Team Ownership Ratings, By the Community

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.

percent-of-total-ownership-rating-votes

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.

ownership-ratings

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:

actual-vs-expected-ownership-rating

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 Ownership Ratings
Team Very bad Pretty bad Average Pretty good Very good Rating
Giants 3% 1% 5% 31% 60% 4.44
Cubs 2% 2% 7% 30% 58% 4.39
Cardinals 6% 1% 7% 28% 57% 4.29
Dodgers 5% 5% 8% 24% 58% 4.26
Red Sox 5% 6% 11% 38% 41% 4.04
Tigers 4% 7% 14% 38% 37% 3.97
Rangers 3% 3% 25% 55% 14% 3.73
Astros 2% 6% 28% 48% 17% 3.73
Yankees 7% 12% 17% 36% 27% 3.63
Royals 5% 10% 27% 38% 21% 3.61
Pirates 5% 12% 24% 44% 15% 3.52
Nationals 5% 14% 36% 38% 7% 3.28
Rays 12% 25% 27% 24% 13% 3.02
Brewers 9% 25% 40% 18% 7% 2.89
Twins 8% 23% 51% 17% 1% 2.80
Indians 8% 26% 49% 15% 2% 2.77
Phillies 17% 25% 30% 24% 4% 2.75
White Sox 10% 30% 42% 15% 3% 2.71
Braves 15% 28% 35% 16% 5% 2.68
Diamondbacks 17% 27% 35% 15% 6% 2.65
Angels 15% 34% 27% 19% 5% 2.65
Athletics 18% 31% 30% 15% 6% 2.61
Mariners 13% 34% 39% 10% 3% 2.57
Padres 14% 36% 40% 10% 0% 2.46
Orioles 15% 36% 36% 11% 1% 2.46
Blue Jays 19% 34% 32% 13% 2% 2.44
Reds 12% 40% 40% 7% 1% 2.44
Rockies 43% 38% 17% 2% 1% 1.81
Mets 56% 27% 11% 6% 1% 1.69
Marlins 89% 8% 1% 1% 1% 1.19
SOURCE: all y’all

Thank you one more time for your assistance. And may the Miami Marlins one day become an actual major-league operation.

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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.

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Ryan
Member
Ryan

CHC and LAD over the Red Sox, is that a joke?

jruby
Member
Member
jruby

You can’t post pictures in these comments, but if you could, I’d post that meme with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, smiling wryly, and it would read something like:

“Oh, your opinion is correct and hundreds of fans’ opinions are a joke?

Tell me more…”

Joe
Member
Joe

It looks like I’m alone but I’m a Cubs fan and I hate the Ricketts. I appreciate what they’ve done on the field with bringing in Epstein and what not but I’ve absolutely hated the way they have gone about other things (i.e. building those hideous video boards). But like I said I guess I’m in the minority.

output gap
Member
Member
output gap

Video boards generate revenue which is spent on making the team and/or experience better. It also brings the organization out of the 1960’s world it was operating in for the last 5 decades.

Joe
Member
Joe

I’ll give you revenue definitely not experience. Wrigley always had an awesome old-timey feel when you were there and IMO video boards are nothing but distracting. Also the tradition surrounding Wrigley and the Cubs is so great that the “1960’s world” was one of the coolest parts of being a Cubs fan. That’s not to say improvements weren’t needed or that some of the changes he has made aren’t for the better (home clubhouse definitely needed to be re-done) but that doesn’t make me like him. Many Chicago fans were anti-video boards and it felt like they did it more to block the rooftop seats (which again many fans love) than he did for the actual betterment of the club. I like what he has done in terms of on-field product and I recognize that some unpopular decisions such as the video boards help lead to that but the culture around the Cubs feels much different now and IMO its for the worse.

output gap
Member
Member
output gap

Change is hard. It’s okay.

The culture is different now on purpose. Ricketts is trying to win and treat his asset as an living organization rather than a parking lot.

Psychic... Powerless...
Member
Member
Psychic... Powerless...

Calling the video boards an “unpopular decision” is a huge exaggeration, in this Chicagoan’s opinion.

gnomez
Member
gnomez

“Also the tradition surrounding Wrigley and the Cubs is so great that the “1960’s world” was one of the coolest parts of being a Cubs fan.”

I’m a Cardinals fan and I couldn’t agree more. I always loved going to Cubs games when I lived in Chicago, whether they were playing the Cards or not. I haven’t been back since the video boards went up, but I can’t help but imagine that they do nothing but hamper what was previously one of the best experiences in professional sports. There was a certain pre-commercial atmosphere there that allowed a fan to romanticize baseball’s past and, however briefly, imagine we were part of it.

Michael
Member
Michael

The video boards aren’t so bad. Yes, the park was better without them, but I think they’ve done very well at making sure they fit with their surroundings architecturally and that the content shown on them distracts from the game as little as possible. How many big league teams put ANY thought into the crap they show on their video boards?

Anyway, getting to your main point, that the culture around the team has changed… well, that’s not wrong. But I’d argue that it NEEDED to change. The biggest reason the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 years is complacent ownership. PK Wrigley and the Tribune Company spent a combined 70 years sitting on their laurels, never changing anything unless they were forced to (the Trib only installed lights after the commissioner threatened to move Cubs playoff games to Comiskey Park). They could turn a tidy profit simply by existing and occasionally throwing a little money at the on-field product, but they were completely uninterested in taking the steps necessary on the business side to make the kind of big money necessary to sustain a really successful ballclub. And, yes, the “60’s world” environment that created around the team was fun, and I will miss it, but I’d also argue that a franchise stuck in the 60’s cant contend for a World Series title in 2016.

