Great Moments in Tortured Analogies

I do my best to steer as clear from politics as possible in this space. But at the risk of crossing the line, I link to an editorial that uses an extended analogy involving Major League Baseball to talk about the health care debate. The upshot: health care reform that involves a public plan would be the equivalent of Major League Baseball itself forming a team that competes with the existing 30 teams:

The analog in baseball would be for Major League Baseball — the corporate entity that oversees the game — to field a team that competed with other MLB teams. And that this MLB-owned team could play by a different set of rules (didn’t need to support its expenses, could have losses subsidized by taxpayers, etc).

One can imagine that such a team could hire the best players, charge less for tickets and potentially win the most games while running huge deficits. Even if the MLB-owned team was forced to play by the same financial rules, it would nevertheless send a strong message to others that it doesn’t believe that the other MLB teams were playing to their potential, and that it could do better.

I’m kind of torn here, because while the flaming pinko inside of me would like to see some sort of public option, the idea that Bud Selig and Bob DuPuy could do better running a team than Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman is rather laughable.

And folks: I won’t tell anyone how to comment, but I’d really like to not see this turned into a serious and ugly political thread. I’m much more interested in exploring the problems, appropriateness or general absurdity of the basic analogy in baseball terms than in bringing health care politics into this space. But as is always the case, it’s your thread.

Now, onto that proposal to allow Don Fehr to address our nation’s school children later today . . .

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  1. lar said...

    Oh goodness, it’s a tortuous analogy. Just plain bad.

    Having said that, I’m not anxious to read any more of this thread, and probably won’t. Not that there’s anything wrong with what people here will say. These topics just aren’t my cup of tea. I can only imagine the horrors of a thread this would be if it were on NBC, though… *shudder*

  2. Brian in Topeka said...

    Isn’t that kind of like the NBA subsidizing the WNBA?  That’s worked out pretty well for Stern. Maybe he should take the women’s all-stars and have them form an NBA team to try making this analogy come true.

  3. YankeesfanLen said...

    Suppose all minor league teams had a facility like New Yankee Stadium?  Hospitals 10 miles apart have to duplicate multi-million dollar diagnostic machines to keep up with their neighbors.  Administrators love this because they are then responsible for a bigger facility and the corresponding increase in pay and staff.The people pay in increased insurance premium.

    Suppose every ball and strike and play at a plate had to have the concurrance of 2 or 3 umpires? The trial lawyers (sorry, Craig) could sue for every hangnail mis-treated to keep their yachts afloat, and the payout comes from the 150,000 to 200,000 dollars every physician pays, thereby raising their cost of doing business and their rates. Patients pay.

    Insurance companies are often vilified, some with good reason, however there is capital invested to maintain their services which could logically be expected to yield some return. Rates go up, patients pay.

    The Federal Government owns a majority of 2 of 3 American auto producers.  How’s that working out for them?

    Just covering everyone through the public option will send the tax rate through the ceiling if cost containment is not instituted. Allow everyone to be covered on a percentage basis according to market share of the insurers with the appropriate rate being charged, and if necessary, subsidized.

    The Yankees seem to have “capped” themselves for 3 years at $206M with some depth on the bench to boot.  Sure it’s a lot but the team across the river is almost as much with, well…..mixed results.  Apply proper management to the health care issue and we may have a winner!

  4. Brian said...

    It does seem like a pretty terrible analogy, but, well, remember when MLB did own a team?  The Nationals are still digging themselves out of the hole Uncle Bud put them in.

  5. Grant said...

    Yeah, Brian makes the point I want to. It seems pretty dumb to make this analogy when MLB actually did own a team, ran it poorly for a long time, and then was forced to pay off a local competitor to even move it to a location it thought would work.

  6. Neal said...

    Yes, MLB did own a franchise, but, seeing as it was a foreign city, not even English speaking, it wasn’t un-American for MLB to own it, at least initially. Moving to DC made MLB ownership un-American.

    Real Question: Currently, what 30 health insurers are monopoly holders, and to what areas do they haver territorial rights? Are other insurers prohibited from entering into this arena, or would they have to create a whole different health care field in order to compete?

  7. Slugger O'Toole said...

    Of course, in this analogy you must remember that the ability to afford a 15 game package is a life and death matter. Sure, Stienbrenner and Cashman can field a great team, but only the people in their economic demographic can actually go to the games. Attendence here is really the entire issue for everyone not sitting in a luxury box.

  8. t ball said...

