Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Electoral Systems and Padres Uniforms

I listened to Padres owner Ron Fowler's interview with Jesse Agler on his Beyond the Booth podcast. Toward the end, Jesse asked him about uniforms. If you are not a Padres fan or at least a baseball fan, you may not know that the Padres had brown in their uniforms through 1990, and diehard fans have been calling for their return ever since. The current uniforms are blue and so the Padres are just some bland copy of the Brewers. Fowler said they did focus group research. To get a sense of how this worked, see Kevin Acee's article.

There were four uniforms: current, 1998 version, and two different brown uniforms.* OK, so we have four options going head to head. He continues to say that the "largest minority" likes brown. I assume he means one or the other brown option. We have to pause here to point out that the more accurate way to say "largest minority" is "plurality." In other words, the most but not a majority. In many elections, including most in the United States, plurality wins. Referring to plurality as minority is essentially pejorative. He says that the "second largest minority" is the current uniform. In plurality voting, another way to say "second largest minority" is "loser."

But we're not done yet. Many countries--and most Latin American presidential elections--use runoff elections to determine the winner when no one receives a majority. Runoffs are only between the two candidates who received the most votes. In our case, the top two are "some kind of brown" and "current uniforms." The 1998 version is clearly eliminated. Fowler confirms that he believes brown would win in "side by side" (meaning head to head) as opposed to four options and that they might actually be used starting in 2020. (According to Acee, you need to finalize uniforms with MLB in the spring for the following year.) Jesse interjects accurately that this sounds like a presidential campaign poll. In short, brown won.

But we're still not done. Fowler concludes by saying that "as the evening progressed" (was there beer involved here? That was my immediate thought) blue became more preferred than brown. It's hard to comment much on this without knowing their polling techniques, but I couldn't help wonder if they kept changing the questions, hoping for more blue support. Fowler started by saying that brown was the plurality, then ended by saying it wasn't. FWIW, people in the focus groups signed NDAs but talked privately and according to the Gwynntelligence podcast the sentiment was overwhelmingly pro-brown.

In sum, in plurality systems brown would win. In systems with runoffs, brown would also win. Brown won.

* He notes that these are not "baby poop" uniforms. He's used this phrase before and it refers to the 1970s look, I think meaning a lot of yellow. I remember vividly that a friend of mine who had a baby before me mentioned that infant poop is like wiping up Gray Poupon and I found that to be true. Fowler has now attributed the phrase "baby poop" to Tony Gwynn but I can't find any mention of him ever saying that (he said he loved brown and particularly the 1985 version). This is all confusing because Acee's article specifically says people did not like orange and brown and loved yellow and brown. Maybe I am missing something.


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