Most of us root for the sports teams we do because we grew up in a certain city, or our families cheered for those teams, or we made random decisions when we were little kids, or we’re soulless bastards who root for the Cowboys, Yankees, Notre Dame and the Lakers even though we live in Maryland. We’re either born into the teams we love, or we’re locked into those teams so early in life that there’s no turning back. The teams you root for become a part of you, no different than your family, lifelong friends or your hometown.
But what if you reached adulthood first, studied all available options, then made an informed, objective opinion about which team to bestow your fandom upon? Who would you pick? What team most merits respect and adoration?
Take out your favorite broken-in ballcap, a tin of chewing tobacco, and grab a seat around the fireplace. Let’s discuss.
To determine the teams most (and least worthy) of support, we need to first establish some criteria:
Ownership. Like it or not, a team’s owners stand to benefit the most from that team’s success, both financially and in terms of reputation. If you’re being strictly objective, you can’t root for a team with an evil owner or owners, which sucks, because most of them are evil to varying degrees.
Team culture. Certain teams have odd quirks related to their culture: the Yankees are all business, and don’t let you grow beards. The A’s have always been considered free-wheeling partiers, etc.
Franchise history. Was your franchise stolen from another city? Has it historically done a lot to support the community? Does it have a long history of douchebags playing for it?
Current front office/players/manager. If you’re not just going to root for uniforms, you need to factor in the personalities that currently dominate the franchise.
Fan base. Who do you want to associate with? Being a fan of Team X brands you in different ways. The world sees you differently if you’re a Red Sox fan than it does if you’re a Mariners fan.
Recency matters. What a team did in the ‘90s matters more than what it did in the ‘20s.
Perhaps most importantly: what is a team’s relationship with its fans? Does it respect them and treat them like paying customers, or does it take them for granted, lie to them and abuse them?
OK, let’s get down to it. Ranking the 30 Major League Baseball clubs from most evil to least evil. This is your guide to the true nature of the teams for which you cheer. When you strip away all the façade and all the false representations, this is what you’re left with.
Group I: The Evildoers
30. Florida Marlins
Perhaps an unlikely choice for most evil franchise in baseball. They’ve only been around since 1993, so they haven’t had much time to build up a resume of misdeeds. But what they lack in longevity, they make up for in pure, soul-chilling darkness.
Their owner is Jeffrey Loria, and they were part of the Expos/Red Sox/Marlins ownership switcheroo/heist, one of the most heinous backroom deals that’s ever been cut in sports. Loria abandoned the Expos for sunny Florida (after permanently sabotaging a once-proud team), where he proceeded to run the Marlins into the ground, pocket millions in revenue sharing while slashing payroll, and alternately trying to build a new stadium with public money and flee town.
Under a previous regime (no less evil), the Marlins bought a championship more blatantly than the Yankees ever have, then once in possession of their shiny rings, stripped the cupboard bare and took their own team out of contention.
Miami cannot support a big-league baseball team, and no tears will be shed once the Marlins eventually skip town, two World Series trophies in tow. For whatever reason, people in Florida show no motivation to catch baseball fever. Maybe having spring training is enough, maybe people are too old, maybe the weather’s too nice to focus on a 162-game season. It’s not that the Marlins’ fan base is comprised of terrible people; it’s that the Marlins don’t have a fan base.
Against all odds, solid scouting and crafty management have kept the Marlins in kinda-sorta contention the past few years, but Hanley Ramirez is still playing to empty seats. To be clear, this is not Miami’s fault. It’s Jeffrey Loria and Bud Selig’s fault. And rooting for any team Loria owns is like rooting for Bernie Madoff to swindle an ovarian cancer charity.
And in case you had any doubt that the Marlins represent pure, unadulterated evil, there’s this (press play only if you’re pure of heart, and believe with 100% certainty that you can’t be corrupted by the forces of darkness):
29. Boston Red Sox
Full disclosure: I’m a Yankees fan. But don’t let my obvious bias distract you from how fucking terrible a franchise the Red Sox are.
