Search for a CEO: New boss will be baseball person

Business side in good shape, says Nutting, as hunt takes shape and picks up speed


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The Pirates' next chief executive officer likely will be a baseball person, possibly with current or recent small-revenue franchise experience. He perhaps will be named before this season ends because the formal interview process will begin fairly soon, if it already hasn't.

The process was necessitated by current CEO Kevin McClatchy's announcement July 6 that he will step down after this season.

"One of the reasons we wanted to make the announcement when we did was to give the process plenty of time to unfold," said Bob Nutting, the team's chairman of the board.

That meant Nutting and McClatchy theoretically could have begun the process by talking to baseball people at the All-Star Game in San Francisco the next week.

It seems, however, the process likely began before that -- at least in a philosophical sense. The All-Star Game and the owners meetings in Toronto served as venues to finalize the process.

"What I've really tried to do," Nutting said, "is focus on the process itself to make sure that I had a chance to understand alternative structures -- what's been effective for other teams and what kinds of options are there as well as getting a good assessment of who candidates are, who's inside baseball, what other skill-sets might be most helpful and most important."

Nutting seems to have decided what kind of person will work best for the Pirates.

"It is a critically important hire," Nutting said as the Pirates careen toward a 15th consecutive losing season. "It's one I really believe we need to get right. Not only do we have to have somebody who understands the situation in Pittsburgh -- understand what the team needs -- but I also have to have confidence that they have sufficient vision and capability to be able to step in and really have an impact where we need to see improvement and change.

"I think what I've learned and decided is, we want to have a single person who will be an overall team president with full responsibility for the club. My sense is that [with] our business-side operations we have a very solid group of executives running those operations right now. I have an awful lot of faith in them. They've done a fantastic job this year.

"So the area where I'm frustrated, the fans are frustrated, everybody's frustrated, the organization's frustrated has been specifically in the on-field performance, and I would think that obviously -- clearly -- is going to be where anyone needs to focus their efforts."

Which indicates a baseball person who has had experience with a small-revenue team.

"I think we need someone who understands the current realities of baseball in Pittsburgh," Nutting said. "We need someone who understands the landscape of major-league baseball clearly, whether that means they come from a team background or the commissioner's office."

Nutting won't get into specifics about names of candidates, but the names of current St. Louis Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty and former Montreal and Boston general manager Dan Duquette have surfaced recently.

Nutting has had at least informal discussions with many people about the Pirates' position. And he has a list of people he will interview formally in the next few weeks.

"Certainly I've talked to people who are potential candidates," he said. "There are several candidates we've had a number of discussions with. Some we've had one or two.

"It's a very desirable job. There are loads of people who want to do it -- loads of frankly very well-qualified candidates. But it's not going to be a single interview or a single discussion with any candidate so much as a series of discussions we're going to have with a number of people. We have not had any final, formal interviews with anybody."

It's unlikely Nutting's list will grow.

"I'd be surprised if a name came out of the blue tomorrow, but I also don't want to close the door," he said.

One of the issues that would seem paramount would be the status of general manager Dave Littlefield, who has one year left on his contract.

Nutting repeated he has not changed his stance that any announcement about Littlefield -- and manager Jim Tracy, whose contract also has a year to run -- would be made when the season ends.

A CEO announcement, however, could be made before the season ends.

"The timing is open," Nutting said. "It probably depends on who the person is. [But] we'd like to do it at the end of the season. Six more weeks. I don't see us radically varying from that time frame."

So, ideally, the Pirates would have a news conference announcing the new CEO the Monday after the final game?

"Don't know," Nutting said. "I think for a variety of reasons that's hard to predict."

Perhaps because the new CEO would come from a team that reaches baseball's postseason?

"It's certainly possible," Nutting said.


Paul Meyer can be reached at pmeyer@post-gazette.com .


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