Just how good is a particular owner or ownership group, relative to the rest? It’s just about impossible to say. As fans, what we see is pretty well removed from what goes on at the ownership level, so it’s not like those executives can be evaluated like a pitcher with a sub-3 FIP. So we don’t know that much about who’s good or bad, really. But that never stands in the way of opinions. Oh, people have opinions, and those opinions aren’t based on nothing. A few days ago, I asked you all for your thoughts on your teams’ owners. What follows is the resulting information, based on many thousands of votes from presumably many thousands of participants.
The polls were simple. After each prompt, you could select from two positive opinions, two negative opinions, and one middle-of-the-road opinion. People don’t usually compare ownership groups, since situations are so different, but now we can at least try to do that, with numerical data. Of course, what you see won’t be infallible evaluations. This is opinion-polling, but I think it’s just interesting to see what people think, even if it turns out plenty of people are wrong. I love what crowd-sourcing can indicate, and I love that we get to do it. Thanks again for all your help.
To start with, let’s look at the distribution of votes. Shown is every team in baseball, and that team’s fraction of the total votes, where you’d expect an average of 1/30, or 3.3%. Not all teams hang around the average. Some teams are simply better represented on this corner of the Internet, and some other teams are just more likely to generate opinions in people than others. Sometimes both apply.
In terms of participation, the Blue Jays blew everyone away, getting hundreds more votes than the second-place Mets. This is a confluence of those factors: the Blue Jays are highly represented online, but also people tend to have thoughts about Rogers Communications. They tend to be not great thoughts, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The usual teams are around the other end — we never get a ton of poll responses with teams like the Reds or the Twins. Still, even the last-place team accounted for more than 300 votes, so we needn’t worry too much about sample sizes. Going back to the left side, something you might notice — it’s a bunch of popular teams, and it’s the Marlins. Boy, I wonder what that could mean.*
* I don’t actually wonder because I know what it means and so do you
Let’s move now to the ratings themselves. As I’ve always done, I assigned a number to each vote, with the worst rating getting a 1 and the best rating getting a 5. So it was easy enough to calculate for each ownership group an average fan rating, and that’s what you see in the following plot. I can’t imagine there’s too much that’ll surprise you. The obvious players are mostly in the obvious spots.
The Giants finish in first, squeaking past the Cubs. There are so many different factors that go into how an owner or ownership group are perceived, but the Giants have of course won those three recent World Series, and they play in a beautiful ballpark that was privately funded. They provide an excellent game-day experience, and payroll has doubled in the last six or seven years. There just isn’t much of anything to complain about, just as there isn’t much to complain about with the Cubs’ Ricketts group. And so on. The Tigers finish pretty high, and I have to imagine fans have little trouble getting behind Mike Ilitch’s commitment to winning. That comes with some negative consequences but he’s a rare owner who doesn’t come off as profit-driven, and fans eat that up.
There’s a clear lowest tier. Actually, there are two clear lowest tiers. The Marlins are almost off the scale. There’s nothing Jeffrey Loria could possibly do to save his reputation, and his franchise is understood to be a circus. No one wants to play there, and no one wants to work there. Despite the talent they have, the Marlins will probably always be a mess. On the worst tier out of the non-Loria group, you get the Mets, edging out the Rockies. These are two very different situations. The Rockies owners have been somewhat quietly disagreeable. Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, meanwhile, are famously hated by Mets fans the world around, for funneling money to paying off private debts. So payroll now is well below where it was just a few seasons ago. There’s more to it than this, but that’s the biggest factor.
As a fun fact, when I polled the community about 2015 season experiences, the Royals results reflected the influence of trolls, with more than 11% of voters saying their Royals fan experience was very bad. With any Internet poll, you always have to keep in mind that a certain percentage of the respondents will be trolling, but it seems this project was almost immune. Just 1% of Marlins voters picked “very good”. Just 1% of Mets voters picked “very good”. These ownership situations are so strongly disliked they even dissuaded would-be trolls from following their trolling instincts. That’s powerful stuff.
The strongest single response out of everything: 89% of voters said the Marlins’ ownership situation is very bad. Next-strongest: Giants, very good, 60%. So the Marlins reaction was about 50% stronger than the next-strongest response. Think about how little you know about most ownership groups. Think about how much you know about the Marlins. This isn’t an accident. They’re terrible.
The weakest single response out of everything: one solitary voter called the Padres’ ownership situation very good. The Padres remain the most Padres organization in baseball. Even when they tried desperately to reinvent themselves, they still wound up forgettably mediocre.
You might be wondering how things averaged out in total. The average ownership rating, league-wide, was 3.05. The last time I did something like this, asking about 2015 fan experiences, the average league rating was 3.01. When I polled about front offices, the average rating was 3.17. When I polled about pitching coaches, several months ago, the average rating was 3.64. People seem to really like pitching coaches, and they pay more attention to the successes than they do to the failures. Not surprising, but kind of interesting.
How do you evaluate an ownership group? There are countless factors, but fans want to see a high payroll, and a capacity for hiring quality baseball men. 2015 payroll and 2015 winning percentage, together, explained about 50% of the variance in ownership rating, and I was able to use that information to calculate an “expected” rating. This plot shows the actual ratings against the expected ratings:
The Astros exceeded their expected rating by the most, followed right behind by the Giants and Cubs. The Mets fell below their expected rating by the most, which isn’t surprising since last year’s Mets won the division and the National League pennant. The big issue there isn’t so much the payroll itself as it is where the payroll is as opposed to where it should be. Nobody trusts the Mets’ ownership group, and it’s not like it’s because of them that the team has such an incredible collection of young arms. I don’t need to keep talking about the Mets. The Marlins have the second-biggest negative difference here, then the Blue Jays and Angels. Fans are annoyed that Rogers doesn’t invest more in the team, while other fans are annoyed by Arte Moreno’s meddling and restrictions.
Here’s a final informative table. Have fun.
|Team||Very bad||Pretty bad||Average||Pretty good||Very good||Rating|
Thank you one more time for your assistance. And may the Miami Marlins one day become an actual major-league operation.
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.