They too were part of the aforementioned Evil Ownership Swap of ’02. John Henry read the tea leaves, hung the Marlins out to dry, and had his buddy Buddy S. hook him up with the second-most valuable franchise in the sport. Any team even remotely associated with that catastrophe is going to rank very low. But that’s not the only reason the Boston nine appear this early on our list.
They have a terrible, terrible fan base. Now, I’m not talking about Johnny Sullivan from New Bedford, who’s lived and died with the Sox his whole life. I’ve got no problem with Sully. I’m talking about the thousands and thousands of people across the country who bought their first Red Sox hat within a couple months of the team winning the 2004 World Series. The Sox have the biggest and most obnoxious bandwagon in the game, and unfortunately for Sully and his ilk, the latecomers have ruined the party for everyone. Enabled by money-grubbing ownership, Fenway has turned from a quaint, beautiful ballpark into a see-and-be-seen party. And only rich white guys are invited.
Which reminds me — the Red Sox have a long and ugly history with racism.
Finally, Larry Lucchino is a prominent part of the Boston front office, and he is such a jackass that he almost forced boy genius Theo Epstein out of the organization altogether.
28. Washington Nationals
I have no problems with the current owners or fans (such as they are) of the Nationals. But after the city of Montreal was raped by baseball’s ruling cabal, it’s unconscionable to root for the former Expos.
The Nationals were also implicated in a bonus-skimming scandal involving young Latin American players, and that’s pretty fucking evil.
27. Chicago Cubs
What? The poor, lovable Cubbies? How could a team that’s gone this long without winning rank so low? Rooting for the Cubs shows you have a soul, right?
The Cubs have the highest ticket prices in baseball. This year, they added a 20% surcharge to anyone who wanted to buy tickets a couple days before they went on sale to the general public. The team siphons off thousands of tickets to licensed ticket agents under franchise control. How is this legal? It shouldn’t be, but it is.
For years, the Cubs were an asset of the faceless Tribune Corp., and as long as the team produced a positive bottom line, no one paid them much attention. Things might change under their new owner, but it’s not off to a promising start. The Cubs mint money, but still gouge fans at every possible opportunity. The Cubs, as an organization, are driven by greed and profit as much as any other franchise in the sport. (And let me say, as a caveat, that every owner or ownership group has a right to try and earn money from their investment; it’s only when that profiteering veers into the obscene that I hold it against a team.)
And let’s talk about those fans for a moment. The Cubs, like the Red Sox, are poisoned by bandwagoneers posing as true fans. Which is odd, because bandwagoneers usually hop on board after a team has won something. But walk around Wrigleyville on game day sometime, and check out the douchebags with collars popped, getting their Rohypnol ready for after the game.
26. New York Yankees
As Casey Stengel said in 1958, “they are Yankee Haters, and I ain’t got any quarrel with them. Many of them are tired and desperate.” Look, I’m biased, but I’m not retarded, OK? (Shut up, David Simon Cowell.)
The Yankees don’t deserve your hate because they win all the time. They don’t deserve your hate because they spend a lot of money on players. But they definitely deserve your hate for the way their new ballpark was financed and built, and what’s happened to Yankee Stadium culture since that point. Ownership lied and swindled their way to millions of dirty dollars to build the new stadium, and repaid New York City by charging exorbitant ticket prices, building a moat around the section where the rich people sit, hiding beloved Monument Park in a concrete bunker, reneging on promises to upgrade the neighborhood, and pricing out the people who have been going to games for years.
Plus, the Steinbrenner family is…umm…questionable at best. While I hold a certain affection for George, the Boss was a Nixon supporter, an illegal campaign contributor, and he was banned from baseball for spying on his own player for the purposes of blackmail. For real. His son Hank is a blustery dick. Luckily, Hal seems to be running the show now, and he has no personality whatsoever.
Also, the team’s ownership in the ‘50s used to have private eyes tail players to gather information to use against them in salary negotiations.
