2011 Organizational Rankings: Introduction

Today, we’re rolling out our 2011 Organizational Rankings. Like with the team previews, we’re going to do three posts per day for the next two weeks, taking us right up to Opening Day as we count down from the worst to the best. We’ve made some pretty substantial changes to the format this year, though, and I wanted to explain the changes.

The biggest change is the way the rankings were compiled. While previous lists have been based on a collaborative discussion with the staff, the questions posed this time around are different. Rather than asking our writing staff to rank each organization from 1-30, we asked them to grade each organization on four key variables – financial resources, quality of baseball operations department, present talent, and future talent. We then took these individual grades for each area and produced a final tally for each organization based on all the votes from the our staff members, and the list was generated from those numbers.

While there is always going to be subjectivity in an exercise like this, our hope is that this removes the perception of bias as an influence in how the rankings shook out. To further avoid the appearance of bias, each staff member abstained from ranking the organization that they follow the closest. You can rest assured that no team received it’s place in the rankings because anyone on staff has it out for that organization. The aggregating of a broad spectrum of opinions helps limit the influence of any single voter, and grading each individual section allows for more transparency in why each organization is ranked where they are.

In the write-ups explaining where each team ended up on the list, the grades for the four variables will be included. Rather than writing extensively about the talent aspects of each organization, we’ll be linking back to our recent season preview for that team as well as the Top 10 prospect list provided by Marc Hulet or Reed MacPhail. The posts themselves will focus mostly on the two aspects of each organization that we haven’t talked about too much this winter – their financial resources and our expectation of how well they will put those to use.

I know those are two areas where there’s some disagreement about how much weight should be assigned, and I found the conversation about those weights last week rather interesting. From my perspective, a team’s continued access to capital is probably the most important variable in a team’s success. While low revenue issues can be overcome with quality management and shrewd player acquisitions, there is really no clear path to consistently beating a well-run team with a lot of resources. Having a lot of talent on hand, or a really great process for turning prospects into performers, is a great way to compensate for a lack of money, but it’s an inferior substitute because it’s the kind of resource that well funded teams can also tap into. Not every rich team is going to spend their money well, but they have the ability to become both smart and rich, which is a tough combination to beat. Smart teams with fewer resources face a much more challenging climb to reach the coveted “well-run and well-funded” corner.

That said, I know that a pretty good number of you guys prefer these rankings to reflect things unrelated to market size and television contracts, so I reduced the weighting for financial resources from what I had originally targeted it as. The final weightings for the four variables are as follows:

Present Talent – 30 percent
Financial Resources – 30 percent
Baseball Operations – 25 percent
Future Talent – 15 percent

The only area that isn’t necessary to put a winning roster on the field is a team’s minor league system, which is why it was the easy call for the least important of the four sections. Developing players from within is a great way to make up for deficiencies in other areas, but teams can win without a heavy emphasis on prospects. With a large payroll and a front office that targets the right veterans to acquire, a team can consistently reload their big league roster each winter, essentially using the other 29 Major League teams as their farm system of choice.

The other three areas are all pretty vital. The baseball operations department got the lowest weight of the three areas in part due to correct assertion that it’s the most subjective variable to judge. While we can make some reliable claims about how different teams operate, and make some inferences about others based on things they’ve said or done, it’s harder to know the internal processes of an organization than it is to project their future revenue streams or to evaluate the roster they’ve put on the field. There is still a strong need for a quality staff, ranging from the front office to coaches on down to scouts and player development officials, but this area can be tricky to evaluate, so it gets a lower weighting than it otherwise might if there were more objective ways to measure the skill of various organizations in this regard.

More than anything else, this list is supposed to be thought provoking and entertaining. We do not claim that this is an exhaustive, authoritative look at every team after a thorough audit of every part of their organization. It’s an amalgamation of opinions from intelligent people who pay close attention to Major League Baseball, and how they view the organizations from the outside. You won’t agree with everything, and that’s totally fine. That’s what the comments are for. Just try to remember that we don’t hate your team and we didn’t engineer this list in order to anger you.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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11 years ago

I’ll be interested to know how these rankings compare to this post: http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/7460/al-east-ranking-organizational-leadership

Which ranked Alex Anthopolous the 4th best GM in the AL East.
Which was written by a Red Sox blogger.

Let’s see what you all think!

11 years ago
Reply to  SC2GG

I think thats insane. AA is not the 4th best GM in that division. Him, Freidman, and Theo are all really good in my opinion. Would be a toss up.

Brad Johnsonmember
11 years ago
Reply to  SC2GG

It’s hard to call AA better than three established guys like Friedman, Epstein, and Cashman just because he magically disappeared Vernon Wells and got solid value back for Roy Halladay. Say what you want about Cashman’s financial muscle, but he’s done exactly what he’s supposed to do with that money, get them to the postseason year in and year out. Epstein’s on a similar level except you get the feeling he could do exactly what Friedman’s done if given the same situation. And Friedman’s pretty unassailable these days.

AA looks good but when compared with 3 successful GM’s with long track records, he should be ranked 4th.

11 years ago
Reply to  Brad Johnson

anyone who magically disappears vernon wells is automatically the best

11 years ago
Reply to  Brad Johnson

No, it just makes Tony Reagins the worst.

Brad Johnsonmember
11 years ago
Reply to  Brad Johnson

fyi, I wrote this for the hardball times back in January. I’m definitely on the AA bandwagon. I just can’t see a successful argument that he’s a better GM than that other trio when we have such a small sample of performance to evaluate him on.


11 years ago
Reply to  Brad Johnson

I dunno, Theo’s been able to make some shrewd trades (although none as good as the Vernon Wells trade), and his scouting department has produced some outstanding young players, but what about his track record with free agents?
JD Drew?
John Lackey?
Julio Lugo?
Mike Lowell riding the bench for $13M?

That’s $60M+ ill-spent dollars last year alone. AA’s saved the Jays more than that with one off-season trade.

11 years ago
Reply to  Brad Johnson

Adam: J.D. Drew has been about as valuable as what he’s being paid, and everyone wanted Dice-K. You really can’t complain about either of their contracts. As for the other three players you mentioned, yeah, they’re bad contracts. But a bad contract for Boston (or New York) isn’t nearly as big a deal as for any other team. Boston can afford to offer Lackey a big contract and hope he returns to dominance. I’m not saying it was a good deal, and certainly not defending Lugo or Lowell’s signings. But as a big-market team, the biggest benefit is that you can afford to make a few mistakes.

11 years ago
Reply to  SC2GG

The most confusing part of that post is that Rogers is ranked 5th worst ownership in the division? Wha–? How is Angelos any better? Especially when Rogers has taken major strides in improving talent both on and off the field (Anthopolous, more scouting, international signings) and seem committed to winning.

11 years ago
Reply to  SC2GG

I don’t have a problem with AA being 4th on that list, simply because being the 4th-best GM in the AL East probably makes you, what, about the 4th best GM in baseball? Slightly facetious, but not entirely. The ESPN write-up basically acknowledges that, too. There’s an exceptional bunch of GMs in the East.

On the other hand, I disagree with ranking Rogers below the Steinbrenners, because, again as the author acknowledged, they’ve straightened out over the last couple years, and they tend to send the signals that they’re ready to spend when the time comes. I think a compelling case could be made to put the current Rogers regime directly behind John Henry in the rankings.