Introducing the Fan Experience Index

Using this methodology, the Giants have the best fan experience of any team in baseball. (via Andy Rausch)

Introduction and Methodology

For 29 fan bases each year, baseball ends in disappointment. Just look at 2017. Giants fans endured a Bumgarner dirt bike crash and 98 losses, just three years removed from World Series glory. Brewers fans watched their team gradually cede the NL Central to the Cubs before missing a shot at a Wild Card berth by a single game. And of course, Dodgers fans saw their 104-win juggernaut lose Game Five of the World Series in heartbreaking fashion, then fall to the Astros’ bullpen buzzsaw in Game Seven. Each style of defeat is gutting.

So why do we keep going? Keep watching? Keep listening? Because we love baseball! Even when our team struggles, or our owner seems clueless, or our new stadium is 13 miles away from the city. We stick with this crazy thing called fandom.

But why? That’s what we’ve set out to find. Namely: what are the factors that comprise the fan experience? Regardless of whether your squad is winning 90 or losing 90, what makes you enjoy being a fan? And given those factors, which franchises rank highest (and lowest) for fan experience?

We came up with nine criteria — because nine is baseball’s most sacred number — on which to judge the experience of being a baseball fan outside of your team’s World Series chances in a given year. We debated the weighting at length, and solicited a few fellow baseball fans’ opinions as a sanity check. Here are our criteria, along with the weighting we gave each one.

Ultimately, Affordability, Ownership and the Game Day Experience were the most important because Ownership deeply affected fans’ loyalty to and patience with their team, while the other two deal directly with some of the best parts of fandom — seeing your team in person. The Accessibility category was close behind, because fans want to feel included, regardless of their background, or means of transportation to the ballpark. The quality of broadcast is also key, as many fans consume games from home. Spring Training matters a lot for some fans, but not at all for many. Jerseys are fun, but they don’t make or break fandom. And finally, Social Media and Mascots are just the wacky bunting around the fan experience.

  • Affordability (18 percent)  — is attending your team’s home games financially feasible?
  • Ownership (18 percent) — is ownership committed to creating a positive on-field product while also maintaining an atmosphere in which a wide variety of fans feel welcome?
  • Game Day Experience (18 percent) — how enjoyable is seeing your team in person?
  • Ballpark and Broadcast Accessibility (15 percent) — how easy is it to get to games? To hear a broadcast in your native language? To feel welcome at the stadium? To access insider information?
  • Broadcast (15 percent) — how good are the TV and radio broadcasts of games?
  • Spring training facilities (9 percent) — how is the experience of seeing your boys in spring?
  • Laundry (5 percent) — how stylish are their jerseys and hats?
  • Social Media (1 percent) — do the franchise’s social media and marketing team add any fun?
  • Mascot (1 percent) — because why not?

Whenever possible we relied on trusted outlets and writers to give us a framework for our rankings, and then tweaked them based on our personal experiences and opinions. There’s only so much science one can use! Here are the results:

Fan Experience Index 2018
Team Affordability Ownership Ballpark Experience Accessibility Broadcasters Spring Training Laundry Social Media Mascot Total
San Francisco 6 8 10 9 9 6 8 5 8 8.09
Chicago NL 7 8 9 8 8 8  6 9 7 7.90
Boston 5 9 9 8 7 6 8 6 8 7.47
Colorado 10 4 8 9 4 10 7 9 8 7.33
Los Angeles NL 6 9 9 4 7 7 9 4 0 7.09
San Diego 8 3 9 10 6 8 3 3 8 6.98
Minnesota 9 5 8 9 5 7 4 3 5 6.97
Seattle 9 4 7 9 6 8 5 7 8 6.97
Pittsburgh 7 3 10 8 5 8 9 9 8 6.89
Baltimore 5 3 9 8 7 9 9 2 8 6.67
Oakland 9 4 5 6 7 8 10 10 8 6.59
St. Louis 4 9 7 7 5 6 9 3 5 6.47
Arizona 9 5 4 8 6 10 3 2 4 6.45
Houston 7 7 5 8 6 4 6 9 8 6.35
Detroit 5 5 6 7 7 6 8 6 8 6.06
Cincinnati 9 4 5 7 4 8 5 4 9 5.99
Toronto 6 5 4 10 5 5 8 6 7 5.93
Texas 6 6 5 4 7 10 3 5 5 5.86
Washington 6 6 6 6 7 4 3 6 5 5.81
Philadelphia 4 5 7 5 6 9 6 6 10 5.80
Los Angeles AL 9 6 5 4 5 5 6 7 0 5.77
New York NL 6 2 6 5 9 7 7 5 9 5.74
Chicago AL 6 4 4 8 6 7 8 2 6 5.73
New York AL 3 8 6 8 3 5 10 4 0 5.70
Cleveland 5 5 5 8 6 8 1 6 5 5.68
Milwaukee 7 4 5 4 8 5 8 4 8 5.65
Kansas City 6 4 7 3 5 10 7 2 8 5.61
Tampa Bay 8 3 3 4 6 7 5 6 7 5.03
Atlanta 8 3 6 2 5 5 7 4 4 4.99
Miami 5 2 4 6 4 6 6 5 7 4.44

Now let’s get into how we got there.