Like the Red Sox and Cubs, the Yankees have an issue with bandwagon fans, but it’s less pronounced and sudden because they’ve been winning for so long. People may think Yankees fans are assholes, but most Yankees fans have been Yankees fans for a long time, and that counts for something.
The Yankees also lose points for that whole thing where they don’t let you leave your seat during God Bless America. The team is among Major League Baseball’s leaders in charitable contributions, but their totalitarian treatment of their fans erases that good will.
Working in the Yankees’ favor is that the team’s front office, at least since 1973, has never put anything less than maximum effort in fielding a winning team. Yes, the Yankees have massive financial advantages, but they could easily pocket a good deal more profit than they do. Instead, they try to put together the best team they can given their revenues – something that only a handful of teams in the league can say.
25. Milwaukee Brewers
This one’s very simple. Bud Selig, and/or his family, owned this team while he was the goddamn commissioner of baseball. And then he proceeded to lobby for and introduce changes to the game that directly benefitted his team (including allowing the Brewers to move to the National League, which was a coveted switch at the time). The stench of Selig lives on in Milwaukee, and it will take a few more years for it to defuse.
24. New York Mets
The Mets are a mess, and they often seem more worthy of pity than hatred. But don’t let their recent run of injuries, bad luck and poor play dissuade you from unleashing the torrent of ill will upon them that they so richly deserve.
The tentacles of the Expos debacle even extend into New York, as current Mets GM Omar Minaya played a huge role in the devaluing and destruction of the Expos’ franchise, with short-sighted, silly personnel moves (1/2 season of Bartolo Colon for Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips). Now, he’s basically doing the same thing to the Mets. Omar also likes to engage in unprovoked attacks on reporters for trying to do their jobs.
While they weren’t as blatant and evil about it as the Yankees, the Mets also trafficked in shady financing for their new ballpark.
And, the Mets have employed a string of jackasses, wife-beaters, firecracker-throwers and ne’er-do-wells.
23. Kansas City Royals
The Royals were a proud franchise in the ‘70s and ‘80s, playing in heated playoff series with the Yankees, and fielding an exciting team featuring the likes of George Brett, Willie Wilson, Dan Quisenberry and Brett Saberhagen.
Then, David Glass bought the team. He’s a former Wal-mart hotshot exec, which is bad enough, but in the words of Sports Illustrated, Glass is “viewed by many as a stoolpigeon for Major League Baseball, open to suggestions from the league office as to how much to bid for free agents and, most prominently, being one of the loudest voices in opposing the players’ union during the 1994 strike. In the meantime, he has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the revenue-sharing system, yet hasn’t spent much of those funds in the free-agent market.”
Glass has crushed the soul of Royals fandom, and turned Kansas City into a minor-league town.
22. Texas Rangers
George W. Bush. Tom Hicks. ARod’s contract. Enough said.
21. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox are a fascinating cocktail of a prick owner, thug fans and insipid play.
Working against the pale hose:
- Throwing the World Series
- The fact that, after they threw the World Series, their owner sold out his own players to Kenesaw Mountain Landis
- Jerry Reinsdorf: a powerful, influential owner who has used his power for ill more than good
- Ozzie Guillen and “Ozzieball”
- Disco Demolition Night
- The Ligues and their ilk
- The White Sox made the best of a bad situation after New Comiskey Park was rendered outdated almost as soon as it was built, improving the park to the point of tolerability
- It’s kind of cute how much White Sox fans hate the Cubs
- The shorts they wore with their uniforms in the ‘70s
20. Los Angeles Dodgers
The move of the Dodgers from Brooklyn happened more than 50 years ago, yes, but it still stands as one of the worst cases of franchise theft in sports history.
A confluence of factors contributed to Walter O’Malley taking the Dodgers to Los Angeles, including some ill-considered behavior by New York City officials, but if O’Malley had wanted to stay, he could have. If tradition and fans mattered at all to him, he could have stayed. Instead, he bailed, and he convinced the New York Giants to move with him. The statute of limitations is not up on this one just yet.
