Is Geography the Reason for Success?

Posted June 9, 2009 at 4:29pm

From the Yankees’ dynasty of the late 1990s to the GOP’s dominance of the electoral map just a few years back, there is a lesson for lawmakers and athletes alike: In baseball and in politics, everything is cyclical. And there might even be a second lesson: Geography is destiny.

As the Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game approaches, an influx of fresh talent from the previous two election cycles has the Democratic team cautiously eyeing an end to a losing streak that stretches back to 2001, including a walkoff win on the Democratic catcher’s throwing error last year.

But the Democrats’ record against the Republicans has been dismal, 13-33, since Roll Call began sponsoring the midsummer Congressional classic. This raises the question of whether something else is at work.

The breakdown of the election map gives Republicans a decisive edge in Southern and Southwestern states. Those, of course, are also states where warmer weather allows people to play baseball without being inhibited by the wintry winds that are a staple of the solidly Democratic Northeast. Coincidence? Perhaps not.

David Rawnsley, national scouting director for the scouting service Perfect Game and a former scout for the Houston Astros, said California consistently leads the nation in generating baseball talent, followed by Texas and Florida.

“It’s cultural,— he said. “It’s opportunity. There’s such a distinct advantage in developing as a baseball player when you play it frequently throughout the year.—

When they take the field at Nationals Park next Wednesday, Republicans will field 19 players from Southern and Southwest states to the Democrats’ four, with Democratic players dispersed across more northern states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. The GOP roster lists 10 players from Florida and Texas to the Democrats’ zero.

But if you ask Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans deny that any regions give players a leg up. Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.), manager for the Democrats, attributed his squad’s current slide to strong Republican players. “I don’t concede that the South plays better baseball than the East.—

Rep. Zach Wamp (Tenn.), who is currently riding a 12-game hitting streak as the GOP’s starting shortstop, echoed Doyle’s sentiment. He pointed to relative parity when all sports played by Members, including basketball and golf, are considered.

“I don’t think you can point to any sort of formula that says Republicans recruit better talent than Democrats,— he said. “I think it just kind of runs in waves over a period of time.

“I’m not sure there is a geographic analogy that holds up. There might be for Major League Baseball, there might be for minor league baseball, there might be for college baseball — but here I don’t know.—

Wamp said that an infusion of fresh blood, including the arrival a of much-touted rookie, Rep. John Boccieri (Ohio), offers signs of a Democratic resurgence. Ultimately, he said, it comes down to fundamentals that hold true irrespective of region. “Whoever makes the fewest errors and walks the fewest batters is going to win the game,— he said.