Ownership

Owners are to fans as Joe West is to Andy Green — unfortunately necessary, and best when silent. Examining the value of owners, we looked at their willingness to spend, team success under their watch, and their commitment to inclusiveness. There isn’t a community-owned team, like the NFL’s Green Bay Packers; they’re all privately held corporations. Based on that fact, we decided that no team in major league baseball has the ability to earn a 10 in this category. The dirty secret is that only six of 11 owners (Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Giants, White Sox and Cardinals) who have had the privilege to raise the Commissioner’s Trophy have a winning percentage during their tenure.

But high quality ownership does stand out. Only seven owners earned an above-average ranking, with the Astros squeezing in due to their recent championship. The ownership groups of the Giants, Cubs and Red Sox all ended notable World Series droughts. And though the Yankees rated well, and are consistently acquiring what they believe will bring a 28th World Series to the Bronx, it is the Cardinals and Dodgers that have the most remarkable owners.

William DeWitt Jr. purchased the Cardinals in late 1995, and though his .548 winning percentage is notable, the more impressive statistic is that the team has made the playoffs in 13 of 22 seasons, the highest success rate of any team not named the Dodgers. The Guggenheim group has averaged 93 wins since acquiring the Dodgers in 2012, leads the league in attendance and payroll, and has appeared in the playoffs in five of the last six seasons.

One of the 12 teams with a winning record under current ownership also owns the longest current championship drought — your Cleveland Indians. The last time Cleveland won the World Series there were 48 states, the United States population was 145 million, and Lawrence J. Dolan, now the team’s principal owner, was 17 years old. That means four generations (Boomers, X, Y and Boomlets) of fans have never seen the Indians raise a championship banner. And though the team has made the playoffs in three of the last five seasons, it has not been in the top half of payroll according to Cot’s Contracts, despite having received revenue sharing dollars over the same period (It should be noted that the Indians have increased their spending in recent years.) The fan base is well aware of this scuttling; only once in the last 10 seasons has the Jake seen more than 2 million fans.

Arturo “Arte” Moreno purchased the Angels from Disney Co. in 2003. Over the past five seasons only the Dodgers, Yankees, Tigers, Red Sox and Giants have spent more money on payroll. In 15 years, his teams have made the postseason six times. He wooed the most exciting two-way player in 80 years to join forces with the best player of this era. So how does an owner who consistently rates as one of the best in baseball end up only slightly above average on our list? Mainly, rebranding, wasting Mike Trout, and refusing to acknowledge significant parts of his own fan base. Anaheim is in Orange County, Mike Trout has 12 playoff at-bats, and the Yankees and Angels are the only teams that have never celebrated Pride Day. We can’t speak to the Angels specific motives, but failing to make half a million people from what you claim is your metropolitan area feel welcome and seen doesn’t impress us much.

Corporate ownership is not new to major league baseball — Disney, CBS, Time-Warner, Nintendo, Fox, and Anheuser-Busch have all owned teams. Currently, Atlanta and Toronto are the only corporately held teams. Toronto has been owned by Rogers Communication since 2000 and though the Jays have made the playoffs only twice in that period, they are first in AL attendance over the last two seasons. It is true the Jays don’t score high in this category; but compared to the other corporate ownership group, at least they did not move their team to a new province as Liberty Media did with the Cobb County Braves. More on that debacle in Accessibility.

The Rangers, Nationals/Expos, Brewers and Padres are all staring at 50+ seasons in the bigs with no World Series wins. Add Colorado, Tampa Bay and Seattle to the mix, and seven fan bases are still waiting for their first championship. Of these seven, only the Rangers and Nationals rated higher than a four in our ranking. The Simpson-Davis crew in Arlington has owned the team since 2010, making the playoffs four times and the World Series twice, while the Lerners’ Nationals have been in the playoffs three out of the last five years and are currently sixth in payroll.

A fun fact for Pirates fans is that if Pittsburgh won 300 games in a row it would still have a losing record during the Nutting family reign. Digging that deep a hole typically takes decades; the Nutting Family calls it 22 years of ownership, while fans know it as nine seasons with 90 or more losses against just three playoff appearances

Last and of course least, the Marlins and Mets. It is possible that the Sherman-Jeter game plan in Miami will work as well as Jim Crane’s in Houston, but until then, gutting the team and offering a poor product is going to lead only to the lowest attendance award and our worst ranking. Joining Miami at the bottom is Mets owner, Fred Wilpon. When he was co-owner from 1980-2001, the team had a .512 winning percentage and won a memorable World Series in 1986. Since fully acquiring the team in 2002, the Mets sport a .488 winning percentage, have a bizarre pattern of poor communication with players and fans, and have a World Series loss. Wilpon has participated in more Ponzi schemes (1) than championship parades (0), a dubious distinction best avoided.

