Daniel W. Drezner

You Can Find Political Science Research Topics Everywhere — You Just Have to Know How to Look

So this happened last night:    Your browser does not support iframes. As a diehard Red Sox fan, this worst-to-first season was particularly sweet.  However, not all political scientists have been thrilled with this October playoff season:    God, the baseball tweets make them stop make them stop. — The Monkey Cage (@monkeycageblog) October 31, 2013 ...

So this happened last night:   

As a diehard Red Sox fan, this worst-to-first season was particularly sweet.  However, not all political scientists have been thrilled with this October playoff season: 



I must say I’m disappointed with my political science colleagues. A good political scientist can find interesting research questions in any sphere of life — and the Monkey Cage is populated by good political scientists.  So, as my way of saying goodbye to a wonderful 2013 baseball season, here are three suggestions for more in-depth research: 

1) "Does the Eastern Establishment Still Exist in Politics?  A Social Media Analysis." As their first tweet suggested, the Monkey Cage was sick and tired of the baseball tweets littering their Twitter feed.  One wonders though — was this a function of the baseball playoffs, or the fact that the Boston Red Sox were in the playoffs?  It shouldn’t be that hard to cull the Gang of 500 Twitter feeds and compare their content during this World Series with last year’s, which featured the San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers.  Are DC politicos and journalists more likely to be fans of East Coast teams?  Is there an East Coast bias in the American body politic as well as sports?    

2)  "Does Soft Power Matter in Baseball Success?  A Statistical Analysis of the 2013 Boston Red Sox."  If I have to read one more story about how Red Sox GM Ben Cherrington re-stocked the Red Sox roster with "character guys" and how that was the difference this year, I might vomit as well.  That said, even 2013 World Series MVP David Ortiz told reporters that, "We probably didn’t have the talent we had in 2007 and 2004."  This is dying for a John Sides/Lynn Vavrek reunion book. Did the Red Sox win because they had better talent, or because they somehow lulled other teams into rolling over and wanting what the Red Sox wanted? 

3)  "Creative Destruction or Mimetic Isomorphism?  Examining Hot Stove Strategies in 2013-2014."  Social scientists ranging from Joseph Schumpeter to Kenneth Waltz have argued that failing actors will copy the winning strategies of successful actors.  Sociological institutionalists like John Meyer, however, would argue that these strategies are copied in form rather than content.  The dominant narrative of the Red Sox success was "dumping high-priced free agents and signing mid-level ‘character guys’ to short-term deals."  This is pretty much the opposite of, say, the 2008 New York Yankees strategy that enabled them to win the 2009 World Series and lash themselves to Alex Rodriguez for the rest of this decade.  We’re already seeing dubious essays about how investors can use the Red Sox strategy to make more money.  Will the 2013/14 off-season show genuine adaptation by baseball GMs — or merely superficial adaptation.  An excellent crucial case:  whether Willie Bloomquist is in high demand. 

Readers are strongly encouraged to suggest additional research topics — the social effects of a beard subculture in urban politics, the ‘natural experiments’ created by an entire region staying up way too damn late for an entire month — in the comments. 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner