Organizational Rankings: #4

As we finish out the top eight, all of the remaining clubs earn an overall grade of A-, A, or A+. These eight franchises have separated themselves from the rest of the pack – there’s probably a bigger gap between #8 and #9 than between #8 and #4, for instance. If you root for any of the upcoming teams, you should be very pleased. The future looks bright for all the upcoming franchises.

Rankings So Far

#30: Washington Nationals
#29: Florida Marlins
#28: Houston Astros
#27: Kansas City Royals
#26: Pittsburgh Pirates
#25: San Diego Padres
#24: Cincinnati Reds
#23: Colorado Rockies
#22: Detroit Tigers
#21: St. Louis Cardinals
#20: Toronto Blue Jays
#19: San Francisco Giants
#18: Minnesota Twins
#17: Chicago White Sox
#16: Baltimore Orioles
#15: Seattle Mariners
#14: Philadelphia Phillies
#13: Los Angeles Dodgers
#12: Texas Rangers
#11: Oakland Athletics
#10: Los Angeles Angels
#9: Arizona Diamondbacks
#8: Atlanta Braves
#7: Chicago Cubs
#6: Milwaukee Brewers
#5: New York Mets

#4: Cleveland Indians

Ownership: B

Since Larry Dolan bought the team in 2000, they’ve gone from a high payroll team down to a low-to-mid payroll franchise, but that coincided with a significant rebuilding period. As the team has grown back into a contender, Dolan has significantly increased his investment in the budget, and the team spent nearly $80 million in 2008. Dolan has shown a willingness to spend money on a contending franchise, and while they won’t be able to compete with the New York/Boston/Chicago markets in payroll, they’ll have enough capital to put competitive teams on the field.

Front Office: A+

Mark Shapiro and his gang of advisers set the standard for how a front office should operate. The implementation of DiamondView gave them the ability to combine scouting and statistical data into a resource that could be used at all levels of the organization. They’ve established a fundamental system that works from top to bottom, and explore every area that could give them a competitive advantage. They understand how to value talent, where the inefficiencies are, how to build a roster that works together, and how to sustain winning teams through player development. It’s hard to find any chinks in the armor – the Indians front office is what everyone else aspires to be.

Major League Talent: B

If Travis Hafner shows that his recent struggles were an extended slump and not a nose dive off the cliff, they’d grade out better here. Even with his bat as a question mark, though, they are still the best team in the AL Central. Grady Sizemore is an MVP candidate, and the surrounding cast includes valuable players such as Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona, Victor Martinez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, and Shin-Soo Choo. The additions of Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood help patch some holes from last year’s roster, and while the rotation has question marks, the team has depth of starters to cycle through until they find a combination that works. The team might be a player away from a true championship contender, but the core is strong for the future and they have the pieces in place to make a mid-season acquisition if they deem it necessary.

Minor League Talent: B+

The team got some needed impact talent by trading away CC Sabathia and Casey Blake last summer, netting themselves their two best prospects in return – Matt LaPorta and Carlos Santana. Both are close to being major league ready and have the ability to contribute as everyday players. After those two, there’s significant depth of lower upside guys – Nick Weglarz is an interesting bat with some long term concerns about his abilities to stay in the OF. Beau Mills can hit, but his position is clouded, especially with LaPorta ahead of him. Adam Miller is looking at another surgery. Luis Valbuena, Wes Hodges, David Huff, Michael Brantley, and Lonnie Chisenhall profile as solid but not great major leaguers. There’s a good group of young players on the farm, but LaPorta and Santana are the only two who project out as significantly above average players.

Overall: A-

The Indians have a good major league team built around a solid young core, an above average farm system that should deliver several more young players into the fold shortly, and a baseball operations department that runs the team exceptionally well. Only their mid-market payrolls keep them from the top tier. This is a team that should be the favorite in the AL Central for years to come.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


73 Responses to “Organizational Rankings: #4”

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  1. Kevin S. says:

    And of the top three teams, one won’t even have a chance of getting into the crap-shoot known as the playoffs. Wow.

    Anybody else think baseball would be better served by going back to two-division play, with two wild card teams?

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  2. Conballs says:

    Best front-office, great minor and major league talent. If this team had an elite payroll they’d have a few rings already and looking to add on.

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  3. Kevin S. says:

    Elite payroll? They were one win away from going to the World Series and likely rolling over Colorado in ’07. The payroll isn’t what has held them back. This team is primed to win.

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  4. Jeff S. says:

    Dave, What are your thoughts on A. Cabrera and Choo specifically. These guys seem to be solid everyday contributors that were undervalued by their previous organization. Do either of them have a chance to be stars or are they maxing out their potential right now?

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    • Gina says:

      I’m not completely sure if this is right but I remember hearing that Choo could only play in the majors for like 2 more years before he had to go serve in the Korean Army during the WBC. I imagine that would mean he doesnt have a lot of time to reach that potential.

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      • Eric says:

        Sort of. There are a lot of scenarios in which the Korean government can exempt Choo, or Choo could simply give up his Korean citizenship. A lot of the front office’s comments about it seem to say “We’re not too worried.”

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  5. David says:

    Not to nitpick, but doesn’t Welgarz project to be a well above average player?

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  6. Omar says:

    My friend’s a Tribe fan and I keep on telling him for sometime that they should trade V-Mart. One, I like Kelly Shoppach quite a bit more, due to his defense and strong second half at the plate last season. Two, they have other needs on the club (particularly a three starter who has pitched more than 150 innings over the past four seasons) and a cost controlled catcher who can hit should have plenty of trade value. Especially now that they have Carlos Santana, there’s pretty much no reason not to trade V-Mart…I’d love to see what Shapiro can get for him.

