took a turn for the worse.

This president, like Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush before him, learned the lesson that every investment fund manager knows: Evidence of past performance doesn’t guarantee future results.

And now the president, who is expected to raise close to $1 billion for his re-election campaign, who faces a Republican field widely mocked as undistinguished and who can rely on the same team of brilliant political gurus who masterminded his 2008 victory, suddenly finds his re-election in doubt.

President Obama, meet your baseball counterpart, the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox may still win the World Series because the playoff system now allows “wild card” teams to make the playoffs and because anything can happen in a short series. But that shouldn’t erase the stunning underperformance of the Red Sox, who were picked by almost everyone to win the American League pennant.

With a team including newly acquired star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, free agent outfielder Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz, plus starting pitchers Jon Lester and Josh Beckett and a fabulous bullpen, how could Red Sox Nation not be rewarded with a pennant after another dominant performance during the regular season?

Tampa Bay might be good, but after losing Crawford to the Red Sox and with an uncertain pitching staff and an even iffier bullpen, they obviously couldn’t compete.

The Yankees, we heard, are nothing but an aging team with only a single established starting pitcher, a closer over 40, an aging shortstop with no range and a deteriorating bat, a catcher who can’t catch anymore and a roster that didn’t make a major acquisition over the summer except for a setup man.

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