Affordability

Catching a game with a buddy is entirely different than heading to the park for date night, or taking the family and man’s best friend to a Bark at the Park Day. We got deep into the data around the cost of attending games, using this study from GOBankingRates. We should note that this study assumes parking as an expense of attendance, so in cities that have ready access to public transit (a factor in our Ballpark and Broadcast Accessibility measure), there may be lower cost options available to game attendees. Many of the ballparks with reasonable pricing also offer cheap entry fees if all you want is to get inside. Colorado already offers one of the cheapest average tickets at $25 and the cheapest date night (two tickets, two dogs, two drinks and parking) at $50, but there are also the $4 tickets for the Rockpile. Target Field offers the grandstand or Home Run Porch at $12. The tbt* Party Deck at the Trop is $15 unless you go on $7.11 Friday or $2 Kid Tuesday. But what about larger markets?

Forbes recently valued the New York Yankees at $4 billion. Their brand recognition is first across all sports, they regularly lead the league in road attendance, and they have 27 World Series titles. That’s all pretty great, but New Yorkers are hard-pressed to afford a night out to see their Bombers. With the second most expensive average ticket price of $64 and the most expensive date night at $95, attending a game is a high cost pilgrimage for New Yorkers and regional fans — who trek in from Connecticut, New Jersey, Long Island — alike.

St. Louis City, Philadelphia and Miami-Dade are the only regions with average family incomes of less than $50,000 a year; they are all at the bottom of our rankings. The last time the Phillies made the playoffs was in 2011, when they averaged 46,000 fans a night and won 102 games. Over the last three seasons, they have lost, 99, 91 and 96 games respectively and have averaged half the number of tickets sold  in 2010 while charging $42 per average ticket.

King County, home to the Seattle Mariners, has one of the higher median family incomes at $92,510, while the average ticket for Safeco is less than $30. San Francisco and Alameda County are a very close second and third, respectively, however the Oakland Athletics are offering a rare deal in 2018. For $29.99 a month, fans can see every home game from the Treehouse. Meanwhile the Mets, Diamondbacks, and Reds offer the cheapest nights out while sitting right in the middle of the pack for median family income.

Game Day Experience

Fans are very passionate about their home parks. So we tried to take emotion out of this. We sourced ballpark rankings from eight different outlets, including those from NBC sports, the Toronto Sun, and columnist Thomas Boswell, and created a composite ranking based on those lists. Then we made some tweaks based on our own taste.

Oakland Coliseum, home of the A’s, gets a bad rap. It finished in the bottom three — and often dead last — in all but one of the rankings we surfaced. But that reputation is overblown.

Has the Coliseum had problems with flooding sewage? Yes, and, ew. Is Mt. Davis a ridiculous addition that now blocks what used to be a beautiful view of the Oakland Hills? Yep. Look, we’re not saying this a great park — it’s demonstrably not. But it’s definitely underrated! East Bay weather is gorgeous, the energy in the stadium is pretty amazing despite low attendance figures, you can sit anywhere you like, and the vendors selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs on the walk to BART are not to be missed. Plus, with Taco Tuesdays and enough craft beer to drown a hipster army in the aforementioned Treehouse, why would you ever leave?

Is it criminal that we have AT&T and PNC ranked above Wrigley and Fenway? Are old things good because they’re old? If you’ve ever been stuck behind a pole at Wrigley, you might not see it that way. But despite the quirks of early 1900s architecture, Wrigley truly is a gem. The seats feel impossibly close to the action; “Friendly Confines” could not be a better moniker.

Moving east, neither of us have had the pleasure of attending a game at PNC, but even on MLB.TV, that bright yellow Roberto Clemente Bridge is a memorable feature. We wanted to give Camden Yards its due: the place is utterly beautiful. The B&O Warehouse is an iconic backdrop, the funky right field wall provides dimensional distinction, and the atmosphere on Eutaw Street around the park is quite a scene. Dodger Stadium might not fill up to until the third inning (first hand reporting here), but damn it if the sunsets over Griffith Park aren’t an iconic baseball vista. Truth is, there are so many amazing parks, and we’re champing at the bit to visit the other top-rated ones we haven’t mentioned here: Petco, Coors, Target, Busch and Safeco.

The White Sox’s Guaranteed Rate Field sports a rating commensurate with its underwhelming moniker. Bringing up the rear is The Trop — née ThunderDome — home of the Rays. Frankly, we feel fly balls caroming off catwalks add a certain spice to a baseball game, but that wasn’t enough to pull this warehouse-where-baseball-happens out of the cellar.

