Ranking the best and worst owners in the majors
Posted: Monday July 23, 2007 11:47AM; Updated: Monday July 23, 2007 4:21PM
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Fans of a team with a good owner should feel blessed. The owner spends to win, he hires good people, he leaves the baseball decisions to the experts and he may actually care about fans. But fans of a team with a bad owner are royally you-know-what. A bad GM, a bad manager or a bad pitcher or hitter can be replaced; a bad owner may never leave.
Sports Illustrated recently polled 464 major-league players, and they had their say about who the best and worst owners are. Here's my take:
1. Arte Moreno, L.A. Angels of Anaheim: He wants to win so badly that you can see it from 3,000 miles. While he didn't live up to his promise to do something "major'' last winter (unless you count Gary Matthews Jr. as major), he has delivered on just about every other promise. He's smart, he's personable, he's accountable and he's genuinely interested in his fans, who are repaying him by making Angel Stadium the happiest place in Anaheim (and technically, it is in Anaheim).
2. John Henry, Boston Red Sox: The financial genius seems to know his baseball, too. He helped bring the first World Series title to Boston in 86 years, thanks to wise hiring and spending. The top of the front-office hierarchy has shown a few fractures (GM Theo Epstein and club president Larry Lucchino, for instance, don't always agree) but Henry has managed to stay above the fray.
3. Mike Ilitch, Detroit Tigers: Hungry to win, he went against the recommendations of his baseball people to give a five-year deal to Magglio Ordonez, who just may win the AL MVP. He also pressed hard to sign both Ivan Rodriguez and Kenny Rogers, two more keys to the Tigers' remarkable turnaround. Detroit isn't Baseballtown USA yet, but he's trying.
4. George Steinbrenner, New York Yankees: At 77 he's not the same larger-than-life character he used to be. For decades he set the standard for overbearing owners (side note: I agree with what he told Newsday through publicist Howard Rubenstein -- that Oliver Platt, who plays him in The Bronx is Burning, doesn't have it quite right; the TV Steinbrenner seems to be affecting a Chicago accent Steinbrenner, an Ohio native and Florida resident, doesn't have). While Steinbrenner's not the great public presence he once was (and not quite as overbearing), he still gives his team a pretty fair chance to win; even in the year they supposedly became cost-conscious, the Yankees' payroll approaches $200 million. He has won six rings, and while a seventh might be tough this year, the team continues to be a financial grand slam. The YES Network is a money machine, and the new Yankee Stadium is another for the man who once paid about $10 million for a team that's now easily worth more than a billion.
5. Fred Wilpon, New York Mets: A true gentleman, he has hired good people and his team is better than it has been (and maybe even better than the Yankees). The Mets also have a new network and a beautiful new stadium rising behind the old, dusty, worn-out dump known as Shea. Wilpon also gets bonus points for hard-line integrity (Remember 1993, when, after Vince Coleman threw a firecracker near a child outside Dodger Stadium, Wilpon declared Coleman would never play for his team again?)
6. Peter Magowan, San Francisco Giants: He built his own stadium, and whether you call it Pac Bell Park or AT&T Stadium, it's a beauty. Signing Barry Bonds (the first time) was a great move, and until the past few years they've been as consistent a winner as almost anyone but the Cardinals in the NL. He's very accountable and honest for a rich guy.