The Dodgers also lose points for temporarily falling under the control of Rupert Murdoch and Fox. Not only is Murdoch all kinds of evil, Fox’s ownership helped open the doors for corporate ownership of teams, which is almost always bad news for fans.
These days, the Dodgers are just sort of there. They don’t tip the scales much one way or the other, beyond their current owners’ ugly, team-influencing divorce case.
The Dodgers almost make the next group of teams for breaking the race barrier with Jackie Robinson, but I don’t believe altruism was any factor in their motive for doing so.
Group II: Middle of the Road
19. Baltimore Orioles
Peter Angelos. As a lawyer, he’s been on the right side of several cases (anti-asbestos, anti-tobacco), but as owner he’s an incompetent, meddling, Steinbrenner-esque bad guy. He’s consistently overruled trades and free agent signings that could have helped the team, and treated his fans like shit. The only thing saving the Orioles from worse placement on this list is that they’ve never sold naming rights to Camden Yards, which is, frankly, stunning. Angelos has also kept ticket prices down even as his payroll soared.
The legacy of the ballpark itself is something of a mixed bag. It’s a beautiful park, and it helped usher in an era of retro-style parks that are much more appealing that the multi-purpose monstrosities of the ‘60s and ‘70s, but now the retro parks are all beginning to look alike and blend together. You can’t really hold that against Baltimore, though.
Tom Clancy is also part-owner of the Orioles, and that guy is an asshole.
18. San Francisco Giants
The Giants are in this spot largely because of how their front office and fan base treated the Barry Bonds situation. For years and years, in spite of overwhelming evidence that Bonds took steroids and/or HGH, Giants fans lauded him with standing ovations, and the organization dug its head in the sand and pretended there wasn’t a problem. As long as Bonds could put up a .900 OPS, everything was hunky-dory. As soon as Barry’s age and drug abuse caught up to him, though, and he was no longer an All-Star level player, San Francisco completely disavowed themselves of him. If you visit their ballpark now, you’ll find no indication that Bonds, the best or second-best player in franchise history, ever set foot in the Bay Area.
Would every other team and fan base have acted the same way, given similar circumstances? Maybe, but we’ll never know. We know that Cardinals fans cheered McGwire, Yankees fans cheered ARod, Red Sox fans cheered Ortiz. But none of those situations were exactly the same as the Giants and Bonds. What we do know is that the Giants and their fans acted with enormous hypocrisy.
17. Atlanta Braves
Demerits: Calling themselves “America’s Team.” Treating a wife-beater manager like a lovable, cuddly old man. The tomahawk chop. Hick fans.
In their favor: The way they treat their aging veterans (Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, Chipper): always with respect, but never pandering or keeping them on past the point of lost value.
16. Minnesota Twins
The Twins have a lot going for them: continued success despite a small payroll (and, inexplicably, a complete disregard for sabermetrics), a quirky, colorful history, and a beautiful new ballpark.
However: their own owner tried to have the team contracted to pocket a quick buck. Contracted! The Twins! The 1987 and 1991 World Series champions. If Carl Pohlad were still alive, they’d be ranked a lot lower, but they’re still in the family, and can’t be exonerated.
15. Cleveland Indians
Just look at that logo for a second. I’m not the most politically correct person in the world, but that is fucking riDICulous.
Also, there was that time when owner Rachel Phelps intentionally tried to drive the team to a poor record so she could move them to Miami. Or was that Jeffrey Loria? Fuck.
14. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks are a relatively young team, without much history to distinguish them one way or the other; hence their middle of the pack placement in these rankings. Jerry Colangelo is a douche, but he hasn’t owned the team in some time.
The team proper doesn’t really have a culture, per se. Very few players from the past 20 years are going to be remembered primarily as a Diamondback, save for Luis Gonzalez.
The stupid swimming pool in the outfield is fitting a symbol of the Dbacks as anything else – it’s comfortable and unnecessary.
13. Cincinnati Reds
Unlike the Diamondbacks, The Reds have one of the longest histories of any team in baseball. So it’s not surprising that there have been some dark moments. Pete Rose bet on games while a Red. Marge Schott made Hitler-sympathizing statements (and did a lot of other crazy, racist, miserly shit) while a Red.