Spring Training Facilities

We visited Phoenix this March and checked out four Cactus League facilities, and I (Asa) have spent time at the Orioles’ and Yankees’ stadiums in Florida, watching games and enduring rainouts. We definitely had some opinions when it came time to adjust the objective rankings that we started from. Our backbone for this category was “2018: Voice of the Fan Report,” a survey-based study performed by ReviewTrackers, a customer feedback firm that measured fan opinions on everything from the best spring ballpark menu item (the cheese steak at the Phillies’ Spectrum Field) to the best access to autographs (Camelback Ranch, home of the Dodgers and White Sox).

We were totally in love with three of the four parks we visited in Arizona: Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (Rockies and Diamondbacks), Goodyear Ballpark (Indians and Reds), and Sloan Park (Cubs). Salt River is a cleanly designed park that has a modern feel without taking away from the focus on the game. It also has great shade. Goodyear is totally in the middle of nowhere, but who cares; you’re there for the baseball, right? We sat along the right field line and enjoyed a purple desert sunset behind the line of towering palms. And Sloan is something else entirely — a desert Wrigley, a sea of Cubness, which boasts dozens of backfields and amazing access to the ballplayers.

But our real point here regards the superiority of the Cactus League over the Grapefruit. There are a few reasons our rankings favor spring training’s western iteration, and proximity is number one. Wherever you stay in the Phoenix metro area, you’re guaranteed to be close to at least a few parks. We stayed in Scottsdale, which situated us less than 10 miles from five different stadiums. All that access is really fun, as it allows you to visit a bunch of different complexes. It also lets you see your own team more — you can get to any of the Cactus League parks, whereas in Florida the fields are scattered across hundreds of miles. Also significant — the weather. Arizona is bone dry in spring; Florida is a three-dimensional swamp where humidity crawls up your skin like a Palmetto bug. Those afternoon showers can crush your dreams in Clearwater or jam you up in Jupiter.

Ballpark and Broadcast Accessibility

We thought long and hard about this category. Ultimately, we decided to isolate accessibility as its own criterion. Much of it is about a team’s ballpark — its proximity to the city’s center, its convenience via public transportation, its “walk score” — but we also factored in whether a franchise provides non-English coverage for its Spanish-, French-, Japanese- and/or Korean-speaking fans. We used walkscore.com’s “Walk Score” and “Transit Score” to grade each stadium on its accessibility and surrounding neighborhood.

We are of the firm opinion that baseball stadiums belong in cities. And being in a city means being in that city. Not near it, not next to it, not eight zip codes away from the dang municipality. Tuesday nights, getaway Thursday afternoons, and everything in between. Fans shouldn’t have to dedicate an entire day to going to a game, and they don’t have to when their home park is right downtown, or at least easily reachable by public transportation. That’s the beauty of those summer evenings: “Hey the Giants are in town tonight — want to walk over after work?” Save the suburban stadi-plexes for the NFL, where eight Sundays are wholly set aside for 12-hour game days.

And here’s the thing: by and large major league franchises do a fantastic job of this. By our mostly scientific calculations, a whopping 14 stadiums are within approximately one mile of their city centers. Many others — think Wrigley, Yankee, Fenway, Citi, Nationals, the Coliseum, Citizens Bank and Guaranteed Rate (just typing that feels ridiculous) — are slightly farther but accessible by solid public transportation options. The laggards here are the Rays, Royals, Rangers and Braves. Tampa is one of the worst in terms of pure distance — Tropicana Field is 22 miles from the city center across the Gandy Bridge. But “Atlanta’s” new ballpark takes the unreachable cake. The stadium is located 13 miles northwest of Atlanta, along one of the busiest traffic corridors in the world. It’s inaccessible by MARTA, Atlanta’s transit system.

Beyond access to ballparks, let’s give kudos for other kinds of accessibility. Props are due to the Dodgers for providing radio and TV broadcasts in Spanish, as well as radio coverage in Korean. It makes you wonder why the Angels didn’t add Japanese coverage when they landed Shohei Ohtani. The Brewers, Diamondbacks and Rangers are the only other teams to offer Spanish TV coverage. The Jays appeal to their Québécois supporters with French feeds for radio and TV.

Finally, we gave the Mariners a bump in this category for two very cool reasons. The first is that Safeco is the only stadium that offers all-gender bathrooms thanks to a progressive Seattle city ordinance. The second is that Jerry Dipoto — their freakin’ GM — has his own podcast! It’s called The Wheelhouse, and it’s a window into the mind of the organization’s top baseball ops decision maker.