    As far as Shapiro goes, I think he’s good…but overrated. He let Brandon Phillips go, and IMO he got fairly luck with Sizemore as the throw in. He can take advantage of dumb GMs when trading superstars and got a great haul for a few months of Sabathia. However, he still lets Eric Wedge manage the team, he still had Borowski on the team as the closer, he’s still not optimizing the infield (A-Cab should really be at short and DeRosa at second), the Hafner contract is looking really bad once they took him off the juice (he had to know this), and their 3-4-5 starters are Carl Pavano, Jenson Lewis, and Anthony Reyes. Let that last one sit for a while.

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    • Gina says:

      Smart gms and dumb manager is something I’ve never understood, it seems like it happens way to often.

      Although in their defense on the rotation they have a lot of young arms who could take those spots they’re just in that awkward AAAA stage where they’re awesome in AAA but still haven’t completely translated it to the majors for w/e reason.

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    • Eric says:

      Er, no.

      You also overlook trading Ben Broussard and Eduardo Perez–let that one sit for a while, Eduardo Perez–for Choo and Asdrubal. Einar Diaz for Hafner?

      Jensen Lewis is in fact a reliever who served time as closer last year. Scott Lewis is their fourth starter with an exceptional minor league track record. You should know better.

      I’d ask you why Eric Wedge is a bad manager, but I wouldn’t expect a good answer anyway.

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      • Omar says:

        My mistake on the Jensen/Scott typo working on little sleep

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      • Omar says:

        The fact that Wedge jused Joe-Blow in many high leverage situations is enough for me, not to mention that he has Mark DeRosa starting at third, the best defender in the infield at second, Sizemore still batting leadoff, his nepotism towards Casey Blake was just unreal, all those things together lead me to believe that he’s a bad manager.

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      • Omar says:

        Although you are right, he did fleece Bavasai.

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      • Eric says:

        Over his career, and especially in the last two years, Mark DeRosa has been a better defender at 3B than at 2B. Or if you don’t believe UZR, ask Fangraphs to take it off their player pages.

        You’ve complained twice now about Asdrubal at 2B. So since it’s a fact that DeRosa is the best third baseman the Indians have, where do you play Peralta? You’re not moving him to third, at least not this year. Or should the Indians bench Peralta and play Barfield or Carroll at 2B? Egads, think ahead a little.

        The Casey Blake love fest was… annoying. But Wedge makes the right call more often than not, he doesn’t make stupid in-game decisions like bunting recklessly or keeping in starters too long, and most important is the fact that Shapiro loves him and trusts what he does with the team, and Wedge listens to any input Shapiro and Antonetti provide.

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    • jack says:

      sizemore was not a “throw-in”

      that is just ignorant. sizemore was a 3rd round draft pick out of HS who probably would have gone higher had he not already signed a letter of intent to play football at UW.

      just because you or most fans hadn’t heard of him back in 2002 doesn’t mean he was a “throw-in.” you can bet your ass that shapiro did everything he could to maximize the value of the colon trade, and even though he may not have been able to foresee what sizemore was going to turn into, shapiro had a very good idea of his potential.

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      • Omar says:

        Like Bradon Phillips wasn’t the centerpiece

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      • jack says:

        did i say that he wasn’t the purported centerpiece?

        no. i just pointed out that sizemore wasn’t a “throw-in”, which is what you posted.

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      • JH says:

        Phillips was the best prospect at the time of the trade, but that doesn’t mean Sizemore was a throw-in. Cleveland knew it was getting a haul. It was a historically unique situation where Montreal was trading away the entire future to win now. That offseason, Phillips, Lee, and Sizemore ranked 1, 3, and 7 on BA’s organizational top-10 at a time when Cleveland had probably the best system in baseball.

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  7. Steve-O says:

    Does their starting rotation really give them the best chance to compete now and in the future? Cliff Lee isn’t going to go 23-3 this year and the league has seemingly figured out Carmona and honestly I’m not even sure who is rounding out the pitching staff this season. The lack of an elite starter and pitching depth is certainly going to impact the chances that this team will win a championship in the near future.

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  8. Nacho says:

    I’m going to continue to beat the horse here, but you could have said pretty much the exact same thing you said about the Indians’ ownership about the A’s ownership…..

    “low-to-mid payroll franchise, but that coincided with a significant rebuilding period.”

    The 48 million they spent last year was in a rebuilding period.

    “Dolan has significantly increased his investment in the budget, and the team spent nearly $80 million in 2008.”

    Change Dolan to Wolff and 2008 to 2006.

    I’m still perplexed how you grade Wolff out to a D.

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    • Gina says:

      I think it’s because of the separate markets, plus the A’s and the inability to get a new stadium. The A’s don’t really have a lot more revenue potential where as the Indians in the market and with some of their other ventures, like launching a media company recently, have the potential to support a larger payroll.

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      • Nacho says:

        I see those issues, but I think they are being greatly exaggerated. The Oakland Coliseum is a bad park, but they have drawn 2 million fans as recently as 2006, there last winning season. And in 2003 they were 6th in the AL in attendance w/ 2.2 million. That wasn’t that long ago, if the A’s can put a winning team back on the field, I don’t see any reason they couldn’t draw a significant amount of fans.

        As for the park, the Fremont deal is dead, but that isn’t entirely on Wolff as Dave made it out to seem in his write up on the A’s. With no real access to public transportation, that site was going to pose some problems anyway. A stadium in San Jose/Santa Clara would be a MUCH better option. That is going to take some work, but it seems likely that it will get done eventually. The question is just when?

        As for revenue, Wolff just got the A’s just moved off of the terrible region Fox sports net which had them sharing, and often getting trumped by the Giants, to Comcast. This deal will finally have almost all of A’s games televised on cable, instead of split between FSN and the local channel. It will also bring those games to a larger audience and offer more HD games. Wolff has also added a Sacramento radio station to carry A’s games. Revenue is already up for the A’s.