Jason B
Member
Member
Jason B

Agreed with mj, it seems to be making a mountain out of a molehill. The video boards don’t change the viewing experience much, if at all, unless you were trying to watch from the rooftops that now have obstructed views.

Or, to put it another way, you can put whatever signage you want in my stadium if you turn my team from a perennial laughingstock into a legit World Series contender.

cornflake5000
Member
cornflake5000

I’m a season ticket holder. I love the new video boards. I love what they’re doing to the park. The park doesn’t feel that much different. I just turned 40. I’ve been watching this team my entire life. They’ve made the playoffs, but it has always felt like a one time occasion. I have no idea if they will win the WS, but this feels like they will actually be good for awhile. And you can see from the ground up how the Ricketts have tried to improve things.

L. Ron Hoyabembe
Member
L. Ron Hoyabembe

The prices at Fenway for everything are exorbitant.

MustBunique
Member
Member

I voted for Pretty Bad. Prices are one reason, but the constant shameless selling through NESN is another. Red Sox Nation is a thing? Let’s sell memberships! People like different colored hats? We can do that! The culmination of this movement had to have been the selling of bricks from Fenway when renevations were done in the last couple of years.

All of that, and there seems to be no real understanding of baseball from the front office. Perhaps this is not unique to the Red Sox and it could be a little unfair to expect ownership to have intimate knowledge of the game. The Red Sox as a business is prosperous and that is their main responsibility. However, this ownership group is no longer new. Is it too much to hope that they would gain as much knowledge of their industry as possible so that they can make informed decisions? They should have had some knowledge that Bobby Valentine was not a good, but in fact a bad hire for manager(and comically so). Not retaining Francona was not popular, but could have been justified by a well thought out replacement. To have a one-and-done and then do whatever it took to bring back a piece of the Francona coaching tree did not inspire confidence or suggest any clear ownership vision.

The ability to rebuild in a single year is truly a blessing and curse for this ownership group, as they are quick to go to that option whenever their own personnel decisions become unpopular. They do not stand by their own decisions and seem to falter quickly under public scrutiny, which there is no shortage of in Boston. The celebrity over substance hires are a conspicuously troubling trend. I fear that the Dombrowski hire will be a blind squirrel finding a nut, and that they will react with the same scorched earth strategy that they have in the past when things don’t go well for a season or two. There will certainly be a time that they can prove me wrong. As for the blessing, well it is nice that they can go worst to first. There is a price for that, though.

The culture of being a Red Sox fan is a shell of what it once was, propped up by constant blaring music, pink hats, and some old, very expensive bricks.

Atreyu Jones
Member
Atreyu Jones

I am a Sox fan, and I have encountered your viewpoint in pockets of the fanbase. It never ceases to baffle me. You care about them selling bricks? That’s what you care about as a fan? Bricks? And you care about marketing things like Red Sox Nation and multi-colored caps? It’s really hard for me to fathom your priorities as a fan.

Bricks? Really?

I can’t speak for you, but a lot of other people who share that viewpoint are the type of sports fan that follows a team chiefly as a source of something for them to complain about. While the team had an excellent run of winning combined with high payrolls and the re-furbishing of Fenway Park, these types really had to grasp at straws for something to get mad about and tried to make a big deal about such non-issues as different colored caps (as if everything single team in the league doesn’t sell caps of different colors).

MustBunique
Member
Member

Yes. I care about bricks. Especially having to hear about them and other over the top promotions every commercial break. I am glad that your enjoyment is not diminished by these things. Mine is.

What about the other things I wrote about?

Atreyu Jones
Member
Atreyu Jones

What do you think other ownerships around the league play during commercial breaks? Mozart?

As for the other things you wrote, I agree that the ownership doesn’t have the best understanding of baseball. I don’t care, because they usually hire guys to run the team who do have a good understanding. That’s how sports ownership works. In general, they have hired good people, spent a lot of money on talent, and won a lot of baseball games. Those things sound simple, but there are 25 or more other teams who have been worse at it than the Sox ownership over the past 15 years.

I think you have a point about a sometime lack of clear ownership vision, but I think, as a problem, it’s way overblown. Again, we should compare to other teams, and over the past 15 years they have had more continuity and the team usually going in a clearer direction than the vast majority of other teams. Their plan has generally been to supplement their player development with spending on high payrolls. At times they have been herky-jerky about it, and they have changed sub-philosophies within that, but overall it has been successful. I’ll take that every single time over a team with less success but stubborn consistency in their planning.

MustBunique
Member
Member

Yeah, commercial breaks was a poor way to describe what I was thinking of. You are right. Between pitches is more what I meant. It gets old, fast.

Perhaps we looked at this excercise differently. I did not compare to other teams. I looked at what Jeff asked us to do and I interpreted it as asking us to evaluate a team’s ownership for what it is. Not relative to other teams. I think it is important to evaluate a group for their own actions and decisions. If you interpreted it as a relative exercise, great. I think relative to other teams I would agree with you, that they are pretty good.

I enjoy watching all teams, and baseball in general. Watching the Sox win or lose is great entertainment. Just not as much fun as it used to be, for me.

Atreyu Jones
Member
Atreyu Jones

Well, I agree that the NESN broadcasts have gone downhill and are over-stuffed with fluff. Hopefully, the broadcaster change indicates a willingness to also improve the overall broadcasts.