Broadcast

The voice of a team can captivate and cultivate fandom as much as anything else. I (Mike) am a fourth generation Giants fan and my grandmother told me the only time she saw her father cry was when the Giants left New York. Not only did he lose his team, he lost the opportunity to sit in the backyard and listen to the voice of Russ Hodges, who moved west with the franchise. When the Giants almost left for Tampa, I thought I would lose the voice of Hank Greenwald. But they stayed, and over time John Miller’s home run call of “Adios Pelota” became legendary.

As a Giants fan, I know we have the best team and I also know this because I have listened to everyone else thanks to the MLB.TV and Gameday Audio package as a staple to feed my baseball addiction over the past eight seasons. Of course we (Michael and Asa) listen to and watch our home teams, but on average we take in a different broadcast every day, which we highly recommend (local commercials are hilarious). But to prevent this from being a subjective section, we used Carson Cistulli’s 2016 broadcaster rankings.

The Mets are consistently mentioned as a top team on both the radio (Howie Rose and Josh Lewin) and television (Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling). When I (Michael) lived in Queens in 2014, I learned a lot about life as a Mets fan. Listening to the color commentary on Bartolo Colon’s at-bats, Jacob deGrom and Jose Familia’s emergence, and the train wreck that was Jenrry Mejia, I felt the misery and pride that comes from knowing that the guys in the booth might be the best part of the Mets fan experience. The broadcasters for the other New York franchise don’t necessitate comment, as FanGraphs readers have already told them to “Grab some pine, meat.

As a kid of the ‘80s I (Michael) am plenty familiar with Mr. Belvedere and Major League, but until the internet I never heard Bob Uecker call an official game. It is equal parts magical and bizarre, and Uecker requires his partner to master the ability to Keep Calm and Carry On. Every fan of baseball should listen before the opportunity is lost.

Tigers fans had the pleasure of Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey for 20 years. The current generation has heard Dan Dickerson and Jim Price narrate 15 summers’ worth of dog days, and two fall classics. When they retire, the next generation of young Detroit fans will find their own voices to connect with, waiting somewhere on the dial.

It’s not just Tigers fans who are experiencing a changing of the guard in the booth. We’d be remiss not to mention the legend, Vin Scully. No one can really replace Vin, but the Joe Davis-led team for LA has done an admirable job, especially appealing to sabermetrically inclined fans. Speaking of which, Kalas and Blum in Houston are another team that exemplify a new generation of on-air talent, reaching fans of all stripes with commentary that blends old- and new-school analysis. Finally, Jason Benetti of the White Sox deserves a mention as another young broadcaster bringing an, ahem, different sort of narration to a booth that’s been led by Hawk Harrelson for 34 years. Hawk will fully pass the baton to Benetti beginning in 2019.

Laundry

Merchandise sales do not tell the whole story here.

In Oakland, you will see locals wearing Donaldson, Cespedes, Gray, Reddick, Balfour, Doolittle, Vogt and Crisp gear all day, making a tourist think Oakland must be a baseball town, and it is (when the A’s make the playoffs). Chuck O. Finley may not be loved, but his Oakland squad is the only in baseball history outside the Bronx to win three World Series in a row. But what he is really remembered for is promoting the colorful, the spectacular and the stylish.

Beyond the A’s, there are some real beauties out there: the Yankees’ home pinstripes; the Cardinals’ cream duds, Pittsburgh’s gorgeous black-and-yellows, and the classic home whites of the Dodgers, Tigers and Royals. Let’s also shout out a few weird modern jerseys, that also appeal to our sensibilities: the Marlins’ black alternates, the Rays’ lowercase ‘70s throwbacks, and the Blue Jays’ blues with white piping.

Then there are the hats. Oh, those hats! There are ball caps that are instantly recognizable: Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees. There are hats that have taken on significance in hip-hop and popular culture, like those of the White Sox, Braves, Reds and Pirates. Finally, there are the cult classics: the Brewers’ baseball mitt, the Orioles’ smiling bird, the Pirates’ stovepipe insanity. Hats are fun! Much of this is a matter of personal preference, but we endeavored to do justice to those lids that are seemingly universally beloved.

Social Media

Baseball twitter is a fun and silly place. Those of us who choose to consume baseball with a second screen in hand get to enjoy everything from the GIF-ing glory of @PitchingNinja to the steady clockwork of the Did Trout Homer bot to Sam Miller’s deadpan send-ups of Rotoworld updates. But let’s be honest — the team accounts themselves ain’t bringing a whole lot to the table.

Our criteria were pretty simple: 1. How much snark does the account dish out?; 2. How is their GIF game?; 3. Does their team hashtag not completely suck?

The A’s are our winner, thanks to excellent snark levels, strong GIF game, and a clever hashtag: #RootedInOakland. The Mariners impressed us with the sheer love their tweets show us, like this tender moment with Dee Gordon. The Astros deserve recognition for their frequent use of this amazing Alex Bregman GIF. And speaking of GIFs, Twins twitter gets a shoutout for this majestic Fernando Rodney archery moment.

