For the 14th season, ESPN Magazine released its Ultimate Team Rankings. The Ultimate Team Rankings rank every team in the major pro sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) on eight different categories and weighs them to create an overall rankings. Data that composed the rankings was calculated partly from fan polling and partly from marketing companies. The goal of these rankings is to see which team fans think is the best all-round organization.
Tampa Bay sports had reason to celebrate this year when the Tampa Bay Lightning were ranked the number 1 organization in American professional sports.
For the Rays, however, the news was not as positive. In an article written by former DRaysBay writer Tommy Rancel, the Rays dropped 45 points from 45th to 90th out of the 122 professional teams and 24th in Major League Baseball.
The following chart shows how the Tampa Bay area teams did in the ESPN Ultimate Team Ranking:
Here is the Rays overall rank since 2003 according to ESPN Magazine:
But what caused the Rays to drop so steeply? Let’s dissect each of the 8 categories to see if the Rays deserved such a decrease.
Title track (3.9%): Championships won or expected within the lifetime of current fans
The Rays dropped 24 spots in Title Track, from 66 to 90. The Rays have decreased every year in this category since 2012.
I agree with this. The Rays are far removed from contention and have become worse on the field in recent years.
Ownership (12.8%): Honesty; loyalty to core players and the local community
Rays ownership has not fared well according to ESPN Magazine. Rays ownership has decreased from 72 to 116 since 2012. 116th is the lowest Rays ownership has been since ESPN Magazine started ranking in 2003.
This is harsh. We can guess the stadium situation is killing the perception of Rays ownership. The unsettled stadium dilemma is definitely affecting “loyalty to the local community”. Additionally, the Rays perception that they do not keep their best players – despite many being worse since leaving Tampa Bay – also doesn’t help Rays ownership ranking.
Players (14.7%): Effort on the field, likability off it
The Rays Players rankings dropped 60 points in 2016. This was the their biggest single category drop of the year.
After 90-plus losses in 2016 and the worst season since rebranding as the Rays, this is not a surprise. The Rays have less talent on their team since before 2008. They are no longer competitive.
Coaching (2.8%): Strength of on-field leadership
Since the departure of Joe Maddon, coaching has not been a strong point of the Rays. New manager Kevin Cash has not had the same results as Maddon and is still learning on the job, while Maddon has brought the Cubs to the brink of the World Series.
Kevin Cash and staff started as a 75 and dropped to 119th out of 122 in all of professional sports. That’s really not good. Hopefully we see improvements in 2017.
Fan relations (27.2%): Courtesy by players, coaches and front office toward fans, plus how well a team uses technology to reach fans
Rays ranking in Fan Relations dropped 49 spots from 39 to 88 in 2016. At 27% of the overall score, this rating had a big effect on the Rays overall drop.
I don’t agree with this at all. After a very successful Pride Night, exhibitions in Cuba, and new daily promotions, I am not sure why the Rays Fan Relations score dropped so steeply. A small decrease I might have understood, but there is no reason for the Rays to drop 49 points on Fan Relations. If they had only dropped 10 or even 20 points, there is a chance they might not have had such an overall fall.
Unfortunately, Tommy Rancel did not cover Fan Relations in his write-up. He should have informed readers why some of the biggest score changes happened.
Bang for the buck (14.7%): Wins in the past two years per fan dollar, adjusted for league schedules
The Rays fall in Bang for the Buck is self-explanatory. They haven’t won as much in recent years, so the fans have received less winning value per dollar.
Despite their recent poor records on the field, Rays tickets remain lower than average so the Rays remain a good Bang for Buck.
Affordability (12.2%): Price of tickets, parking and concessions
According to Tommy Rancel,
Their average ticket price is about $10 below that of the rest of the league, and there is a limited amount of free parking most games, along with free parking for all vehicles containing four or more passengers on Sundays. You can bring your own food into the park, but concession prices — $10 for a hot dog plus soda — are relatively affordable if you don’t.
I don’t know where Rancel finds parking for free. I’ve never parked for free anywhere near Tropicana Field. I think parking is among the Rays biggest rip-offs. Parking should never cost above the lowest ticket price. While beer prices are also ridiculously high at Tropicana Field, they are high everywhere. The Rays are definitely where they should be in Affordability.
Stadium experience (11.7%): Quality of arena; fan-friendliness of environment; frequency of game-day promotions
I don’t think I need to go over this at all. Tropicana Field needs to be replaced. Although to the Rays defense, there is fan-friendliness, and there is daily game-day promotions.
Unfortunately, the Rays Stadium Experience is as it was in 2003. I’m not sure I agree with that. Although compared to other stadiums around the US, even great improvements to Tropicana Field may not be enough to improve the Rays standings.
Although the Rays should have been ranked lower in 2016 than 2015 due to their record, poor coaching, and some grips with ownership, I don’t think they should have fallen 45 points, especially considering the weight a bad Fan Relations score impacted.