Pirates, Steelers: Not cheap

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The topic of ‘cheap owners’ is a common one on this site and elsewhere on the Internet and in print and broadcast media. But not always what you might think.

At least twice in the past week, the Steelers, surprisingly, have been accused on this site of being cheap -- once, if you can believe this, for a failure to be willing to pay for hotel rooms.

Anyone accusing the Steelers of being cheap obviously has just walked in from living on Mars for the past 40 years. If there is a criticism of Steelers ownership in recent years it has been of reckless spending against the salary cap and not of being cheap.

The Pirates, of course, are another matter. It is not a few who have called owner Bob Nutting cheap, but many. A picture of Nutting is, some might say, is side-by-side with the dictionary definition of ‘cheap.’

But the case can be made that the Pirates are no less cheap than the Steelers.

For example, name some quality players the Pirates have allowed to leave in the past few years that would compare to the Steelers decision not to keep wide receiver Mike Wallace and cornerback Keenan Lewis?

The Pirates are forever criticized for being cheap because their payroll is among the lowest in MLB. To counter that argument, and you might have heard this before, consider this:

In order to have high payroll, a team must first have players worthy of high salaries.

The Pirates payroll is low because they haven’t had many good players. If you want to blame that on management/ownership, feel free. But the absence of good players has not been because of an absence of spending.

For years, the Pirates tried to throw money at players not worthy of it -- Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa, Matt Morris, Lyle Overbay, to name a few. They also were turned down by other players they attempted to heavily pay, such as Edwin Jackson. That is the opposite of being cheap.

The Pirates took a ton of grief and a barrage of name-calling -- cheap! cheap! cheap! -- when general manager Neal Huntington traded away the immortal 2008 team. That team average 95 losses for the three previous seasons. Why would anyone want to keep it together?

To cut to the details:

* Jason Bay: He had 1 1/3 good seasons after being traded and then became an abysmal failure.

* Xavier Nady: Never did anything

* Jack Wilson: Never did anything

* Freddy Sanchez: One decent season, a .739 OPS, and then nothing.

* Nate McLouth: A failure until this year, when he had moderate success.

* Ronny Paulino: Nothing

* John Grabow: Next to nothing

* Tom Gorzelanny: A bit more than nothing.

* Paul Maholm and Ryan Doumit: Allowed to walk when their club option years were ridiculously overpriced.

* Adam LaRoche, Javier Lopez: Two players who have gone to extended success since leaving the Pirates. In the case of LaRoche, he was a free agent who would not likely have re-signed with the Pirates.

There is, of course, one giant exception -- Jose Bautista. The Pirates made a mistake with Bautista, and it was based partially on finances. But no one expected him to have the level of success he’s had.

The Pirates can be accused of not getting enough in return for the players they traded but not of being cheap for making those trades. History tells us that getting rid of the those players -- except Bautista and Lopez -- was the right thing to do.

The Pirates were not cheap when they traded away the 95-loss team of 2008. They were smart. You can fault them on the return, but not on the decision to move those players.

Since then, the Pirates have kept most of their good players and added some more.

The Pirates are a small-revenue team and thus a small-spending team. That’s sound business and prudent spending -- not being cheap.

First Published November 8, 2013 12:37 AM

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