        The Indians may be in a better spot, but they are not this far ahead.

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      • ThundaPC says:

        Billy Beane himself (New interview at AthleticsNation.com) just admitted a few weeks ago that as long as they’re in their current stadium he’s going to have to keep hitting the reset button.

        ——–
        Beane: The difficult thing is if we don’t get a new venue, we’ll have to do it again. We’ll have to keep doing it and keep doing it. We’ll have to turn things over. The hope was that if we did it this time then we could just build on this. But as long as we’re playing in this facility, it will be an ongoing process, managing our payroll and managing what we’re spending. It would have been nice to have had those young guys right when the stadium opened. But it wasn’t the reason we did it. As long as we’re there and in that facility we’re going to have to do it. It’s just a fact. People won’t understand why, but I’m just giving people a heads up. It’s happened numerous times since we’ve been here.

        Blez: It would be nice to get to the point where fans don’t have to fear their team leaving.

        Beane: It wears you out. We’re not doing it because we enjoy being criticized for moving players. My life would be much easier if we didn’t have to, but it’s just a necessity. It’s a tenuous situation when it comes to revenues and payroll. We have a low season ticket base. We’re one of the lowest if not the lowest in the league. There is no predictability in terms of how many people will show up. On a Monday night we don’t know what it’s going to be and we have a very vague idea what it’s going to be the next night because a significant portion is walk up. When you have a season ticket base of 20,000 you can pretty much say that you know at least 20,000 tickets are sold for this game and when it’s a quarter of that you can anywhere from 5,000 people show up to 20,000 people show up and it’s day by day.
        ——–

        Their situation is not as rosey as you want to believe.

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      • Nacho says:

        Thunda, so a team limited to about 70-80 million a year has to rebuild every 4-6 years, I understand that. That doesn’t change anything I just said. 80 million is still roughly middle of the pack, and the situation doesn’t deserve a “D” by any means. We’ve only seen 4 teams with a D or worse in this category (assuming the Nationals would grade out worse). By 48 million/year and a bad park that might sound right. But when you realize the situation is closer to 80 million and 2 million fans in competitive years, with an improved TV/radio deal, the A’s move closer to the middle of the pack.

        Finally, you have an idea about just how “rosey” I think the situation is, I’ve just been pointing out it isn’t that bad, and the grading is terribly inconsistent.

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      • Gina says:

        I think the point is more they’re not going to be able to maintain a 70-80 million dollar payroll for an extended period of time. They may for a few years but then they’re going to have to turn it over and start over again. Where as the Indians are really in that kind of situation. They can maintain a higher payroll for longer periods of time and still have the revenue potential to have a higher ceiling.

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      • Nacho says:

        Gina, I recognize that, but if they can compete on less than 70-80 while the young players are cost controlled (ie this year) then bump it up as they age and get more expensive, I don’t see why the model couldn’t produce a competitive team 4 out of 6 years, especially given the FO. I also don’t see how being able to sustain 80 million vs. only being able to hold 80 million maybe 3-4 years out of 6 is the difference between B (around 12th in MLB) and D (about 26th n MLB)?

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      • ThundaPC says:

        –Lew Wolff seems like a pretty smart guy. I’m sure he wants to win, and it’s not really his fault that the A’s play in the worst stadium in baseball. But, since this section is about the team’s ability to compete financially with the rest of baseball, the A’s end up near the bottom of the pack. They don’t draw fans, they just blew up the Fremont option for a new stadium, and they appear locked in to the Oakland Coliseum for the foreseeable future. That means that they’ll continue to operate on one of the lowest payrolls in the game, and that puts them at a significant disadvantage.–

        After reading Billy Beane’s interview this description fits the ownership situation to a “T”. Like I said a while back, this isn’t much different from the Marlins situation. They’re pretty much back to square one and they pretty much have to maintain a roster on a comparatively low-end budget. A “D” grade is pretty fitting for this situation so:

        “The Indians may be in a better spot, but they are not this far ahead”

        Yes, yes they are “this far ahead”. Do yourself a favor and read the interview. Suffice to say they’re not going to draw a significant amount of fans.

        And on a side note, “rosey”…*ahem* I mean rosy (excuse the typo) is a variation of hope, promise, and optimism. Examples are comments like:

        “I don’t see any reason they couldn’t draw a significant amount of fans”

        “I’ve just been pointing out it isn’t that bad”

        Falls into the “rosy” category.

        One of the primary reasons that they have trouble growing a fan base is because anyone fans get attached to is promptly shipped off. Billy has his reasons and philosophies but that still puts the org in a bind.

        And as the man himself says “We have a low season ticket base. We’re one of the lowest if not the lowest in the league.” That’s not “middle of the pack”.

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      • Nacho says:

        “Yes, yes they are “this far ahead”. Do yourself a favor and read the interview. Suffice to say they’re not going to draw a significant amount of fans.”

        Wow, that’s your argument? I didn’t read it?

        >And on a side note, “rosey”…*ahem* I mean rosy (excuse the typo) is a variation of hope, promise, and optimism. Examples are comments like:And as the man himself says “We have a low season ticket base. We’re one of the lowest if not the lowest in the league.” That’s not “middle of the pack”.<

        That would be awesome, if season tickets where the only way to measure the ownership. The A’s are also usually among the league leaders in day-of ticket sales….

        Anyway, its nice that your entire post consisted of one rational point (low season ticket sales) to refute my points. All this the “situation is not as rosey as you want to believe” stuff is just a red herring, distracting us (ok primarily you) from the relevant points.

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      • ThundaPC says:

        “Wow, that’s your argument? I didn’t read it? ”

        Wow, Dave was right. You do fit the Internet F-Wad Theory.

