Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Today, the Wall Street Journal published "The Major League Baseball Hateability Index", which is a purportedly scientific study about who the most hateable team in the 2014 Major League Baseball playoffs is. Apparently last year the title was won by the Los Angeles Dodgers and this year’s was won by the St. Louis Cardinals. Hey, the Cardinals! I know them!

Anyway, Deadspin later picked up a story about it, which added to the bona fides of the story, since Deadspin is not a website that would simply post something primarily for the sake of agitating Cardinals fans as a means to inflate page views with a little help from self-loathing.

Now, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really care how hated the Cardinals are. It’s not like I’m facing any kind of discrimination because of it. But I would like to know whether the Wall Street Journal is doing its due diligence. Obviously, there isn’t a whole lot else WSJ could be covering right now—businesses and the stock market are both closed until the end of the playoffs, after all—but they still have an obligation to cover it well. And thus I’m going to run down the chart, which is posted below.

Pennants won in the past 10 years: This is where the Cardinals take the cake. If you remove this ONE category, the Dodgers win rather easily, 10.8 to 8.7 (since these measures matter so much and merely hearing the numbers provide self-evident context and all). Frankly, it’s a fair measure. If anything, it should weigh more heavily, but it’s not like people would be hating on the dynastic Colorado Rockies if they made the playoffs more than the Los Angeles Dodgers. Anyway, not a lot to be offended about here as a Cardinals fan. It’s basically a reminder that the team has been, like, unfairly good for the last decade. I don’t disagree. I’m not going to make any excuses for it. I grew up 20 minutes away from Busch Stadium—what was I supposed to do, root for the Montreal Expos because it’d be the edgy thing to do? Haters gonna hate.

Payroll (in multiples of $100 million): This is about right. I do think there are some diminishing returns—perception of the Pirates or Royals as plucky upstarts is further below the Cardinals than the Cardinals are below the Nationals, for instance. But okay.

Players with $100M-plus contracts: Andrew McCutchen does not count as one because he signed an extension which was highly influenced by his arbitration clock. Mike Trout only counts as one because he signed an extension—would the Angels be more likable had they let him play for the league minimum? Adam Wainwright’s contract is worth $97.5 million so therefore it doesn’t count but had he been given Ty Wigginton’s contract value as a goodwill bonus, he would count. I’m not saying they don’t have the right idea but there are too many variables which sway this measure.

Players suspended for PEDs: The World Series MVP last year was David Ortiz. If anything, this should help teams.

Opposing batters plunked (in multiples of 50): Aside from the Pirates, all nine teams are 0.4, 0.5, or 0.6. I…I don’t have a comment here.

Excessive beards: I mean, we don’t even know that Jason Motte’s going to make the postseason roster, so let’s hold our horses here. Also, as somebody who has a soft spot for 2010 Brian Wilson’s beard, I resent this whole category. Though his 2014 beard is objectively terrible. I’ll give everybody that.

Do fans invade other teams’ ballparks? YUP.

Are fans routinely labeled ‘best in baseball’? Them’s the breaks when the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs don’t make the playoffs, I suppose. Though I do think the Giants should get half a point or so here. People seem to think highly of their fans. The thing is, I’m not offended by this category and I’m not sure why anybody is. It’s obnoxious and haughty when fans declare themselves the best fans in baseball, absolutely, but the Wall Street Journal said it. There’s nothing inherently bad about such a label. Having seen Big Fan, I’m not super into the idea of treating intense sporting passion as a badge of honor but I’m not going to spend that much time or energy trying to refute it, either.

Does team refer to fan base as a ‘Nation’? This is a fair criticism. This is stupid and I hate it.

Sports Illustrated covers in 2014: According to the Wall Street Journal, a printed periodical apparently has a big impact on swaying public opinion in 2014. So there’s that.


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