But the Reds have so much positive tradition that it offsets some of the misdeeds. The baseball season started with a Reds game for nearly 100 years, until Bud Selig fucked up that tradition (the only surprising thing is that he didn’t institute the Brewers as the new official Opening Day team). The introduced night baseball to the world. They used to be the Red Stockings and Red Legs, and they played baseball in fucking 1870, for God’s sake. Cincinnati is an integral part of baseball history despite being a miserable, post-apocalyptic wasteland of a city. That’s gotta count for something. Rooting for the Reds is rooting for a real baseball team, and it grounds you in the game’s past.
More than any other sport, baseball is built on its own history, like those houses on stilts you see near the coastline. And the Reds are one of those stilts, however wobbly they may appear at times.
If you become a Reds fan, you’re likely to experience the full luminosity of baseball’s rich pageant, experiencing highs like the Big Red Machine, and lows like Dusty Baker batting Corey Patterson leadoff – hey, at least you know he won’t clog up the bases.
12. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Ugh. That fucking name. Unfortunately, for the bulk of the last decade, the Angels have existed more as a brand and a marketing scheme than an actual team.
First, Disney bought the Halos as part of their corporate shift into sports (see also: Mighty Ducks, Anaheim), and used them as a synergistic tool to promote their theme parks, movies and other products. Then, Arte Moreno took over, and while he’s been rightly hailed for his commitment to the Latin American community, his willingness to spend on payroll, and his generosity, it’s ridiculous that he tried to position the Angels as an L.A. team to compete with the Dodgers. The Angels have now changed names four times while remaining in the same city. I’m partial to the California Angels, but that’s just because that’s what I grew up with. Anaheim Angels would be fine if that name change hadn’t been a brazen attempt by Disney to tie the team to their Anaheim-based Disneyland.
From a strictly baseball perspective, the Angels would have been a lot of fun to cheer for this decade, though. They played an exciting brand of offense, eschewing on-base percentage in favor of a free-swinging, devil-may-care style. And manager Mike Scioscia always seems to get more out of his talent than he should.
Bonus points for the Rally Monkey, which I personally despise but understand to be a clever fire-up-the-crowd gimmick. Those same bonus points immediately lost for the fucking Thundersticks, though.
11. St. Louis Cardinals
Best fans in baseball? Nope. Most overrated fans in baseball? You bet your bippy.
Cardinals fans are lauded across the sport, and free agents love playing for them, for one simple reason: they cheer for anything. Booing the home team at a sporting event occurs too frequently, and it’s often counterproductive (making the target of the booing perform worse or even skip town), but it’s sometimes called for, sometimes necessary. Cardinals fans just sit and clap at anything wearing white-and-red like trained monkeys. They’re not knowledgeable about the game, and they’re not discerning in their approval. David Eckstein gets as much love as Albert Pujols.
Some people would respect Cards fans for being so positive, so unabashedly enthusiastic. I am not one of those people. I value intelligence over simple-minded groupthink.
The Cardinals also botched their new Stadium – it’s one of the most dull ballparks in baseball.
So yes, St. Louis has a long tradition on which to lean, with a throughline from the Gashouse Gang to Stan Musial to Willie McGee to Pujols. And any time the baseball team is the most important and beloved in a city with three-plus major sports, I’ll give extra credit. But Lord, those fans…
Group III: The (Relatively) Good Guys
10. Toronto Blue Jays
The last Canadian team standing. (Out of two.) The Blue Jays can’t by their nature rank higher than eighth, due to the bylaws of Canadian teams playing an American sport. Just like the Columbus Blue Jackets can’t rank higher than 8th on the Axis of Hockey Evil list, coming soon to Pop Culture Has AIDS. (Kidding! Relax! No more 5,000 word screeds for at least a week, I promise.)