        I thought you were better than this.

        “That would be awesome, if season tickets where the only way to measure the ownership. The A’s are also usually among the league leaders in day-of ticket sales….

        Anyway, its nice that your entire post consisted of one rational point (low season ticket sales) to refute my points. All this the “situation is not as rosey as you want to believe” stuff is just a red herring, distracting us (ok primarily you) from the relevant points.”

        Ahh…yes, paint brushing. Oh, how I miss thee.

        Saves me the trouble of pointing out that the A’s haven’t seen anything above 17th place in attendance this decade and were stuck in 26th place when they went to the playoffs.

        Nice talking with ya.

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      • Nacho says:

        “Wow, Dave was right. You do fit the Internet F-Wad Theory.”

        Thunda, when you back up argument saying things like: “Do yourself a favor and read the interview.” I think you need to take a long look in the mirror.

        “Saves me the trouble of pointing out that the A’s haven’t seen anything above 17th place in attendance this decade”

        Gee, that’s right in line with my “the A’s move closer to the middle of the pack” comment.

        “and were stuck in 26th place when they went to the playoffs.”

        Two losing season will do that to them, but if they win, I don’t see why they won’t jump back to ~17th, do you? I asked you this before and you failed to answer. Should I make the logical assumption to why that is Thunda?

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      • Nacho says:

        BTW, sense you see so wrapped up with attendance figures, you know who hasn’t been above 22nd in MLB in attendance sense 2002? The Cleveland Indians. In several of those years the A’s have out drawn them.

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      • Gina says:

        Attendance isn’t everything Nacho. If you look at forbes rankings the Indians have been well ahead of the A’s pretty consistently in revenue and play in a much better financial market.

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      • Nacho says:

        Yes, I know attendance isn’t everything, that’s why I brought up the improved TV/radio deals. Thunda just decided to ignore that….

        I’m also not sure how much a better market Cleveland is. Between SF, Oakland and San Jose the A’s share 6 million people with the Giants, and you could add in Sac for another 2 million, another 1 from Fresno. Cleveland has 2 million and shares Columbus for another 2. The A’s problem is that they just haven’t effectively used their market.

        And looking at the Forbes rankings from 2007 the A’s had 146 million in revenues to the Indians 158. I just can’t see the justification of the difference between these two franchises.

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    • Nacho says:

      Ok, that chopped out some parts of my post, let me try this again:

      “Yes, yes they are “this far ahead”. Do yourself a favor and read the interview. Suffice to say they’re not going to draw a significant amount of fans.”

      Wow, that’s your argument? I didn’t read it?

      ‘And on a side note, “rosey”…*ahem* I mean rosy (excuse the typo) is a variation of hope, promise, and optimism. Examples are comments like:’

      “I don’t see any reason they couldn’t draw a significant amount of fans”

      Give me one good reason a team competing for the division title couldn’t draw ~2million fans as they did in 2006 with the same park, same owner, same GM, and many of the same players. Can you do that?

      “I’ve just been pointing out it isn’t that bad”

      Right, like different from “rosy.” It isn’t great, but it is certainly better than a “D,” or bottom 4 in MLB.

      “One of the primary reasons that they have trouble growing a fan base is because anyone fans get attached to is promptly shipped off.”

      Granted. But what really draws fans is a winning team. If the A’s keep Tejada and Giambi, and lose, maybe they draw more than if the lose without them, but if they win without them they out draw losing with them.

      ‘And as the man himself says “We have a low season ticket base. We’re one of the lowest if not the lowest in the league.” That’s not “middle of the pack”.’

      That would be awesome, if season tickets where the only way to measure the ownership. The A’s are also usually among the league leaders in day-of ticket sales….

      Anyway, its nice that your entire post consisted of one rational point (low season ticket sales) to refute my points. All this the “situation is not as rosey as you want to believe” stuff is just a red herring, distracting us (ok primarily you) from the relevant points.

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      • ThundaPC says:

        Let’s see if I can undo some of Nacho’s paint brushing.

        - Nacho starts off with Cleveland’s ownership is just like Oakland’s ownership. As he says “but you could have said pretty much the exact same thing you said about the Indians’ ownership about the A’s ownership….. ” and “Change Dolan to Wolff and 2008 to 2006.” So already Nacho makes the claim that despite different grades they are pretty much the same. Well, Nacho says they’re EXACTLY the same but we’ll give him a pass here.

        - Gina politely points out the difference citing that the Indians have a larger revenue stream or at least one that has more upside in the immediate future.

        - Nacho then “sees those issues” and then brushes them aside by saying that they’re being “greatly exaggerated” and then cites attendance records from 2003 (the highest they had in the last decade) and then theorizes that he doesn’t see any reason why they couldn’t draw a significant amount of fans if they put a winning team back on the field. Never mind that this was during a time when the A’s were fielding 100-win playoff teams. In addition, he cites the new TV deal as an extra revenue stream for the A’s. Well, Nacho is more optimistic than Beane himself I suppose as he notes that his current situation will still have him detonating teams (unlike the Cleveland Indians) as long as they stay in their current stadium.

        - And that’s where I come in. I provided an excerpt of Billy Beane’s insight into the current situation. If you’re more optimistic than Beane is about the A’s situation (“It’s not that bad!”) then you’re providing a rosy outlook. It’s that simple.

        - So now comes Nacho pulling stuff out of thin air. “so a team limited to about 70-80 million a year has to rebuild every 4-6 years”…70-80 million a year? They’ve only gone passed $60 Million payroll once this DECADE. With no evidence that they can maintain this kind of payroll no one can help but paint this picture as rosy. And yes, $80 Million is middle of the pack. Not seeing any evidence that this is where the A’s are and given Beane grim outlook if they stay in the same stadium, even if they did have that money where is it going?

