Winning 'Championships' the Ultimate
The Ultimate Standings say a lot about what fans want. But, in reality, winning is what's ultimately most important.
After looking at the results of the SportsNation Ultimate Standings (MLB division), I have to conclude that either 1) ESPN The Magazine's methodology is faulty, or 2) baseball fans are big fat liars.
Why? Because according to the method, "Championships" ("Titles already won or expected -- soon") counts for only 7.7 percent of the final rating, with "Bang for the Buck," "Fan Relations," and "Ownership" all counting for at least twice as much as "Championships."
Sorry, but I don't buy it.
If you ask your average American what's more important, quality public schools for his children or having enough money to buy that shiny new S.U.V., why of course he's going to say schools because that's what you're supposed to say. But what happens when he gets into that voting booth where nobody can see him? Thumbs down on the schools, brother.
It's like that with sports teams. Yes, we might say we care about the honesty of our team's owner, and how much the players hustle, and whether or not the manager attends the local Elks Club dinner. But we don't, really. We care about winning, and if I were designing a system I wouldn't pay any attention to what the fans say. I would start by making "Championships" (or "Winning") worth 50 percent of everything, and then let all the other stuff fill in the rest.
How do we know that actually winning games isn't weighted heavily enough? The Ultimate Standings are designed, as I understand them, to essentially measure how well each team satisfies its fans. If fans are satisfied, then presumably they will buy tickets. And yet, No. 5 on the Ultimate (MLB) Standings is held by the Royals, who ranked 22nd in major league attendance (granted, the Royals do play in one of the smallest markets in the majors, but they also are No. 1 in the affordability standings among all major sports teams).
With all that out of my system, a few more observations on the Ultimate Standings:
So you've got the Blackhawks, and a couple of teams owned by Bud Selig.
Maybe? But didn't people say the same thing when the Tigers lavished the ridiculous contract on Bobby Higginson a few years ago? Credibility comes from winning, and I suspect that in four years we'll suspect that $40 million could have bought more winning than it actually did.
Senior writer Rob Neyer writes three columns per week during baseball's offseason. This spring, Fireside will publish Rob's next book, "The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers" (co-authored with Bill James); for more information, visit Rob's Web site. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.
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