Like the White Sox, the Jays got screwed by the timing of their new ballpark. The Skydome was considered a state-of-the-art wonder when it opened 1989, (OMG! There’s a Hard Rock Café in the outfield!) but it’s already obsolete, and a fairly depressing place to watch a game. The good people of Toronto deserve better, assuming they can be dragged away from watching the Maple Leafs lose in the first round of the playoffs again.
Unfortunately, the Jays are owned by something called the Rogers Blue Jays Baseball Partnership, a division of Rogers Communications. Stunningly, the impersonal nature of a gigantic wireless communications company hasn’t translated to success on the field or community-building off it. The JP Riccardi era went on for so long as to become an insult to fans. The World Series championships of 1992 and 1993 must seem long, long ago to the Blue Jays faithful.
9. Houston Astros
Berkman. Bagwell. Biggio. Nolan Ryan. JR Richard. Mike Scott.
The Astros’ legacy of interesting players, including a lot of guys who were both likable and unique in a baseball sense, gains them entry into our upper tier.
Owner Drayton McLane is a good guy, charity and volunteer-wise (albeit in a Religious Right kind of way), but a terrible owner, baseball-wise. He makes bad GM hires, meddles when he shouldn’t, and has the ‘Stros on the express train to ongoing sub-mediocrity. In a big market like Houston, that’s inexcusable.
The Astros have a history rooted in big oil, but most teams have histories rooted in something untoward.
8. San Diego Padres
These are the only members of the Padres’ Hall of Fame: Tony Gwynn, Davie Winfield, Nate Colbert, Randy Jones, Dick Williams (who managed 4 seasons in San Diego), Jerry Coleman (announcer), Buzz Bavasi (team president), Ray Kroc. That’s it.
People don’t often include the Padres when discussing star-crossed, losing organizations, but that’s essentially what they are. They’ve made two World Series in 41 years, and weren’t competitive in either one. Gwynn is the only All-Star or Hall-of-Fame level player who spent most of his peak years in San Diego. But he was such a class act that he reflects well on the entire franchise, past and present.
By all accounts, Petco Park is one of the best in the game, though it did take an ugly battle over taxes to get it built.
The Padres’ personality borrows liberally from the city in which they reside – pleasant, breezy and uncontroversial.
7. Colorado Rockies
Baseball at altitude: It’s defined the Rockies since their inception, and they’re only just now beginning to move past it. Games in Denver have always had a carnival atmosphere. Watch Dante Bichette hit the ball 450 feet! See if the Rockies can pull out another 11-9 win!
The team has tried a number of strategies to deal with the…um…unique properties of Colorado baseball. The early-day Rocks loaded up on sluggers, which worked until they realized those sluggers couldn’t hit a lick on the road. Then they loaded up on mediocre, overpriced starting pitching, and that didn’t work so well. Now, they’re focusing on their player development system, paying particular attention to toolsy outfielders who can run down fly balls in the gaps. And they’ve got a humidor for baseballs.
As ridiculous as the whole thing is, especially the humidor, the Rockies have never stopped trying to compete and work within their limitations.
6. Detroit Tigers
The Tiger have been around since 1894, and they haven’t done anything as a franchise in that time to warrant inclusion in the bottom ten on our list. That’s perhaps their most impressive achievement, since they also haven’t done all that much to distinguish themselves.
They’ve had their ups and downs over the years, as you’d expect from any team that has been around that long, and the worst dirt you can dig up on them comes from the Ty Cobb era.
Comerica Park is lovely, but stands as testament to the fact that new ballparks don’t impact winning at all, and for the most part don’t impact attendance for more than a couple years.
Current owner Mike Ilitch is more philanthropic than most big-time sports owners (meaning his charity work is actually more than lip service and pocket change). He’s also given money to political candidates ranging from George W. Bush to Hillary Clinton, so I suppose that’s a wash.
The bottom line is that Magnum, PI was a big Tigers fan, so how bad could they be?
5. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies have only made one significant karmic mistake as a franchise: set up shop in Philadelphia. That means they’re cursed with Philadelphians as their fan base.
