There’s an interesting article by Ken Davidoff over at Newsday where he ranks the 5 best and then the 5 worst owners in Major League Baseball. It’s not going to take a genius to figure out that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt isn’t going to be making an appearance on the ‘Best 5’ list anytime soon. So without further ado, here is Davidoff’s rankings, and his argument why.
1. JOHN HENRY, Boston Red Sox
Henry and his lieutenants turned Fenway Park from a perceived, past-its-prime dump into a valued jewel. By choosing Epstein as their GM for the 2003 season, they instituted a baseball operations department that functions as well as any in the game. They’ve set up countless successful marketing initatives.
2. HAL STEINBRENNER, Yankees
While the Hal Steinbrenner reign looks quite similar to The Boss’ – a huge payroll and aggressive efforts to monetize the Yankee brand – in other ways, it looks quite different. Brian Cashman is largely allowed to do his job, and even when something like the Rafael Soriano signing occurs, it’s not like the old days when Cashman might learn of it at the same time as the rest of us.
Let’s put them behind the Red Sox, just because Boston has enjoyed such a high rate of success with the Henry group.
3. DAVE MONTGOMERY, Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies really have become a model franchise: Beautiful, modern ballpark; high payroll; strong baseball operations. And Montgomery, the team’s general partner and CEO, deserves credit for creating and overseeing it.
Shoot, when your baseball ops group foolishly trades Cliff Lee and then, a year later, Lee is lobbying you to come back, blowing off the Yankees and Texas in the process, you’re doing something right.
4. MIKE ILITCH, Detroit Tigers
It’s a pretty simple explanation on this one: The pizza tycoon consistently spends money, lots of it, in the interest of putting together a winning team. He believes in stability at the baseball operations level, as he just re-upped both general manager Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland .
It also should be appreciated just how hard Ilitch worked on behalf of Detroit, the city which has struggled to stay afloat. Most notably, in 2009, Ilitch put up the signs of the Big Three auto companies – General Motors, Ford and Chrysler – at no charge, with a sign, “The Detroit Tigers Support Our Automakers.”
5. STUART STERNBERG, Tampa Bay Rays
He’s relatively new on the scene, having taken over the Rays for the 2006 season, but Sternberg certainly has tried to engage area fans, lowering concessions prices and booking post-game concerts and trying pretty much anything and everything else. And more important, Sternberg has put together a baseball operations department that has been so impressive and successful that he has given himself leverage in the ongoing stadium drama: “We have a club that scares the daylights out of the Yankees and Red Sox despite the fact that we spend $1 for every $4 that they spend. We’ve proven that this ballpark simply can’t support a team no matter how good it is.”
And now, the 5 Worst Owners in MLB:
26. FRED WILPON, Mets
The inclusion of Wilpon here reflects, in part, that the ownership bar has been raised throughout the industry.
Yes, Wilpon has a World Series ring, and yes, he is beloved within the ownership fraternity, and yes, if you’ve seen him speak, you know how much he lives and dies with every pitch of the season.
But we can’t be blind, deaf and dumb here, right? This list is based on competence, and the Mets have been woefully incompetent far too often for such a big-market team. The bad hires. The bad signings. The poor utilization of the amateur draft. The failure to recognize Mets history upon the opening of the otherwise charming Citi Field.
27. PETER ANGELOS, Baltimore Orioles
He has climbed up from number 30 the last time we did this list , in 2008, so this actually represents progress. That he’s still on here is because we can’t ignore the history, which kicked off the still-active streak of 13 straight losing seasons and counting, and because Angelos’ hiring of Andy MacPhail to head baseball operations, while sensible and admirable at the time, simply hasn’t worked out.
Perhaps if the Orioles competed in another division, they’d put up better results and be regarded differently. But this is the hand that Angelos has been dealt, and both the Rays and the Blue Jays have responded well to the bar being set too high. The Orioles, in comparison, have not.
28. JEFFREY LORIA, Florida Marlins
When Major League Baseball feels compelled to announce that your operating expenses will be monitored, as occurred with the Marlins in 2010 , that doesn’t reflect positively upon what you’re doing.
Loria has put together a good baseball operations department that consitently fields interesting teams on small budgets; shoot, let’s not forget the Marlins won the 2003 World Series. But it’s impossible to ignore how much silliness has surrounded this franchise, both with the aforementioned concerns that the Marlins were pocketing their revenue-sharing money and with the merry-go-round of managers.
Loria and his son-in-law David Samson both are too hands-on in baseball operations, multiple people in the know assert, and that works to the organization’s detriment.
29. DRAYTON McLANE, Houston Astros
Whereas McCourt comes off as shrill and in serious denial concerning his situation, McLane is friendly and eminently likeable. No one doubts that he wants the best for his team and for his fans.
Nevertheless…there is much doubt over whether McLane knows what’s best for his team and for his fans. While he can take credit for the state of Texas’ first World Series entry, the 2005 Astros, let’s face it: The Astros were very lucky that Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens happened to make their homes in the Houston area. Gerry Hunsicker, the very sharp general manager, left after 2004, reportedly because he tired of McLane’s interference.
Now, the Astros are in shambles, having just traded away Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn , and McLane’s sale of the team to Jim Crane has yet to be approved. Tough times for Astros fans, who showed back in the Clemens/Pettitte years that they were ready to come out for a good team.
30. FRANK McCOURT, Los Angeles Dodgers
This is an easy one. Despite decent on-the-field results – hey, even this year, the Dodgers have a National League Most Valuable Player candidate in Matt Kemp and an NL Cy Young Award candidate in Clayton Kershaw – McCourt has decimated the prestigious Dodgers brand with his off-the-field shenanigans.
It’s truly amazing how loathed McCourt seems to be, both among the Dodgers fan base and in the Major League Baseball offices. And yet McCourt – partly to his credit in a perverse way, I suppose, like when George Costanza kept driving his former in-laws to his pretend Hamptons house, even though he knew they knew he was lying, in this “Seinfeld” episode – keeps on fighting.
At least Dodgers fans can say that they rank at the top in something in MLB, unfortunately it’s for the worst owner. The really bad news for Dodgers fans is McCourt seems intent on dragging out his fight against MLB for a long, long time. After-all what’s best for the Dodgers is sadly not at the core of McCourt vs MLB, it’s all about what’s best for McCourt. Don’t believe me, then just go check out his accommodations. Frank filed for bankruptcy, is taking out loans just to pay his players, yet he spends $40,000 a month on rent to live the lavish lifestyle he bankrupt the Dodgers to create for himself.