Pirates Ranked the Eighth Best Franchise in Sports by ESPN Magazine

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 tenĀ 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.

  • Read Bob Smizik’s column in the Pittsbrugh Post Gazette, today (Tuesday), and see a candid view (which I share) of the largely unproductive Bucs minor league system. (To be fair to him, Tim and I have disagreed on this point.)

    Pedro, Cole and …..?

    A couple of TJ candidates, whom we all hope will be serviceable in the “bigs” next year (but who could be shut down if the arm problems don’t dissipate), no sluggers at any position with none hiding in the weeds, and a few outfielders and a catcher who may be good in a few years. Largely untouched but still a problem, ML players who lack fundamentals. (See Polanco’s base running and defense.), not learned in the minors or not stressed in the minors.

    I hope all of the young Pirates show up big, but we’ve seen what the Cards and the Cubs have brought up this year and we’ve have nada, which si why we go into 2016 third best in our division, and that before Bob Nutting slams shut his wallet at any FA signings which matter.

    As a fan, I was tired of watching them play for the WC two years ago.

    • I didn’t read Smizik’s article but:
      Pedro, Cole and… Marte, Polonco, Jared Hughes and Watson. A few guys they traded away, like Brock Holt and Justin Wilson come to mind. Though Harrison came in a trade, he’s basically come up through the system. McCutchen and Walker were also home grown, though basically were McClatchy guys which I think was Smizik’s point.

      I do think it’s very accurate to say that Huntingdon hasn’t drafted well. Tony Sanchez was a stupid pick. That said, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the farm hasn’t been productive. Their Latin Program has been truly a godsend. Who knows where they’d be without Rene Gayo as a scout. I don’t think they’ve done as good a job as the Cardinals or the Cubs, to name a few but they have an above average farm.

      • Assuming you actually read the ESPN article and its methods of judging it, its clear. Its a really broad and clearly not inclusive way to judge these things, but PGH gets a ton of credit for PNC park, its fans, and its cheap cheap cheap prices. Add that to winning a ton of games with a low payroll and (based on the ESPN methods) its a good team.

        These lists are never really all that meant to be indicative of dominating year to year. For this list, PGH gets the nod over SF because the surveys likely put PNC as a better atmosphere, our ticket prices are way cheaper, and we operate with a smaller payroll while winning many games. Thats flawed, but its ESPN.

    • All Smizik has ever done has been complain. He feeds a complainer mentality.

      As Thomas H points out, guys have been used to get other pieces. For example, Robbie Grossman was traded for Wandy Rodriguez, who was felled by injury but who contributed to the ’13 team. JaCoby Jones for Joakim Soria, who was pretty good this year. Etc. The guys in the system now are right at the point where they will mature as the MLB talents become free agents.

      I count Alvarez as a miss. That was the guy who was supposed to be our Kris Bryant, Prince Fielder, that kind of guy; the boomer from slot #4. You have to remember the buzz when he was drafted; guys were saying that he was going to make or break the next 10 years of Pirate baseball. It turned out that he wasn’t that guy, and him not being that guy didn’t break Pirate baseball. But he was supposed to be that guy. And the reason it didn’t matter was that the Bucs had a lot of other efficient guys, of the type that Smizik is complaining about.

      My guess is that the current minor league talent reflects a future exploitation of a game inefficiency. As shifts become more and more prevalent, guys who can hit to all fields and play multiple positions become more and more valuable (for example, a third baseman who can play shortstop is a good thing to have when he is the only infielder on the left side). Yeah, hitting it over the fence is great, but having guys on base, guys who can hit doubles from gap-to-gap, is just as good and a lot cheaper. I’ll take four of those guys over one slugger. It isn’t as sexy, but it will win more games and you won’t lose them to free agency as often.

      • Tom–You’ll be happy to know that today was Smizik’s final column, which he announced.

        First, he’s always been a baseball guy–as opposed to hockey or football, although he’s written opinions on them both–but he will be missed.

  • FWIW, ESPN currently has a 2-3 team as the 8th best team in NFL. ESPN isn’t exactly the EF Hutton of Sports anymore.

  • I think the article is silly. The top 5?

    1 San Antonio Spurs
    2. Memphis Grizzlies
    3. Tampa Bay Lighting
    4. Anaheim Ducks
    5. Seattle Seahawks

    All well run organizations but …. Seriously? Not one jumps into my mind as the “best” in all of sports.

    • The factors that go into it are not likely what many fans think of when asked “best in all of sports”. You have things like bang for the buck and price to fans, etc. All those factor in along with in game experience+titles and expected titles.

      With all those factors in mind, thats not a totally shocking top 5. Anaheim somewhat surprises me but im relatively unaware of their price to fans. TB likely gets major points for expected titles as they are insanely young and nearly had one last year.

    • Hard to argue against San Antonio…what they’ve done is incredible. Not an NBA fan, but hard to argue against them.