ESPN Magazine published their Ultimate Standings today, ranking the 122 franchises in the four major sports leagues. The Pirates finished eighth overall in the rankings, and first among MLB teams, in a ranking that was determined by what fans told ESPN about how each team was doing.
This probably should just be chalked up to “interesting reading”, rather than a concrete ranking, since it’s not exactly trying to measure the best franchise on the field. Instead, they took into account various fan-related factors, plus a few factors that the Pirates probably excel in, most notably converting money that fans spend into on-field wins.
The Pirates received top ten rankings in Stadium experience (ranking 2nd), Bang for the buck (8th), and Affordability (9th). The last one focuses on price for the fans, while Bang for the buck is geared towards to cost of on-field wins.
There were also high rankings for coaching (t-15th), Players (14th), and Fan relations (16th).
The lowest rankings came in Ownership (59th) and “Title track” (57th). The latter grades how many championships were won or are expected within the lifetime of current fans. The former isn’t surprised, because the “Nutting is cheap” perception will probably never go away. These two categories made up 17.7% of the overall rankings, so they didn’t weigh the Pirates down much.
Jayson Stark did the write-up for the Pirates, and while the rankings are more on the interesting info side, the write-up is a good summary of what makes the Pirates a good organization. He noted that they have payroll constraints, and won’t be players for top free agents, but at the same time they are the best team when it comes to bargain-shopping.
Once again, I wouldn’t take these rankings as anything more than entertainment, especially since the Arizona Diamondbacks finished as the second best MLB team, one ahead of St. Louis. But this does give an interesting look at the perception of the Pirates versus other teams in sports.