It has been well documented the debacle that has been the Pittsburgh Pirates offseason. It has been all about owner Robert “Bob” Nutting’s “mishandling” of talent and claims of being a “penny pincher”…”cheap”…”greedy”- the list goes on and on. It actually all started last offseason with the mishandling of Pittsburgh Pirates’ All-Star and fan favorite Andrew McCutchen by openly shopping him on the trade market, and then basically demoting him to right field. Not to mention, Jung-ho Kang’s DUI arrest and him not being available to play all last season, or if ever again for that matter. Plus, only few weeks into the season, Starling Marte gets suspended 80 games for PED’s, and he was McCutchen’s replacement in center field.
As you could guess, the Pirates’ 2017 did not go well, and they finished well out of the division lead with a record of 75-87. This offseason, it didn’t take long for Bob Nutting to make news once again when he traded All-Star, pitching Rotation Ace, and another fan favorite Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros for 4 young “prospects”. None are well known unless you are a serious Houston Astros Fan, a Major League Scout or a Professional reported covering the MLB.
What Pirates fans were mainly upset about with this Cole trade is the weeks leading up to it. There were rumors that were later confirmed that the Yankees were interested in making a trade for Cole, which would have included one of the Yankees’ top prospects Clint Frazier. When Pirates fans heard this they were obviously enraged and couldn’t figure out why Nutting would not have pulled the trigger on that deal. Only a few days later, Nutting made a move that may have sealed his fate in Pittsburgh by trading McCutchen to the Giants.
Once again, not only did the Pirates seemingly get nothing in return, the Pirates are going to pay part of McCutchen’s 2018 salary. Once this news broke, there was immediate public outrage. Fans were starting social media petitions (#PiratesPetition), calling for boycotts, local clothing companies started to print shirts that stated “Impeach Nutting ‘18” (Gold Bridge Apparel). However it just didn’t end there, as well known and respected sports reporter John Steigerwald called Bob Nutting “Cheap”, and the Pirates a “Joke” in an article he published.
Scott Boras, who is Gerrit Cole’s agent, stated the Pirates are sitting on an “economic volcano”. It has gotten to the point to where MLB couldn’t avoid what was happening in Pittsburgh any longer, especially after the MLBPA (Major League Baseball Players Association) raised concerns over the way the Pirates were spending revenue sharing money. However, after looking into it, the MLB stated they have no concerns with the way the Pirates are handling the money. Now we all know, no matter what names you call greedy people, or say how bad of a job they are doing, it won’t affect them one bit. However, we also all know that if you truly want to hurt a greedy person, you have to hit them in their wallet to make an impact. It appears that is underway in Pittsburgh. After 7 straight years of increasing ticket sales, ticket sales are now starting to plummet, which 2017 was the second straight year sales has went down and so far 2018 has seen more season ticket holders not renew their membership, and no one is buying single game tickets, or partial season ticket plans.
Now, companies are joining in on the Pirates boycott too, including Weirton Medical Center out of West Virginia, who is pulling full page adds from 3 Ogden Newspapers in which Nutting is the CEO of. Weirton Medical Center didn’t hold back any punches when asked what the reasoning was of pulling the ads: “We are doing this not to hurt our friends and colleagues working at these newspapers, but to send a message to the Nutting family that we believe in community”…”We hope this gesture reminds you of the importance of community. Legions of Pirates fans may not own the ball club, but we certainly feel a sense of ownership too.”
Now I’m sure that move will not make Nutting broke, but, however, it does send a clear message. Will any of this pessimism continue to grow and eventually force Nutting out, or will it just sizzle down and be nothing but a footnote in a long, disappointing, torturous Nutting ownership era? Only time can tell.
By: David Kimball