Mascot

It is remarkable to think that a team established in 1884 does not have a mascot. But it is even more so that the franchise of all franchises have neglected the opportunity to promote a fan friendly character. Shame on you Dodgers and Yankees. The Halos are the only other team without a mascot — possibly they are intimidated by the Swinging Friar of San Diego and don’t want to start a holy war? The concept of a mascot is to excite kids, like with the Phillie Phanatic, or promote a positive family environment, as with Mr. and Mrs. Met, or to be loveable like the A’s Stomper. Failing to accomplish this is an extraordinary feat and brilliantly, two teams have: Atlanta and Arizona. Blooper, the new Braves mascot, looks like the love child of Beaker and the Phanatic. The Diamondbacks created a cross between Michael J. Fox’s Teen Wolf and Jigsaw of Saw fame; thank you, Baxter the Bobcat, but no thank you.

Conclusion

Thanks for coming on this adventure with us. As we’ve detailed, there’s a lot more that goes into the fan experience than just wins and losses. Baseball, besides being a yearly competition for a trophy, is an entertainment product. It’s one of the innumerable options competing for our attention spans. The franchises that ranked highly by our measurements have a good grasp on what their fans want, and they provide accordingly.

We hope we’ve made you think a little more deeply about what makes you love your team — what makes you keep coming to the park, buying shirseys, or shelling out for an MLB.TV subscription. Please share some thoughts about your own fan experience below; for once, we actually want to read the comments.


Asa Beal is a writer, editor, and non-profit brand strategist with boundless enthusiasm for sports and food. He is also co-founder and managing editor of Popularium. Follow him on Twitter at @asakahnbeal. Michael Wentworth is a librarian living in Berkeley and can usually be found hiding out in the non-fiction area listening to the MLB radio app. In his spare time he helps document community histories at northernmonday.com.

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42 Comments on "Introducing the Fan Experience Index"

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Dennis Bedard
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Dennis Bedard
Thanks for treating a serious subject, well, seriously. The Yankees deserve a 10 on Laundry if for no other reason than that they are the only MLB team to not have changed uniform styles in the past 75 years. Baseball is about tradition and consistency and not adhering to Bob Dylan’s chant that the “Times They Are A Changin.” The White Sox deserve a 0 on Laundry. Those dreadful 1970’s untucked in uniforms put them in a permanent laundry purgatory from which they shall never escape. And speaking of the White Sox, you need to factor in the ’70’s Disco… Read more »
kseg22
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kseg22
As a Braves fan who was skeptical of the new stadium, it has been extremely accessible. The whole “Cobb County” thing was blown out of proportion by those who don’t live here. Atlanta is already a spread out city, and the stadium is about 15-30 mins from almost everybody. Also, traffic, which was supposed to be the worst part, has been basically a non-issue since they play weeknight games at 7:30. Another thing that helps is The Battery, the area around the ballpark. It always has a good crowd, and provides fans with something that Braves fans have never had… Read more »
Johnston
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Johnston

I agree. Plus you could tell even before it was built that most of the objections were politically based.

bighurt35
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bighurt35

Cubs games are more affordable than White Sox games? Umm…ok.

MikeS
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MikeS

According to this article from 2016:

http://fortune.com/2016/04/03/mlb-ballparks-tickets/

Attending a Cubs game was the second most expensive prospect in MLB, just behind the Red Sox. They haven’t gotten any cheaper since winning the World Series. The White Sox are very middle of the pack and cost about a third less than the Cubs. For two people it ranges from $47 to $157, so how nobody scores lower than a four is a mystery.

spacemanbob
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Member
spacemanbob

And according to this article from 2017

https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikeozanian/2017/03/22/baseball-ticket-prices-for-every-team-cubs-top-mlb-at-151-graphic/#51cf0455294a

And the accompanying infographic which definitely made its way around Twitter. The Cubs have the most expensive tickets in baseball, and the White Sox have the cheapest.

Johnston
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Johnston

“The Cubs have the most expensive tickets in baseball, and the White Sox have the cheapest.“

And there are very good reasons for that.

bombguy85
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bombguy85

“As a Giants fan, I know we have the best team ” and the Giants got the best rating…. I call bias… rigged! I am also biased against the Giants as a Rockies fan though so there is that.

bmfc1
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Member
bmfc1

The Phillie Fanatic is an assassin who almost blinded a woman with a hot dog. Mr. Met crushes him and his tired act.

