I always look forward to these posts, maybe a little too much. It’s one thing to begin a polling project, but it’s quite another to wrap up and take a look at all the community feedback. Sometimes, it isn’t surprising. I mean, we all have a sense of how the community feels about certain subjects. But every single project has something worth talking about. Let’s talk about owners, and ownership groups.
Last week, I ran a post with 30 polls, one for every team. The question: How do you feel about the people ultimately in charge? More than a month ago, I ran a very similar project, only, that time, I asked for your evaluations of the various front offices, independent of ownership. This was supposed to direct the spotlight to the other people, a follow-up project like the one I ran in January two years ago. It should be very obvious that we don’t actually know that much about the owners, or about the influences they have, but if nothing else, we have anecdotes, and we have success cycles and payrolls. Follow a team for long enough, and you’ll develop some form of an ownership opinion. I wanted to collect the community opinions.
That is what follows, down below. I’ve put all the numbers into a spreadsheet and performed some basic analysis. As it happens, for you fans of specific teams, you probably know more about your owners than I do. So, I’m not going to include very much discussion in this post — that can be carried forward in the comments. My job is just to reveal what you said! I should do that.
To begin with, here’s the voting breakdown by team. In all, there were tens of thousands of votes, and here are the team vote shares, expressed as percentages.
Last time, this graph was dominated by the Blue Jays. This time, somewhat surprisingly, it’s the Phillies, with by far the most active poll. I didn’t bother to try to investigate why, because it’s not that important to me, but one explanation would be a direct blog, Twitter, or Facebook link. Another explanation would be that someone created some sort of auto-voting bot. I don’t know and I don’t care, and the general, overall order is familiar enough, given how these graphs have looked with other polling projects. There are teams that always get more participation, and there are teams that don’t. Certain teams just have much more prominent internet presences.
Now for the real meat — the community ratings, according to the community, which is you. Per usual, to every response in every poll, I assigned a number, from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best response. That makes the analysis very easy to do. For anyone curious, when I ran this project two years ago, the average rating was 3.05, very slightly above the true middle. This time, the average rating was 3.09, which is very slightly higher. It’s not a big enough move to mean anything, I don’t think, but we can see that there isn’t some wave of fans who’re beyond fed up with all the billionaires. Granted, ours is a selective audience. Anyhow, here’s a plot!
Almost as soon as the first post went up, I got a text from a friend with a team reading, “Something tells me your ownership poll might correlate nicely with payroll!” Sure enough, there are higher-payroll teams on the left, led by the Dodgers, whose ownership group is currently the most beloved. Now, they’re followed by the Astros, and the Astros haven’t spent at all like the Dodgers have. In fact, only a few years ago, the Astros were hearing it from all sides for not investing in the major-league roster. But, it’s funny what can happen when you execute a five-year plan and win the World Series. The Astros have that championship glow about them, and ownership has won the benefit of the doubt when it comes to making important baseball decisions.
I won’t go through every single team, and not every single team rating is noteworthy. But at the end, once again, as last time, we find the Mets and the Marlins. Nothing important about the Mets’ ownership group has changed. Everything important about the Marlins’ ownership group has changed. That is, except for how the new owners haven’t invested in the major-league club. As the Mets go, the owners have presided over an unstable organization, and they’ve shown what’s been interpreted as a weak commitment to winning, despite playing in one of the largest markets imaginable. Never mind all of the seemingly constant tabloid fodder that makes the club out to be a nightmare. For the new people in Miami, they swear they’re trying to do this right, and they’ve attempted to promise they have a real long-term plan, but all fans have seen is a star-power exodus. It’s possible to sell a rebuild, especially to a FanGraphs crowd, but it doesn’t seem like people trust the Marlins to make the most of the moves they’re making.
Maybe a good Yelich trade would change that. Maybe the Marlins are still being somewhat unfairly penalized for the Jeffrey Loria era. I’m sure I’ll run this project again down the road, and by that point, we’ll have new information. Speaking of which: Why not compare these results to the results from last time? Here’s how all of the team ratings have changed over almost exactly two years.
You can see the influence of success and direction. The Rockies just got back to the playoffs. The Indians have assembled a juggernaut. The Astros won the World Series, the Yankees are great again, the Brewers are almost out of their rebuild, and the Angels have seemingly built a competitive team. On, and on. Yet, the biggest mover of all is the Pirates, whose average rating has dropped an incredible 1.51 points. The second-biggest drop is just 0.83 points. I was surprised to go back and find that, in 2016, the Pirates ownership rated 11th-best. My sense was that people had long been frustrated by the financial constraints within which the club was forced to operate. But, last time, the Pirates were coming off a third consecutive playoff berth. Since then, they’ve won just 78 and 75 games, and instead of payroll skyrocketing, it’s remained around the same place, and now two members of the core have been traded for longer-term assets. I don’t think fans have ever loved Bob Nutting. But you can overlook almost anything when a team is reaching October. When things go off the rails, then the blame starts getting assigned.
For one last plot — very unsurprisingly, rating has a pretty strong relationship with both most recent success, and most recent payroll. Using 2017 payrolls and win totals, I could calculate an expected ownership rating. Here’s a plot of the actual and the expected ratings.
Even though the Giants’ rating has dropped since the last time, their rating has the greatest positive difference from the rating you’d expect. I imagine this is a function of a few different things, but even beyond the long-lasting goodwill the Giants’ owners have earned, recently they’ve shown a commitment to trying to get good again in 2018, after a nightmarish regular season. The Giants have kept up their willingness to spend, which is a great way to keep fans on your side. The other teams with the greatest positive differences: the Cardinals, White Sox, Cubs, Brewers, and Astros. The White Sox are the one bad team here, but I think you’re seeing buy-in to the rebuild, with fans glad the team has chosen and stuck with a direction.
The greatest negative differences, by a large margin, belong to the Marlins, Mets, and Orioles. Each of them got a rating below their expected rating by more than a full point. I’ve already talked about the Marlins, and I’ve already talked about the Mets, but as the Orioles go, I’m going to guess there’s some boiled-over frustration over ownership meddling. There’s also just a general distrust that the management team is capable of making the right baseball decisions. Even last time, the Orioles didn’t score well, and now they seem closer to some kind of reckoning. This isn’t the first time you’ve read that Orioles fans are sort of unhappy.
That’s all I’ve got, and many of you are more than capable of carrying on a more in-depth discussion in the comments. Thank you all for voting. You are terrific.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.