Over the weekend, Fangraphs conducted a community poll asking readers to grade the ownership of their favorite team. The idea of the poll was to allow fans to express their opinions on the owners of their teams, since it’s more difficult to accurately evaluate an owner than it is, say, a pitcher or position player. Voters could rate their owners using the following scale: Very Bad, Pretty Bad, Average, Pretty Good, and Very Good. These ratings were then given a numeric value of 1-5 (1 being the worst) and the votes were averaged together to create a composite ranking.
According to the results of the poll, fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers are the most happy with their ownership group. The Dodgers haven’t won a World Series lately, but they have been the biggest spenders in the game over the past few seasons and have won five straight division titles. The Dodgers are followed by two teams that recently emerged from lengthy, painful rebuilds that ultimately helped them win championships: the Astros and Cubs. Down at the bottom of the list are the Marlins, which isn’t a surprise considering the new ownership group led by Derek Jeter made it their mission to slash payroll and jettisoned the reigning NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, out of town for relative peanuts. Mets fans are only slightly more confident in their owners than Marlins fans are.
Our own Milwaukee Brewers finished 10th in the polling, sandwiched between the Nationals and Rangers. According to the poll, Mark Attanasio has gained a significant amount of approval in the eyes of the fans since the last time Fangraphs conducted this survey during the 2015-16 offseason. His group previously ranked 14th, but the newest poll shows the 5th-largest increase in faith from fans among any ownership group in the league. 42% of voters view Attanasio as an “average” owner, while 35% see him as “pretty good” and 12% say “very good.” Only a combined 12% of the votes cast were for either “pretty bad” or “very bad.”
Attanasio purchased the team in 2005 and the Brewers have enjoyed two playoff berths and a string a competitive seasons under his watch. When the first Fangraphs poll was conducted, his team was coming off a highly disappointing 2015 season that kick started a rebuild and led to the hiring of both a new manager and general manager. Those personnel decisions appear to have paid off in spades, as David Stearns quickly and deftly tore down and built back up the roster and minor league system and Craig Counsell piloted the Milwaukee Nine to an 86-76 record in 2017, one game out of a Wild Card spot.
In the eyes of fans, it probably also works in Attanasio’s favor that he’s not publicly seen as “meddling” with the new front office regime as he often did during the Doug Melvin era. Attanasio became infamous for his over-involvement in the Kyle Lohse, K-Rod, Matt Garza, and Ryan Braun signings, but when he hired David Stearns he gave the young GM total autonomy to run the team and make roster decisions as he sees fit. He’s refrained from including himself in roster building, even when Scott Boras came to Attanasio to pitch his client Matt Wieters last offseason.
Now, the next step for Attanasio will be to step up to the plate financially so that his front office can augment the already competitive product on the field. Mark has shown a willingness to spend in the past, posting payroll totals in the middle third of the league from 2008-2014 despite Milwaukee being one of the smallest markets in sports. The Brewers have ran league-low payrolls the last two seasons while rebuilding, however, and last year no franchise spent a lower percentage of their revenue on payroll:
Since Fangraphs released their ownership rankings recently. This is 2017 opening day payroll/2016 revenue per Cots and Forbes. League average was 44.66% pic.twitter.com/G4hQ6GYbEh— FREE KANG (@EvilNeal) January 23, 2018
Since some asked for year end.... this is 2017 year end payroll/2016 revenue (adjusted for inflation) per Cots and Forbes. League average was 50.80% pic.twitter.com/s7unpr76oO— FREE KANG (@EvilNeal) January 23, 2018
The Brewers have been involved on a number of trade and free agent discussions throughout the offseason, but at this point they are projected to head into the 2018 season with a payroll that is once again below $70 mil. Mark Attanasio and his group have been able to use the payroll savings over last few years to help increase the value of their investment - purchasing a minor league affiliate, renovating the stadium (that taxpayers are still paying for), and now to renovate and perhaps eventually purchase the Spring Training facility in Maryvale. Now with the rebuild in the rearview mirror, hopefully Mark’s focus will turn back towards providing the financial resources to put a consistent winner on the field and bring a World Series banner to Miller Park.