        - Once again, I refer back to Billy Beane. Again, if you’re more optimistic about the situation than Beane is then you’re probably painting a rosy picture. Going back to the line “We have a low season ticket base. We’re one of the lowest if not the lowest in the league.” To the guy that’s actually WORKING with the payroll that’s kinda important.

        - Then we start heading to F-Wad territory with Nacho assembling a straw-man of “the point” by isolating a single line in my post and calling it “my argument”. “Wow, that’s your argument? I didn’t read it? ” Posters backed into a corner generally resort to this tactic.

        In case anyone forgot, the overall point is that Cleveland’s ownership and Oakland’s ownership are not in the same predicament.

        - Nacho sort of goes off on a tangent after this. And really, this is the sort of thing that caused everyone to gang up on him (as Wally) in the first place.

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      • Nacho says:

        Thunda the subtitles of the English language is lost on you, huh?

        “Nacho starts off with Cleveland’s ownership is just like Oakland’s ownership….Nacho says they’re EXACTLY the same but we’ll give him a pass here.”

        That isn’t what I said at all. I said, “you could have said pretty much the exact same thing you said about the Indians’ ownership about the A’s ownership.” That refers only to what was said about the Indians ownership above, not to the entirety of the ownership. And I didn’t say “they’re EXACTLY the same,” I said “pretty much exact” about those specific things.

        “then theorizes that he doesn’t see any reason why they couldn’t draw a significant amount of fans if they put a winning team back on the field. Never mind that this was during a time when the A’s were fielding 100-win playoff teams.”

        Did you miss the part about 2006 where they fell just 200K behind their 2003 numbers? If they can compete for the division, history shows they will draw around 2 million fans.

        “Well, Nacho is more optimistic than Beane himself I suppose as he notes that his current situation will still have him detonating teams (unlike the Cleveland Indians) as long as they stay in their current stadium.”

        The new TV and radio deals will bring in more money than the old one. We can argue about just how much that will effect the baseball operations, but it will increase revenue.

        “If you’re more optimistic than Beane is about the A’s situation (”It’s not that bad!”) then you’re providing a rosy outlook. It’s that simple.”

        This is the part where you get lost in a red herring. Beane is talking about needing to rebuild on occasion, I acknowledged that. It is possible that Beane can talk about not liking having to rebuild every 4-6 years and someone else can exaggerate their financial situation. Did you notice the 2007 revenues I posted? It is by no means great, and is around 20th in MLB, but that was in a losing year, and there is more to ownership that grades out in the A’s favor (a hands off owner that wants to win). So you can parade around my “It’s not that bad!” quote all you’d like, but intelligent individuals will know that’s a relative term. If I said that relative to an above average grade, it would be ridiculous, but I said it compared to a bottom 4 grade.

        “They’ve only gone passed $60 Million payroll once this DECADE.”

        That’s just not correct. Over the last three years they have averaged 68mil/year. Sense Wolff arrived the pay roll has increase every year until last year, when they held a bit of a fire sale.

        “Posters backed into a corner generally resort to this tactic.”

        Right, posters backed into a corner generally do say such imbecilic things as “Do yourself a favor and read the interview.” That was your argument, the interview. Which brought up basically two things. Needing to rebuild every 4-6 years and the low sales of season tickets.

        Finally lets deal with this once again: “Once again, I refer back to Billy Beane. Again, if you’re more optimistic about the situation than Beane is then you’re probably painting a rosy picture.”

        I don’t see how anything Beane said conflicts with what I have been saying. Yes, the A’s will need to rebuild on occasion and they don’t have a lot of season ticket holders. We got that. My points have been the A’s payroll is not limited to something around $48 million/year as it was in 2008, in reality the upper limit is in the 70-80 range. The A’s revenue streams are improving with the new TV and radio deals. Wolff cares about winning, is actively trying to improve the financial footing of the Oakland A’s and doesn’t meddle. He even went so far as to make Beane a partial owner of the club. All that doesn’t grade out to be one of the 4 worst clubs in MLB so far as ownership is concerned. Now, if you think that’s “rosy,” fine that’s your opinion (a poorly supported one). However, you don’t have a single shred of evidence that all this means I’m more optimistic about the situation than Beane. Maybe we should ask Beane if he thinks the A’s ownership and financial situation is one of the 4 worst in MLB?

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      • ThundaPC says:

        “That isn’t what I said at all. I said, “you could have said pretty much the exact same thing you said about the Indians’ ownership about the A’s ownership.” That refers only to what was said about the Indians ownership above, not to the entirety of the ownership. And I didn’t say “they’re EXACTLY the same,” I said “pretty much exact” about those specific things. ”

        In other words, “That isn’t what I said at all. I said a variation of that which basically means the same thing but I’m trying to pass off as different to keep this thread going.”

        “Did you miss the part about 2006 where they fell just 200K behind their 2003 numbers? If they can compete for the division, history shows they will draw around 2 million fans. ”

        There’s a difference between running out a team that can compete for the division and a team that regularly gets into the playoff with 100 wins. With the economy the way it is and the way the team has been performing the last few years, they’ll be lucky to see 2 million fans in the near future. Not to mention even with 2 million or so fans Billy Beane has had to maintain teams on a shoestring budget.

        “The new TV and radio deals will bring in more money than the old one. We can argue about just how much that will effect the baseball operations, but it will increase revenue.”

        Not enough to change the current situation.

        Beane: ….We were making plans in September as to what our payroll and budget would be but as things continued to get worse, and the fall was the roughest of any time I’ve experienced in my life, we were making adjustments because it was all changing right before our eyes. It did impact us. Had things been normal, we might have had even more flexibility. Fortunately we were in a better position because we had reduced the payroll significantly the year before. Had we not, it would have been a pretty tough situation for us. If we had just continuing with the previous roster with the payroll what it was we would’ve been over and the budget would’ve been far, far beyond the resources of what we had to pay.

