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2011 Organizational Rankings: Introduction

Today, we’re rolling out our 2011 Organizational Rankings. Like with the team previews, we’re going to do three posts per day for the next two weeks, taking us right up to Opening Day as we count down from the worst to the best. We’ve made some pretty substantial changes to the format this year, though, and I wanted to explain the changes.

The biggest change is the way the rankings were compiled. While previous lists have been based on a collaborative discussion with the staff, the questions posed this time around are different. Rather than asking our writing staff to rank each organization from 1-30, we asked them to grade each organization on four key variables – financial resources, quality of baseball operations department, present talent, and future talent. We then took these individual grades for each area and produced a final tally for each organization based on all the votes from the our staff members, and the list was generated from those numbers.

While there is always going to be subjectivity in an exercise like this, our hope is that this removes the perception of bias as an influence in how the rankings shook out. To further avoid the appearance of bias, each staff member abstained from ranking the organization that they follow the closest. You can rest assured that no team received it’s place in the rankings because anyone on staff has it out for that organization. The aggregating of a broad spectrum of opinions helps limit the influence of any single voter, and grading each individual section allows for more transparency in why each organization is ranked where they are.

In the write-ups explaining where each team ended up on the list, the grades for the four variables will be included. Rather than writing extensively about the talent aspects of each organization, we’ll be linking back to our recent season preview for that team as well as the Top 10 prospect list provided by Marc Hulet or Reed MacPhail. The posts themselves will focus mostly on the two aspects of each organization that we haven’t talked about too much this winter – their financial resources and our expectation of how well they will put those to use.

I know those are two areas where there’s some disagreement about how much weight should be assigned, and I found the conversation about those weights last week rather interesting. From my perspective, a team’s continued access to capital is probably the most important variable in a team’s success. While low revenue issues can be overcome with quality management and shrewd player acquisitions, there is really no clear path to consistently beating a well-run team with a lot of resources. Having a lot of talent on hand, or a really great process for turning prospects into performers, is a great way to compensate for a lack of money, but it’s an inferior substitute because it’s the kind of resource that well funded teams can also tap into. Not every rich team is going to spend their money well, but they have the ability to become both smart and rich, which is a tough combination to beat. Smart teams with fewer resources face a much more challenging climb to reach the coveted “well-run and well-funded” corner.

That said, I know that a pretty good number of you guys prefer these rankings to reflect things unrelated to market size and television contracts, so I reduced the weighting for financial resources from what I had originally targeted it as. The final weightings for the four variables are as follows:

Present Talent – 30 percent
Financial Resources – 30 percent
Baseball Operations – 25 percent
Future Talent – 15 percent

The only area that isn’t necessary to put a winning roster on the field is a team’s minor league system, which is why it was the easy call for the least important of the four sections. Developing players from within is a great way to make up for deficiencies in other areas, but teams can win without a heavy emphasis on prospects. With a large payroll and a front office that targets the right veterans to acquire, a team can consistently reload their big league roster each winter, essentially using the other 29 Major League teams as their farm system of choice.

The other three areas are all pretty vital. The baseball operations department got the lowest weight of the three areas in part due to correct assertion that it’s the most subjective variable to judge. While we can make some reliable claims about how different teams operate, and make some inferences about others based on things they’ve said or done, it’s harder to know the internal processes of an organization than it is to project their future revenue streams or to evaluate the roster they’ve put on the field. There is still a strong need for a quality staff, ranging from the front office to coaches on down to scouts and player development officials, but this area can be tricky to evaluate, so it gets a lower weighting than it otherwise might if there were more objective ways to measure the skill of various organizations in this regard.

More than anything else, this list is supposed to be thought provoking and entertaining. We do not claim that this is an exhaustive, authoritative look at every team after a thorough audit of every part of their organization. It’s an amalgamation of opinions from intelligent people who pay close attention to Major League Baseball, and how they view the organizations from the outside. You won’t agree with everything, and that’s totally fine. That’s what the comments are for. Just try to remember that we don’t hate your team and we didn’t engineer this list in order to anger you.