People love to use baseball analogies because baseball is a pretty common and relatable frame of reference. But one thing you can be sure of: nearly 100% of the time someone is using a baseball analogy in politics, they are either mangling the baseball or mangling the politics.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) used a chart showing that the number of home runs increased when players used steroid, saying it’s the same case with temperatures rising when humans emit greenhouse gases.
“Something very funny happened in baseball because from 1920 all the way through the entire modern baseball history, the average number of players that hit more than 41 home runs in a season was three players,” Markey said Monday night. “All of the sudden 17 players could hit more than 41 home runs. … Then somebody thought, ‘maybe they’re injecting these players with steroids.’”
With the caveat that I am not a climate change denier and that, if anything, I’m sympathetic to the cause of and generally in league with the people who are concerned about climate change, this is bunk on the baseball side and doesn’t help their arguments, be they about baseball or about climate change.
There has been a lot of variation in home run rates and totals throughout history. The context of baseball has changed constantly. And there are many factors, separate and apart from steroids, that have caused it. At the same time, there are many indicators and effects of steroid use that are observable separate and apart from home run rates. People who make intelligent observations about steroids in baseball don’t just point at home runs and say “seeee???!!” Morons do that.
The same goes with climate change. Unlike Senator Markey here, the folks who say intelligent things about it don’t look at cute charts of loose correlation — data that can and often does fit on a bumper sticker — to make their points. There exists a large body of rigorous, peer-reviewed science on the subject, tracking a number of variables. Heck, even those who are not on the same side of the climate change debates as me — if they’re being smart and not just trafficking in easy politics — will point to the research, be it their own or point to flaws in existing studies. It’s only the jerks on either side of the debate who think the topic is simple and make those bumper stickers and political cartoons about it. The people who scream about the end of the world when it’s 95 in June or mock the concept of climate change when it’s -10 in January.
There’s an awful lot of rigorous research about baseball offense too. Most of it will show that there are tons of factors besides PEDs that led to the offensive explosion of the 1990s and 2000s. And that there are tons of factors besides drug testing that has led to the offensive declines of the past several years. Curiously, so much of that is ignored when people go to make points about home runs and offense.
So please: people concerned about climate change, find another analogy. Because the folks who link steroids and home runs as tightly as this fellow does here have way more in common with the climate change science deniers than they do with those who think it’s a real and legitimate issue.