Outta my way, Gyorkass
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Outta my way, Gyorkass
So…if the entire point of this exercise was to rate the teams’ respective fan experiences independent of wins and losses, why did the description of “ownership” skew so heavily towards wins, losses, and postseason success? The primary criterion being described under the “ownership” component is the exact thing your stated goal was to avoid! I see the Brewers at a 4 for ownership and think, “WTF?” Attanasio is beloved in the Milwaukee community, he’s consistently been willing to spend $$$ to improve the on-field product (and even has sometimes demanded it despite it being more sensible for the Brewers to… Read more »
Brewtown_Kev
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Brewtown_Kev
Given the Brewers’ high attendance numbers (not just this season, but over the past decade) in the league’s smallest market, I’d suggest that this article misses the boat altogether on the Brewers in more categories than just ownership. The proof is in the pudding, the old saying goes. If a team in the smallest media market with a small payroll and only three playoff appearances in almost 50 years, along with the zero WS trophies, as mentioned in the article, still manages to draw outsized attendance numbers, it would have to follow that they should rank very high on a… Read more »
Outta my way, Gyorkass
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Outta my way, Gyorkass
I’ll submit that both “accessibility” and “ballpark experience” should receive boosts as well. 1) The main drag on access for Miller Park is that it isn’t downtown. However, what public transit that does exist in MKE accesses MP just fine, and other than not being downtown, it’s pretty centrally located (only a few miles west) and easily accessible by car – tons of parking and face it, the lions share of the fan base is driving there anyway. It’s not the team’s fault the city’s public transportation sucks. 2) No, Miller Park isn’t the prettiest stadium out there, nor does… Read more »
Walkoff Double
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Walkoff Double

I don’t want to rag on the authors too much, because this is an impressive project with what looks like sound methodology. It clearly took a lot of work and there’s no way there wouldn’t be some major disagreements no matter how the list came out…

But holy crap that Brewers ownership rating makes no damn sense.

bourgmic
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bourgmic
Personally I think the Giants broadcast team is overrated. The times I’ve turned into their broadcasts (on the TV side) they seem disinterested and unenthusiastic, and the mispronounce the names of opposing players. Miller is great though. I think the A’s team is better and while the Yankees radio team is blah, I like the makeup of their current TV team. I appreciate Spring Training being included as it’s an important part of the overall experience. Cactus league is great but I think sloan park should be ranked lower. The prices are sky high and there is nothing to do… Read more »
GoNYGoNYGoGo
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Member
GoNYGoNYGoGo

David Cone on the Yankees TV team is like Mike Trout on a last place Angels team – just a waste of a great performer.

bombguy85
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bombguy85

Don’t forget how often on air they accuse the Rockies of cheating when the Giants are getting beat at Coors Field… seemingly every time they are down big

Themaven
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Themaven

As an Indians season ticket holder and someone who has been to 24 of the current major league ballparks,your source for the ratings of the Cleveland fan experience is way off base…………..way off base.And some of the other ratings for several teams are borderline ridiculous.
This article was so poorly conceived and researched it wasn’t worth the time it took to read it.

Johnston
Member
Johnston

I agree fully with Themaven. And then there’s this nonsense: “they’re all privately held corporations. Based on that fact, we decided that no team in major league baseball has the ability to earn a 10 in this category.” I’m sorry, this is America, not Cuba. Please keep politics out of team rankings, and everything else.

Moltar
Member
Member
Moltar
Two points is honestly two too many for the Wilpon syndicate. Negative points should be allowable, they actively detract from my ballpark experience. I’m torn on Citi Field itself – it’s a very *nice* ballpark, with great food and even better beer, but it lacks character, and is fraught with missed opportunities. That it is essentially an homage to the Dodgers is well known, with its Ebbets Field façade leading to a shrine to baseball’s most important hero, who just so happened to never play for the Mets. But the biggest missed opportunity for me is the orientation of the… Read more »
coldbagel12
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Member
coldbagel12
Thanks for writing this. I always enjoy these types of articles, even if the rankings are always subjective. A few suggestions: Ownership rankings seem mostly based on winning/losing and spending, and given how closely related those are it seems like that category should have been excluded. Including accessibility is a great idea, but it seems unfair to teams with a less diverse fan base to penalize them for not providing multiple language broadcasts. LA and Texas have much greater incentives to provide a Spanish language broadcast than Minnesota or Cleveland, for instance, so giving them credit seems odd. Again, I… Read more »
francis_soyer
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francis_soyer

Excluded would mean giving no weight to team success and big name free agents, which wouldn’t make sense.

Maybe rename it, but to give no weight to winning ?

Winning is probably the single most important factor of all.

Oneear
Member
Member
Oneear

Petco “10” for accessibility? Maybe because no one attends most of the time, you can find parking. But when the Cubs come to S.D. it’s a nightmare. And does S.D. even have public transit?

Plus a plug for Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies: Funny, knowledgable, humble.

francis_soyer
Member
francis_soyer

15 minute walk for me. I give it an 11.