Other than the violent dopes you’d share a common bond with, the Phillies would be a fun team to cheer on:
- Great players: Richie Ashburn, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard
- A long history
- Fun rivalries
- An announcer more associated with the team than any player: Harry Kalas
- An ownership group content to stay in the background and let others take the credit for the team’s recent run of success
4. Oakland A’s
The Athletics are the most difficult team to rank. The franchise has moved several times, but none of the cities who lost the A’s mourned them for long. Still, the transient nature of the team means that today’s A’s don’t feel remotely connected to Connie Mack, Home Run Baker and Shibe Park.
But the Oakland A’s have a colorful history all their own. Charlie Finley was cheap, and probably insane, but he certainly kept things interesting. And the A’s won three championships under his watch, so at the very least, he delivered more for the fans than most owners ever do. There haven’t been many teams that were as fun as the early-‘70s A’s of Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, and Blue Moon Odom.
The ‘80s brought us Billyball, young Rickey Henderson (perhaps the most exciting, dynamic player to ever play; the Allen Iverson of baseball), and then the Canseco/McGwire/Eck championship team. Finally, with the Aughts came Moneyball, and that magnificent beast, Billy Beane.
So while the A’s may have ushered in the steroid era, they’ve also given us too much exciting baseball to casually dismiss. Just like while Charlie Finley may have dismantled his team out of greed, he also once offered his players bonuses to grow mustaches. That’s a solid owner in my book.
A sports team’s primary purpose is to entertain, and the A’s have succeeded at that aim far more often than not for the past 40 years.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
Faced with many of the same problems as their fellow ‘90s Florida expansion team, the Marlins, the Rays have refused to give in to their early struggles and worked hard to find ways to succeed in their stagnant marketplace. They now have an owner who knows what he’s doing, a sharp young general manager determined to Moneyball his way to a string of contending seasons, and the most exciting team in baseball.
Granted, they only have so many great young players because they were so bad for so long that they collected high draft picks like Mickey Mantle collected blow jobs under the bleachers, but give them credit for this: they picked the perfect time to make their move. They locked up Evan Longoria long-term, raised payroll when necessary and made good personnel moves (trading Delmon Young for Matt Garza, 86-ing Elijah Dukes).
They also do their best to reach out to Tampa and beyond to engage potential fans, even if their ballpark is generally filled with people wearing the visiting team’s jerseys. Such is life as a Major League Florida team.
Those cowbells are fucking annoying though.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates
Apparently, piety and heartbreak go hand in hand. The once-mighty Pirates have not given their fans a reason to even begin dreaming about the post-season since Barry Bonds was skinny. Like Job, Pirates fans are in the midst of enduring a seemingly endless string of patience-trying disasters. Rooting for the Pirates sucks, and has sucked for a long time.
But there’s nothing morally wrong with the Pirates. They’re just inept, not evil. Their owner’s a conservationist. There’s no better place to watch a game in the country. Pittsburgh is an underrated city. Maybe it can’t support big league baseball anymore, but that would be a terrible shame if it’s true.
The Pirates also have history to fall back on: the We are Family, coked-out Dave Parker years, the stunning 1960 World Series upset, the early-‘90s near misses, Honus Wagner and the Waners.
Being a Pirates fan may not be easy, but it’s as noble as baseball fandom gets (read: still not very noble).
1. Seattle Mariners
Well, like the Blue Jays and Braves, the Mariners are under corporate ownership beyond the time when it was fashionable – but they’re owned by Nintendo, which is kind of awesome. And Nintendo has shown much more of a desire to win than other corporate sports owners. They also have a vested interest in marketing to Japan and the rest of Asia, which not only gives the Mariners a unique personality (and one well suited to their location), but has led to the Ichiro era, a fun and fascinating time in team history.
Like the Rays, the Mariners shrugged off early expansion-related struggles, and eventually treated fans to Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez as the amazing Ichiro himself, all in their primes.
Combined with passionate fans and a jewel of a ballpark, Seattle is our pick for least evil franchise in baseball. Congratulations, Mariners! It doesn’t get any better than this.