    Would ballparks have waiting rooms with dirty, broken toys, screaming children and old issues of magazines no one ever reads except in drs. offices? 

    On the other hand, I’d love for my doctor to have beer and hot dog vendors.  I do get hungry after a long wait, and I’m sure they could make allowances for the beers when they test the urine sample.

  9. Gate said...

    This would be a much better analogy if the MLB owned Expos had won the World Series.

    So what’s the health care debate equivalent of selling your future for Bartolo Colon?

  10. ditmars1929 said...

    Craig, as you stated it is our thread and thanks for that, but you should definitely steer away from politics on your posts.  Yeah, it’s funny, etc., but a lot of your readers don’t come here for that.  If I want to get depressed, there are plenty of political sites for me to go to.  I come here for baseball.


  11. Stephen said...

    I don’t see how this analogy is the least bit relevant. Health care insurers do not produce anything or provide services – to enter the game, you just need a large pool of money in order to provide insurance to enough people that the risk is spread around.

    Any analogies to anything other than the insurance industry are likely to be ill-fitting (though, if someone wants to talk about the government setting up a “public” car insurance company, let’s play ball).

  12. Steve C said...


    I think that would be the equivalent of getting a prescription from your doctor to pick up smoking to treat your anxiety.  Sure it might help with the anxiety a little bit, but at the end of the day you are a lot worse off.

  13. Curious said...

    At first I thought this was a dumb analogy. I mean we literally can’t live without health care, while baseball is just entertainment.

    But wait, could we, those of us inclined to find and read a web site such as THT anyway, really live without baseball? <shuddering>

    And … if we could actually implement this analogy, then we, the gate payers, could vote Selig out of office.

    Hmmmmm ….

  14. ditmars1929 said...

    Jimbo, I don’t like the occasional political references, as I’m here for baseball stories, but if you have a chronic problem with Shyster, you can still access THT without clicking on Shyster.

  15. Millsy said...

    Maybe he thinks gaining antitrust exemption for the insurance companies will drive costs down?  I really can’t decipher what this guy is trying to say.

  16. The Rabbit said...

    This is a terribly simplistic analogy that overlooked a number of basic facts.
    The MLB has owned the senior leagues since 1965 because the owners didn’t think they could get a decent return on investment. These same owners have had the right to have a senior franchise for decades but chose not to participate until the taxpayers agreed to subsidize their teams (hmmm…more in common than I initially thought) and because they saw that MLB might want a team or rival league of its own.
    Those same owners have repeatedly stated that they only want to draft a limited number of players. MLB understands there may be a need for a rival league for everyone who wants to play for the “love of the game”.

    Note: I wanted to keep my comments brief but there is a lot of history I could have provided. This happens to be my field of expertise.  I spent a number of years in an actuarial department/product development of a major insurance company and lectured on this subject in masters’ programs and television.
    @Jimbo-There are a lot of us who enjoy Craig’s point of view.  Feel free to read the writers who you enjoy.

  17. YankeesfanLen said...

    @ The Rabbit-
      Apparently the Sargeant-at-Arms has the day off because Jimbo obviously didn’t know the secret handshake and should have been promptly escorted to the Blue Network.

  18. kranky kritter said...

    Aren’t analogies supposed to be useful because you gain insight by comparing one thing to something else that is similar in some important way, and are thus enlightened?

    This one is so bad and confusing that I can’t even craft a coherent counterargument. Baseball is so fundamentally different from healthcare in so many important ways that are germane to the issue of healthcare that I find the analogy utterly pointless.

    One thing I do know though. If MLB started running its own team by its own rules and that team thus had a competitive advantage over teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, and so on, then Royals and Pirates fans would consider adopting that new team. In other words, it would piss off the haves while providing some limited solace to some of the have-nots. But there would certainly be diehard Pirates and Royals fans who pined for the golry days of the past, the way things used to be. That would be sort of like the folks who pine for the days when healthcare costs were negligible enough that we could mostly ignore them.

  19. The Rabbit said...

    You always crack me up.  Shysterball is the best part of my day. I guess that means I have no life.

  20. Greg Simons said...

    If the same entity – the government, MLB, whoever – ran both baseball and the health care system back in 2002, would someone have performed a Colon exam and decided not to trade a bushel of top prospects for him?

  21. kardo said...

    Ah heath care debates really brings up the best in people. Reminds me of that one guy who said that if Steven Hawking has been living under the British heath care system, they would have let him die.

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