Thanks, Obama: White House visits may be bad luck for San Francisco Giants


Jun 4, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; President Barack Obama (right) speaks as baseball hall of famers Monte Irvin (left) and Willie Mays (second, left) and members of the San Francisco Giants listen during a ceremony honoring the World Series champion Giants in the East Room at the White House. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Today, the San Francisco Giants, minus Tim Lincecum, were once again honored in elegant fashion at the White House. During his remarks, President Barack Obama joked that his consistent presence has brought “good luck” for the Orange and Black over the last five years.

However, I’m not so sure about that.

Politically, I’m a staunch supporter of President Obama. I love the guy and have personally benefitted from his healthcare policies. That being said, my adoration for the Office of President is in direct conflict with my passion for the San Francisco Giants.

Recently, I’ve read rumblings on social media that team performance suffers following these visits. After doing a little research, it’s clear that the Giants slumped both before and after their previous White House visits in 2011 and 2013. However, it’s unclear whether this should be attributed to simple coincidence or not.

For investigative purposes, let’s take a look at how the Giants performed ten games after their first White House visit on July 25th, 2011:

1. July 26th – Lost 2-7 @ Philadelphia
2. July 27th – Won 2-1 @ Philadelphia
3. July 28th – Won 4-1 @ Philadelphia
4. July 29th – Lost 3-4 @ Cincinnati
5. July 30th – Lost 2-7 @ Cincinnati
6. July 31st – Lost 0-9 @ Cincinnati
7. August 1st – Lost 2-5 vs. Arizona
8. August 2nd – Lost 1-6 vs. Arizona
9. August 3rd – Won 8-1 vs. Arizona
10. August 4th – Lost 0-3 vs. Philadelphia

Over this stretch, the Giants won just three games out of ten. Perhaps the culprit for their offensive slump wasn’t Obama. The team had recently lost Buster Posey to injury, and the same veterans who helped win the World Series in 2010 appeared utterly punchless in 2011.

But there are a variety of reasons as to why a visit to the White House might be disruptive for an athlete. I’m sure most of them consider it a tremendous honor to attend the ceremony, but some, including Michael Jordan in 1991, have little desire to mix politics and sport.

External “distractions” are often contrived by members of the sports media to explain sudden dips in team productivity. These explanations are often dubious, but it’s not unfathomable to consider that all the associated formality and pageantry might disrupt a baseball player’s routine or mental preparation.

For comparison, let’s check how the Giants performed after their second White House visit on July 29th, 2013:

1. July 30th – Lost 3-8 @ Philadelphia
2. July 31st – Won 9-2 @ Philadelphia
3. August 1st – Won 2-1 @ Philadelphia
4. August 2nd – Won 4-1 @ Tampa Bay
5. August 3rd – Lost 1-2 @ Tampa Bay
6. August 4th – Lost 3-4 @ Tampa Bay
7. August 5th – Won 4-2 vs. Milwaukee
8. August 6th – Lost 1-3 vs. Milwaukee
9. August 7th – Lost 1-7 vs. Milwaukee
10. August 8th – Won 4-1 vs. Milwaukee

It’s interesting to note that the Giants were mired in an ugly slump before their 2013 White House visit, losing eight of their last nine. They went .500 over their next ten games, but struggled to score over four runs in all but one of them. Despite that, the evidence certainly doesn’t suggest that meeting Obama has ever severely impacted the Giants’ quality of play.

Still, it’s worth mentioning that the Giants have never made the postseason after a White House visit! So does that mean Obama is bad luck, or is it all simply a coincidence? If you consider that the 2015 Giants have lost five straight leading up to this visit, it seems slightly more plausible.

The Giants organization certainly doesn’t hold it against Obama, as they presented the POTUS with an autographed ball, personalized base from AT&T Park, and a commemorative jersey:

Team CEO Larry Baer boldly stated the squad’s intention to make their every-other-year White House appearance into an annual event. But until the Giants can break away from their “odd-year slump” trend, Obama might be eyed suspiciously in the Bay Area. Baseball players and fans are a superstitious lot, and they latch on to every detail. We’re watching you, man.

In all seriousness: Thanks, Obama. You’re probably not bad luck, but we need something to talk about during these off-days.