        That’s not how a “mid-market” team operates.

        “This is the part where you get lost in a red herring. Beane is talking about needing to rebuild on occasion, I acknowledged that. It is possible that Beane can talk about not liking having to rebuild every 4-6 years and someone else can exaggerate their financial situation. Did you notice the 2007 revenues I posted? It is by no means great, and is around 20th in MLB, but that was in a losing year, and there is more to ownership that grades out in the A’s favor (a hands off owner that wants to win). So you can parade around my “It’s not that bad!” quote all you’d like, but intelligent individuals will know that’s a relative term. If I said that relative to an above average grade, it would be ridiculous, but I said it compared to a bottom 4 grade.”

        A red herring refers to an irrelevant topic. Pointing out the Billy Beane has to reboot to maintain payroll is very relevant. Particularly, in this case, where we’re talking about how other organizations stack up. Seeing as though their situation is similar to the Marlins a D-grade is pretty appropriate.

        I know using logic fallacies is trendy these days but at least try to learn how to use them properly.

        “Sense Wolff arrived the pay roll has increase every year until last year, when they held a bit of a fire sale.”

        Why do you think they had a fire sale? Just for kicks? If they maintained their payroll last year instead of reducing it they would’ve been in a world of hurt.

        “Right, posters backed into a corner generally do say such imbecilic things as “Do yourself a favor and read the interview.” That was your argument, the interview.”

        That’s my supporting evidence actually. Since, the main issue is that you’re implying that Cleveland’s situation is similar to Oakland’s, the interview is a pretty good indication of why they’re not.

        “Which brought up basically two things. Needing to rebuild every 4-6 years and the low sales of season tickets.”

        And you still can’t comprehend why they have a D-grade. Strange.

        You do realize the Marlins are basically doing the same thing, right?

        “I don’t see how anything Beane said conflicts with what I have been saying. Yes, the A’s will need to rebuild on occasion and they don’t have a lot of season ticket holders. We got that. My points have been the A’s payroll is not limited to something around $48 million/year as it was in 2008, in reality the upper limit is in the 70-80 range.”

        They’ve had to cut back payroll because they didn’t have the finances to maintain the product they had on the field. What Billy Beane says contradicts your main point about Cleveland not being far ahead of Oakland.

        “The A’s revenue streams are improving with the new TV and radio deals. Wolff cares about winning, is actively trying to improve the financial footing of the Oakland A’s and doesn’t meddle. He even went so far as to make Beane a partial owner of the club. All that doesn’t grade out to be one of the 4 worst clubs in MLB so far as ownership is concerned.”

        The A’s model of building teams is pretty similar to the Marlins. That’s not good. They can still build a competitive team but they have very little room for error. When the competition has the finances to maintain competitive teams that’s an issue.

        At the end of the day, the D-grade for ownership appears to be justified and you haven’t been able to do much to refute that. Unless you have something new to add, there’s really no point in continuing this.

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      • Nacho says:

        “That isn’t what I said at all. I said a variation of that which basically means the same thing but I’m trying to pass off as different to keep this thread going.”

        Build all the straw men you like, it isn’t going to change my argument.

        “There’s a difference between running out a team that can compete for the division and a team that regularly gets into the playoff with 100 wins. With the economy the way it is and the way the team has been performing the last few years, they’ll be lucky to see 2 million fans in the near future.”

        UH? In 2006 they hadn’t won a division in either of the past two years. They had good teams and lost in the final weeks of the year, but they weren’t anything near 100 wins sense 2003. Also, neither you or I has any idea how this recession is going to hit baseball attendance. Baseball has been shown to be relatively recession proof. Also, this recession isn’t going to last forever, and will effect all teams. We’ll likely have recovered sometime in the next 2-3 years, so to assume its going to hurt attendance over the 5 years in question is pretty dubious.

        “(The TV and radio deals will) Not (do) enough to change the current situation.”

        Neither you or I can determine that for certain. Give it a year, and we’ll know a lot more.

        “Beane: ….We were making plans in September as to what our payroll and budget would be but as things continued to get worse, and the fall was the roughest of any time I’ve experienced in my life, we were making adjustments because it was all changing right before our eyes. It did impact us….”

        Yes, they have to take the current economic situation into consideration, but so has every team this year except the Yankees. So, the recession is going to effect all the teams, maybe to varying extents, but again, we really won’t know until they start playing games.

        “That’s not how a “mid-market” team operates.”

        I believe my words where something to the effect of “closer to the middle of the pack.” Stop making straw men, it doesn’t help your argument.

        “Pointing out the Billy Beane has to reboot to maintain payroll is very relevant. Particularly, in this case, where we’re talking about how other organizations stack up.”

        Yeah, he has to reboot, so do teams in similar financial situations such as the Indians and Twins. However, those two teams graded out much higher in the ownership category. So, like you said talk about how they stack up. Don’t just take a simple quote about Beane not likely to rebuild and think it proves your point. It doesn’t. Lots of teams need to rebuild.

        “Seeing as though their situation is similar to the Marlins a D-grade is pretty appropriate.”

        You keep saying this, but don’t offer a single piece of evidence to prove it.

        “Why do you think they had a fire sale? Just for kicks? If they maintained their payroll last year instead of reducing it they would’ve been in a world of hurt.”

        It wasn’t all about payroll, it was also done because they decided they couldn’t win with that core of players, and the farm system was relatively bare.

        “Since, the main issue is that you’re implying that Cleveland’s situation is similar to Oakland’s, the interview is a pretty good indication of why they’re not.”

