The Wall Street Journal raised a lot of eyebrows this week when it reported that research by the Nielsen ratings company showed Cleveland, not the Yankees, was the most hated team in baseball. In fact, according to the Journal, Nielsen's analysis showed the Yankees were only the fifth-most despised team, falling behind Cleveland, the Red Sox, Reds and Astros in the hate ratings.
It sounded ludicrous. Cleveland is the most hated team in baseball? Why would that be? It's not like Charlie Sheen actually plays for them. The only possible explanation for Cleveland generating that much hatred (outside of Chief Wahoo) would be that the team failed to offer CC Sabathia an adequate contract extension in 2008, instead trading him to Milwaukee, thereby setting up his eventual signing with the Yankees and helping them to their World Series victory last fall.
And Houston as the fourth most hated team in baseball? Seriously, the Astros? To paraphrase Bogie to Peter Lorre in "Casablanca,'' baseball fans wouldn't despise the Astros even if they gave them any thought at all. Perhaps they just hated Astroturf, not the Astros.
But it turns out Cleveland and the Astros are not hated (at least not outside of their own cities). The Journal simply misinterpreted the analysis. A Nielsen rep told the New York Daily News that its rankings were based merely on positive-and-negative feelings generated by teams from their performances the first three weeks of the season. They were not meant to show whether at team was most-hated or most-liked overall. Which explains why teams off to bad or disappointing starts ranked poorly, as well as the Yankees whose lofty standards require that anything short of a ticker-tape parade by May is considered disappointing by their fans.
So relax. Cleveland is not baseball's Bin Laden. And Nielsen ratings haven't been rendered so suspect that Jay Leno's move to prime time may actually have been the most-watched TV show in America.
(Although, I do totally believe Boston clocking in as the No. 2 most hated team.)