SD has public transit to Petco

francis_soyer
Member
francis_soyer

.

bourgmic
Member
bourgmic

They do have a transit system to Petco but driving to that stadium is a pain.

channelclemente
Member

If the televised experience is so important, can’t MLB be persuaded to end that idiotically stupid blackout policy they have online at MLB.TV for a fans home team.

lazy fly
Member
lazy fly

This is a good ranking, but i’m not sure how there can be such a divide between the Yanks and Mets for ‘accessibility’. Getting to Citi is just as easy as getting to Yankee Stadium.

francis_soyer
Member
francis_soyer

No, it isn’t

misterjohnny
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Member
misterjohnny

The Angels’ Rally Monkey says “hi”.
Can I say rally monkey?

Ryan13636
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Ryan13636

The Rockies are too high. That broadcast team is hugely overrated with a “4”. I know that large numbers of Rox fans watch the games on mute.

Dinger the Dinosaur should be worth negative points, if only for the way he squats right behind the plate late in games.

The fan experience is also overrated, I fail to see the problem with moving up a few rows to empty seats to get out of the rain, but Coors Field personnel consistently do.

wavydavy
Member
wavydavy
I’ve lived in NYC for over 50 years, but I’m a fan of *baseball*, not either of the New York teams. I’ve seen 19 teams in 32 ballparks, so I consider myself eclectic. That being said, two things in my experience stand out enormously: First, and hopefully forever: the New York Yankees home uniform — the pinstripes — is the greatest uniform in all of sports. Period. Second, the New York Mets TV crew is far and away the best right now. I could listen just for their voices and how they fit with the game, but they are also… Read more »
LeeFieux
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Member
LeeFieux

It’s such a shame that Bob Nutting has to ruin a really good ‘thing’ in Pittsburgh. Sigh.

Btw, I think that the Bucco ratings are spot on.

Johnston
Member
Johnston
A Giants fans writes this and, utterly predictably, the Giants are the highest-ranked team. That’s not just total bias, it’s nonsense; the Cubs, Red Sox, Rockies and even the Dodgers all crush the Giants – and I write that as a guy who has been going to stadiums since 1959 and who used to be able to see Candlestick from his back porch (and, yes, I’ve been to the new stadium) and who nearly froze to death there any number of times. On a purely personal basis I prefer the Rockies fan experience, but I can see why others would… Read more »
Cherry Garcia
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Cherry Garcia

yeah dude that blaring loud as fuck music at dodger stadium totally beats beautiful at&t

egregious comment
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egregious comment

I think for the vast majority of fans, Spring Training at 9% is about 8-9 percentage points too high.

francis_soyer
Member
francis_soyer

The weighting for spring training is too high

The weighting for Laundry is too low

Giving the Marlins a positive number for Laundry is too high

Giving Tampa Bay a positive number for Ballpark Experience and Accessibility is too high

jdtTX
Member
jdtTX

The ballpark experience in Arlington varies immensely between April and August.

Trigaux
Member
Member
Trigaux
I find the rankings in this index west coast centric and lacking in knowledge to the two teams I’m familiar with: Rays: if you ask their fans, they like the ownership, embrace the scrappy low budget mentality and think that the admin is generally smarter than everyone else. They have a good argument, such as leading trends like shifting, non traditional bullpen use, Openers, etc. Furthermore, the Trop is highly accessible, you just picked the wrong city center. It within half a mile of St Petersburg’s downtown, next to a trolley line and the interstate. St Petersburg is bigger, for… Read more »
Outta my way, Gyorkass
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Outta my way, Gyorkass
That’s a good point that I don’t know if I picked up on the first time reading this – the lion’s share of the “further detail” items that this piece references for individual teams in a given component are for west coast teams. The A’s? (playing in quite possibly the worst stadium in MLB, possibly in all of the major US sports leagues for that matter?) Nah, man, the weather’s beautiful, it’s an underrated experience! Seattle? Leadin’ the charge with gender neutral bathrooms! Colorado? Super affordable package deal! This is not to impugn the veracity of any of these statements,… Read more »
evo34
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evo34

Weather?

ccctl
Member
ccctl

*Lots* of Giants homerism here.

Rockies have $4/game tickets to the Rockpile but A’s have $30/PER-MONTH tickets to the Treehouse (mentioned in ‘ballpark experience’). Rockies get the 10.

A’s literally have their own BART station (metro light rail) at the ballpark, but get dinged for lack of accessibility for not being in a city center … given a 6. AT&T? Mile+ from BART station, crowded walk through traffic or pay for SFMuni bus bridge the rest of the way … given a 9.

ccctl
Member
ccctl

Additionally?

BEER PRICES:

AT&T – $19.25/220Z big market IPA’s, $16/cans – “Ballpark Experience 10”

Coliseum – 91+ beers, 77 on tap, beer vendors walking the stands, no *premium craft drafts* over $10 – “Ballpark Experience 5”