CANADA POLITICS It's all about the statistics: what politics and baseball...

It’s all about the statistics: what politics and baseball have in common


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In his latest column as host of The House, Chris Hall talks to three political strategists to explore the intersection of two of his favorite topics: politics and baseball.

There is a saying that life imitates art. But for my money, there is another comparison that is just as true. Politics mimics baseball.

Here is the field.

Politics and baseball are filled with tradition. There are many rules; some of them are written, and some are really just time-honored traditions.

Today, both are increasingly relying on modern metrics — data and statistics — to win new supporters and win.

In baseball, these statistics help managers decide when to deploy an inside shift or place an extra man in the outfield to keep top hitters out of the base.

In politics, numbers tell campaign managers which attractions to visit and which campaign they promise to promote. They know how many swing votes are available in each constituency. Parties maintain databanks that tell them where a supporter lives and where a voter can be persuaded to join their party.

Therefore, it is not surprising that many politicians and their strategists are also fans of baseball.

House political (and baseball) panel, left to right: Ann McGrath, NDP national director, Jason Litaer, president of Enterprise Canada and former conservative strategist; and Zita Astravas, former Liberal press secretary and current chief of staff for Bill Blair. (Contributed by Jason Litaer and Zita Astravas, Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

According to Anne McGrath, there is a strong connection between base management and campaigning.

“I think all campaigns are now data-driven or aiming to be data-driven,” said McGrath, National Director of the NDP and a veteran of both federal and provincial campaigning.

“This is the key to politics. You have to find people who support you and get them to vote. So you have to know who they are and know where they are and know what they care about.”

McGrath was an ardent admirer of the Montreal exhibitions. The club moved to Washington many years ago and she still hasn’t recovered from that. But McGrath sees in this lesson the importance of not only maintaining the fan base, but also finding ways to attract new ones to the stadium.

“You have to know who your base is and you have to expand it. You must involve more people. interested, engaged and motivated,” she explained.

CBC News: Home9:32Invite me to vote

In one of his latest shows, host Chris Hall combines two of his passions: baseball and politics. He talks to three fellow baseball players who turn out to be political insiders: Liberal Party employee Zita Astravas, conservative strategist Jason Leater, and NDP national director Anne McGrath.

Jason Lightayer grew up reading baseball scores and looking forward to the release of the weekend newspaper, which published the statistics of every American League player, including those of his native Toronto Blue Jays.

Litaer, a former Conservative campaign strategist and now head of government relations firm Enterprise Canada, believes in collecting data to get information about a player or campaign. But simply collecting this data does not guarantee victory in baseball or politics, he said.

Sometimes the bottom of the ninth occurs a month before the start of the game.– Jason Leather

Players on the field or candidates knocking on doors continue to play a key role in determining whether you win or lose. In addition, it is important to correctly interpret these data.

“And I would say that in politics we are still fighting some of them,” Litar said. “You know there’s only one or two ways to read the data? How important is digital connectivity? How important is this piece of information?

Toronto Blue Jays Alejandro Kirk makes a single during a game against the Boston Red Sox in Toronto, June 28, 2022. (John Blacker/Canadian Press)

The key lesson is to figure out what the stats tell you before the end of the game or before election night in order to better adapt to changing circumstances and give your team a better chance of winning.

“Sometimes you don’t know if you’re winning or losing elections. [until] you have already won or lost,” he said.

“Sometimes the bottom of the ninth happens a month before the game starts.”

The politics and baseball panel was one of the last interviews Chris Hall gave as host of The House. He retired from CBC in June 2022. CBC Radio created this “farewell” baseball card to mark the occasion. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Zita Astravas is another political insider who watches baseball a lot. She has worked on both federal and Ontario Liberal campaigns and is now Chief of Staff to Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair.

“I think one of the things that drew me to politics and baseball is statistics, and I think that’s one of the things you can find common ground in,” she said.

“You do this every day during a political campaign: you look at different trips and decide who your best candidates are, what your target trips are, just like you do with different players.”

It’s all about finding the hidden meaning in the numbers, an advantage that can be exploited on the field or in the races.

All this in hopes of answering a key question, says McGrath: “Did we hit him out of the park?”

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