        Except the interview doesn’t deal with a comparison to Cleveland in anyway what so ever. It talk about only a small fraction of the ownership traits (low season tickets, needing to rebuild), and doesn’t talk about other revenue streams, meddling, stability, and fails to compare them in any specific way what so ever. Thus the red herring. You’re shifting the discussion to Beane saying he doesn’t like to rebuild and would like more season tickets, away from a comparison of their entire situation to other team’s entire situation.

        “And you still can’t comprehend why they have a D-grade. Strange.”

        How many team in MLB need to rebuild every 4-6 years, or at least should? Hint: The number is larger than 4.

        “You do realize the Marlins are basically doing the same thing, right?”

        You keep saying the Marlins are in the same situation as the A’s, but you never actually point to all the similarities and differences.

        “They’ve had to cut back payroll because they didn’t have the finances to maintain the product they had on the field.”

        ….AND they decided that “product” wasn’t going to win.

        “What Billy Beane says contradicts your main point about Cleveland not being far ahead of Oakland.”

        Beane didn’t say a thing about Cleveland….. or any franchise specifically.

        “The A’s model of building teams is pretty similar to the Marlins. That’s not good. ”

        You keep saying this as fact, but fail to actually demonstrate it. I would say the A’s model is closer to that of the Indians or Twins than the Marlins.

        “At the end of the day, the D-grade for ownership appears to be justified and you haven’t been able to do much to refute that. ”

        You keep saying that, but out side unsupported claims that the A’s model is basically the Marlins model, you can’t refute my arguments.

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  9. alskor says:

    Im a little shocked the Rays are going up here, given their relative lack of ownership and financial backing…

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    • Gina says:

      They’re front office actually has some crazy, as in good crazy, financial plan. They’re obviously not going to be the Red Sox or Yankees but they’re finances should be in good shape in incoming years. And their success should bring more fans from in Tampa to games.

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      • alskor says:

        Ok… so how is that different than the A’s…?

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      • The Typical Idiot Fan says:

        Alskor,

        A’s fans don’t come even when they do win.

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      • Nacho says:

        Typical idiot, the Rays drew 1.8 million fans last year. In 2006 the A’s drew ~2 million, last year 1.6 million in a rebuilding year. Their attendance situations are not much different, with the A’s holding a slight advantage.

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    • JH says:

      Having Evan Longoria locked up for 8 years for peanuts probably does a lot to lessen the impact of the Rays’ financial situation in these calculations. The Rays have all their core pieces in place for the next 2 seasons at least, and Upton, Garza, Sonnanstine, Kazmir, Price, Navarro, Aybar, Howell, Zobrist, Joyce, and Perez are all under either contract or club control for even longer.

      Longoria and Upton are superstars. Kazmir ranges from very good to superstar. Garza and Price are on the verge of emerging as stars as well, while Sonnanstine is less flashy, but was worth 3.5 WAR last year. Navarro, Aybar, and Joyce are all 2-3 win players over a full season, and Zobrist, Howell, and Perez are all valuable role players. That’s an embarrassment of riches.

      No team in baseball has anything comparable to the absolutely stacked, young, and cheap major league roster that Friedman’s put together in Tampa Bay. And to top it off, that’s not even including their farm system, which remains one of the better systems in baseball, even if you remove David Price.

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      • alskor says:

        I dont see how that reflects on the grade for their ownership, though.

        My point isnt that the Rays arent that good or dont belong here. I believe they do. My issue is that some very smart, very aggressive front offices with better ownership and nearly as good on field talent and perhaps better farm systems (A’s and Rangers) are ranked FAR below Tampa. I would put Tampa above them, too – Im just a bit surprised at how big the gap is…

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      • Gina says:

        I’m not sure the rangers have better ownership than Tampa, they have a better market but Hicks is pretty meddlesome and apparently wants to keep the payroll low. Plus both those are teams are way behind Tampa in terms of major league talent on the field now and the talent that can be expected to arrive in the very near future.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        You really think that the A’s and Rangers have nearly as good on field talent as the Rays? The Rays pitching is sick. They play great defense and can hit the ball. The only issue that they have at this point is finding playing time for all their young players.

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      • JH says:

        I don’t think many people agree with you that the A’s and Rangers are nearly as good on the field as the Rays. Various projection systems (CHONE, Marcel, THT’s sim-based projections, and PECOTA) have the Rays between 8-9 games better than the A’s and 13-17 games better than the Rangers this year.

        Where the Rays really excel though is in certainty for the next few years. Their players are young, with only Burrell really approaching decline phase, and they’re incredibly deep. To top it off, only Percival and Bradford will be free agents after the ’09 season.

        The Rangers have a better farm system, and the A’s is probably slightly better (though the Rays have better position players), but by the time a few prospects on each team graduate and the rest fall off due to attrition, the Rays’ core will still be in place. In terms of depth of good young players, the Rays set the standard, and every other system is just playing catch-up.

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  10. Terry says:

    It’s going to take a while before pop culture (i.e. the mainstream media) realizes that the Rays are actually spending money.

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  11. Adam says:

    Omar said: “My friend’s a Tribe fan and I keep on telling him for sometime that they should trade V-Mart.”

    You cannot trade the heart and soul of a team. The leadership that he brings cannot be measured in some statistical value. Say what you want about Trot Nixon, but his presence in that clubhouse (yes, including the “rally pie”) was one of the most important things from that 2007 team.

    To top it off, Victor’s a .300-20-95 guy when he’s healthy, he just hasn’t been healthy and is too stubborn to rest. He couldn’t extend his elbow last year before he finally gave up and had surgery. You don’t trade guys who come to battle like that.

    Not to mention, the holes in Shoppach’s swing are staggering. Projected out to a full season, he’d have had close to 210 strikeouts. Yeah, 35 HR, but still. Martinez puts the ball in play, a much better chance to drive in runs/advance runners.

