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High Crime = Winning Baseball?

I blogged just a few minutes ago about a purported causal link between sports and crime. Now comes word that according to the latest F.B.I. statistics, the most dangerous city in America is St. Louis, and No. 2 is Detroit. Those cities are, of course, home to the recent World Series-winning Cardinals and the runner-up Tigers. So is a high crime rate the key to having a great baseball season? If so, maybe that’s why the Yankees haven’t won a Series in seven years: New York City crime has fallen below an acceptable level. This crime/baseball correlation reminds me of an example we used in Freakonomics:

The “Moratorium” argument — [which stated that a moratorium on prison construction would decrease crime rates] — rests on a fundamental confusion of correlation and causality. Consider a parallel argument. The mayor of a city sees that his citizens celebrate wildly when their team wins the World Series. He is intrigued by this correlation but, like the “Moratorium” author, fails to see the direction in which the correlation runs. So the following year, the mayor decrees that his citizens start celebrating the World Series before the first pitch is thrown – an act that, in his confused mind, will ensure a victory.

So just to be clear: it is highly unlikely that a city can increase its baseball odds by increasing crime. But at least the bad crime news in St. Louis and Detroit is perhaps leavened a bit by their recent baseball success.