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April 27, 2012

Wezen-Ball

Google Wars

by Larry Granillo

Our view of the world is a bit skewed, especially as Baseball Prospectus readers. For us, it's baseball here, baseball there—we probably even see baseballs in scoops of ice cream or in sunrises. A close encounter of the third kind would likely bring us face to face with Babe Ruth or Harmon Killebrew as we carve Yankee Stadium out of a pile of mashed potatoes. A day without baseball is a day wasted.

But ours is a limited view of the real world. There are whole countries and whole continents who couldn't care less about the infield-fly rule or if Mariano Rivera has gone back to wearing high socks. It's a sad world, yes, but it's a world that exists nonetheless.

As a way to explore this sad state of things, I decided to run an experiment. For each of the 30 teams in the majors, I logged into both google.com and google.co.uk (the British homepage for Google) and searched for the team's nickname (e.g., "Yankees" instead of "New York Yankees" or "Tigers" instead of "Detroit Tigers"). With Great Britain being so famously sans baseball, this experiment should provide us with a glimpse at what the non-baseball world sees, however scary that may be.

The teams are listed below in order of 2011 total attendance, with the google.com and google.co.uk rankings of the team's website shown. Comments are also provided.

Phillies
google.com rank for phillies.com: 1
google.co.uk rank for phillies.com: 1
Comments: Too specific of a team name. If the word only ever refers to the baseball team, there's little chance that even the British Google will find something else first.

Yankees
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 1
Comments: The biggest, most notable name in baseball. If this didn't have any kind of pull across the Atlantic, I would have been shocked (even considering the Brits' use of the word as a nickname for Americans).

Giants
google.com rank: 2
google.co.uk rank: 3*
Comments: The New York Football Giants take the first website listing in each search engine. The asterisk (*) on the google.co.uk search means that the Google News search for the term appeared higher than the actual webpage. This will happen a few more times (the Google News search typically appears somewhere in the middle of the first page of results). I'm actually a bit surprised this one carries such cachet in Britain. I would have guessed that, being a fairly generic term, it'd be superseded by Hagrid/Aragog slash fiction or something.

Twins
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: (not on first page)*
Comments: This is pretty shocking. Unless I'm missing something, I don't see a minnesotatwins.com search result on google.co.uk until the 18th(!) page of results. The Twins page on Bleacher Report even shows up before the official website. The Google News search does show up near the bottom of the first page of results, however.

Angels
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: (not on first page)
Comments: British people like a Robbie Williams song and Doctor Who's Weeping Angels. They do not like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The team website does not appear anywhere in the first 20 pages of results on google.co.uk.

Cardinals
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 2*
Comments: The only result above the official team page on google.co.uk is the Google News search. Do cardinals (i.e., the bird) exist in Great Britain? If they don't, that might explain why the team shows up so high in the British rankings - it's a purely American word.

Brewers
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: (not on first page)*
Comments: This may be my favorite result so far. As with the Angels, the team website appears nowhere in the first 20 pages of search results. Instead, we're treated to a British home decorating company, a London hall, and numerous links to British beer brewing groups. Brewers Fayre Pub Restaurants sound like something worth visiting too.

Red Sox
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 1
Comments: I would be surprised if this wasn't the case.

Cubs
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 5*
Comments: The first three results on google.co.uk come from scouts.org.uk. I'm guessing that's the British equivalent of the Cub/Boy Scouts.

Rangers
google.com rank: 2*
google.co.uk rank: (not on first page)*
Comments: Both sites feature Google News searches high on the results pages. At google.com, that means the Google News search followed by the Texas Rangers' website. In Britain, the results are covered in references to the Rangers Football Club.

Dodgers
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 1
Comments: Wasn't sure what to expect on this one, but I can't say I'm surprised. When else is anything ever referred to as a "dodger"? I suppose there could have been a Charles Dickens fan club high in the rankings, but, alas, there wasn't.

Rockies
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 1
Comments: The Rocky Mountain range had a good shot at taking the google.co.uk top spot here, but Todd Helton's club hung on for the win.

Tigers
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: (not on first page)*
Comments: The Leicester Tigers take the top few British results here, with the rest returning information on everyone's favorite striped big cat.

Mets
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 2*
Comments: The Google News search takes the number one spot on google.co.uk, followed closely by the team page itself.

Braves
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 1
Comments: The entire first page of results on google.co.uk reference the Atlanta squad.

Reds
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: (not on first page)*
Comments: The 1981 Warren Beatty/Diane Keaton film takes two of the three top spots on google.co.uk. I'm pretty sure this is exactly what Beatty was setting out to do when he made this movie 30 years ago.

Padres
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 1
Comments: Another surprise. I guess British people probably don't use that word all too often.

Diamondbacks
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 1
Comments: Another word that just isn't used all that often in Britain, I imagine.

Astros
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 1
Comments: I admit it, I was jealous that the second result on the google.co.uk page went to Astro Gaming UK.

White Sox
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 1
Comments: As Hawk Harrelson might say - "Yes! Yes! Hell yes! And the flowers are still standing!"

Nationals
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 1
Comments: This is one of the biggest surprises. It seems like such a generic term that might be used in many circumstances. I guess not.

Pirates
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 5*
Comments: Beaten out by "piracy" and various other nefarious activities. The "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies and the brand new "Pirates! Band of Misfits" movie also find their way into the British results.

Mariners
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 4*
Comments: This may be a reverse of, say, the Dodgers' ranking. The word "mariner" just isn't used much in American English, but it was used quite often in older British times. It makes sense, then, for the top result to be a page where you can research the "mariners and ships of the merchant marines and the world's navies."

Indians
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 1
Comments: A little surprised by this one.

Blue Jays
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 1
Comments: This could be another "Cardinals" situation, where the American word takes precedence because there isn't really a need for it in Great Britain.

Orioles
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 1
Comments: More aviary nicknames taking control of google.co.uk.

Royals
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: (not on first page)*
Comments: Did you know that the family of the king and queen are collectively referred to as "the royals" in British parlance? Shocking, I know. How could we expect the team page of a lousy club to even compete with something as ingrained in Britons' being as that?

Rays
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 1
Comments: Maybe the biggest shock of all. Yes, the Rays have been good lately, but I was still expecting the generic nature of the name to take it off the top of the list quickly.

Marlins
google.com rank: 1
google.co.uk rank: 3*
Comments: The Google News search takes the number one spot on google.co.uk, but number two is much more surprising: Marlins.co.uk, which offers "training solutions for the shipping, cruise, and offshore industries."

A's (or Athletics)
google.com rank: 1 (2*)
google.co.uk rank: 1 ( [not on first page]* )
Comments: This didn't seem fair, considering how unique the "A's" nickname is in sport. Of course it would be found at the top of both search pages. At least the Athletics name allowed for the chance that a non-baseball site would get high on the results page. As you can see, that assumption was true, as the Oakland Athletics are nowhere to be found.

There you have it. Some mixed results in the experiment, I'd say. On the one hand, the really specific or powerful brand names (Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, etc.) don't care what country you're searching for them in. And the super-generic terms (Angels, Twins, Tigers) have very different results in the non-baseball-oriented world. But how do we explain the Nationals or Orioles or even Indians being so easy to find in Britain? There's no real answer to that question, but I think that's okay. As long as it means that our baseball world is constantly expanding, I'll take anything.

Now if you'll excuse me, a pile of mashed potatoes is calling me...

Related Content:  Results,  Google,  Search Results,  News,  The Atlantic

5 comments have been left for this article.

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