    On the article…overall, a good assessment. I think the fact that you looked at the innovativeness of the Shapiro front office v. the personnel moves are why they graded so high. I think ownership deserves a higher grade. Yeah, they are a mid-market team, but the Dolans have given extensions to Hafner, Martinez, Sizemore, Lee, Carmona, Betancourt, and soon Perez over the past 2-3 years. It’s really not their fault on the free agent signings. They agreed to increase payroll, going along with Shapiro, though the Kobayashi and Dellucci signings have been huge busts. Now, with the money freed up from Sabathia, Byrd, Blake and others, they signed Kerry Wood and traded for Mark DeRosa. The ownership deserves a bit more praise for that.

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    • Steve says:

      “You cannot trade the heart and soul of a team. The leadership that he brings cannot be measured in some statistical value.”

      Yes you can. Red Sox traded Nomar. Then we started measuring success in World Series Trophies.

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    • Omar says:

      I really can’t say agree with much of anything here…move the runners, what are you Dusty Baker? He’s also slow as molasses and hits into a fair amount of DPs, I like Shoppach much much more. The ownership is awful IMO, at one point in time they had what? 450+ sellouts, and they’re still working with a sub 100M payroll? That’s unacceptable to me.

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      • JI says:

        Shoppach probably strikes out way too much to keep his average (and by extension, his OBP) where it was last season.

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  12. Steve says:

    The Indians FO got a (probably) decent middle reliever for Phillips, and nothing for Guthrie. For a team that has spent little on the FA market, they haven’t spent it as wisely as possible. I don’t expect any front office to be perfect, but A+? Also, I agree the major league talent is the best in the ALC, but it’s clearly outside the top 3 in the AL and could be a bit lower, how much of a boost are they getting by being in a division where 88 games could pretty easily get you a flag?

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    • Gina says:

      88? I think even that’s being generous.

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      • Steve says:

        I’m figuring most of the time will be like 2008, everybody may be .500 on paper, but someone will get the breaks. Also, the Indians have averaged 87 wins the past 4 years, without actually coming real close to that number. I don’t have any idea what to make of that.

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  13. Nick says:

    Dave, what do you use to assess ownership? Are we for the most part talking about spending ability and market size? I’ve always appreciated that the Dolans have told Shapiro/Antonetti to do whatever they want and they won’t meddle because they respect the process and they trust their decisions. The same can’t be said for other franchises.

    If we’re grading strictly on budget concerns I don’t think I can disagree with you, but I’ve always liked the free reign they give the front office when it comes to decision-making.

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  14. ThundaPC says:

    What? No mention of Chris Antonetti? :)

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    • JLP says:

      I was thinking the same thing, what with Dave and DMZ being so pro-Antonetti during the M’s GM campaign. Though I’m sure he had him in mind when writing up the FO bit.

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  15. max says:

    An A+ for the front office of a team that has been above .500 only twice in the last 7 years?

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  16. Andrew says:

    I think people are getting ahead of themselves with the Shoppach love. Victor projects as a clearly better hitter (over 1 win), and V-Mart is not a liability behind the plate, setting aside the vagaries of evaluating catcher defense.

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  17. Mike says:

    I know this is super late but I always love when people say their starting rotation is horrible.

    I agree that Lee won’t win 23 games again this year. But he doesn’t have to. If he can win 15-18 games, that is fine.

    Carmona has not ‘been figured out.’ He had a crappy season last year because he was pitching hurt, and anyone who knows anything about baseball knows that you do NOT play well when you aren’t 100%. Your timing is off, you leave balls up (which hurts even more for a sinker ball pitcher) and you can also give away pitch type if you shortening your arm movements because you’re hurt. Carmona wasn’t figured out last year, he was hurt.

    All three of their remaining rotation are question marks, I’ll be the first to admit it, but if they can combine for ~25 wins over the year, that will be great. Plus, if they falter, the Indians have at least 3 pitchers who can come up and replace them. Laffey, Sowers, and Jackson all have the ability to pitch well in the bigs, they are just, as someone else said, in a weird position where they are too good for AAA but not good enough for the MLB. We shall see.

    The starting rotation is NOT going to win the Tribe very many games this year. But in all honesty, they never really did. Back in ’07 it was very much the bullpen that closed the gate in the 7th, 8th and 9th, and because of this, they did very well. If the bullpen can come back to its 07 form (I’m looking at you Betty and Perez) they will probably win the central because no one will be able to catch them in run production. They need to be able to go into the late innings with a lead, and hold onto it. Something they lacked last year.

    As a Tribe fan, I’m excited for this year. I’ve waited 22 years for a championship hopefully I don’t have to wait much longer.

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  18. Mike says:

    An A+ goes to any front office that fully embraces Sabremetrics, that is the only necessary qualification for fangraphs. If Cleveland wins the Series… scratch that, if they even win a pennent in the next 5 years you can ship me your hat and I will eat it. Remember that commercial with the monkeys throwing darts at the dartboard? That’s what’s going on here with these organizational rankings. As soon as you folks realize that the game is not played by computers you may start to blend your philosophies a little. Also, many folks go to college and take advanced math courses. Your not special.

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  19. Mike says:

    Excuse me… YOU’RE not special. Being such highly educated folks I’m sure you’d catch that one. Seriously, fangraphs is +5 WAR with a .885 OBPS and 5.47 WHIP and a .667 smug factor.

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  20. Linus says:

    I’m not going to be an insufferable and conceited prick about it, unlike some people, but this is a radical overrating of a team that consistently looks better than it is. They had a WS-caliber team in 2007, and probably once before that, but at some point don’t you have to get results on the field before you get hailed as one of the game’s best front offices? I’m as forward-thinking as the next guy, but it seems silly to me to rank a team fourth when it can’t consistently finish ahead of the White Sox.

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