Pirates should be promising change, not more of same
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Got excited the other day when word came down that the Pirates were making an ownership change.
Could it really be true, after all these years, that the Nuttings and Kevin McClatchy were going to free us from our misery by putting the team up for sale?
Alas, there will be no dancing in the city's streets anytime soon to rival the Steelers' Super Bowl celebration of a year ago.
"There's really no change in how we're doing business," Bob Nutting said.
Swell. Just swell.
Just what we need from the Pirates.
More of the same.
I mean, really, haven't we suffered enough?
It's hard to say what was more offensive about the coming-out party the Pirates threw Friday for Nutting when it was announced that he was officially taking over as principal owner from McClatchy even though he has been calling the shots for a while now.
Was it the sickening way Nutting and McClatchy patted each other on the back for their good work with the franchise?
We pause here to ask the pertinent question:
Uh, what good work?
Last time I checked, the Pirates were considered a joke, not just by those of us here who have experienced the pain, up close and personal, of their 14 consecutive losing seasons, but by people all across the sports world who recognize a laughable franchise when they see one.
Or was it the umbrage Nutting expressed -- honest to goodness -- with those who have had the audacity to question his and his family's commitment to winning that was so annoying?
"Completely inappropriate," he called it.
Please, don't be blinded by the bobblehead nights, the wonderful SkyBlast shows or the absolute beauty of PNC Park.
Don't ever stop questioning the commitment of a franchise that loses year after year after year. The Pirates' 14-year run of futility is the longest current streak of any team in the four major sports.
Don't ever stop questioning the commitment of a franchise that hasn't done a single thing in the offseason to get better even while its division rivals are out there trying, at least, to improve. The Chicago Cubs added Alfonso Soriano, the Houston Astros Carlos Lee, the Milwaukee Brewers Jeff Suppan. Who have the Pirates added? Jose Hernandez?
Don't ever stop questioning the commitment of a franchise that hasn't spent one dime on its major-league product at a time when baseball has labor peace and is awash in money because of its new $3 billion television contract, Internet and international revenue and revenue sharing. Nutting said he, McClatchy and the Pirates' other owners aren't pocketing their profits. Do you believe him? I don't, but, hey, who knows? Crazier things are true. Maybe the money really is going toward paying off the enormous debt that the franchise ran up with McClatchy in charge. Maybe it's going toward finding players in Latin America and Asia. Maybe it's going to the minor leagues for player development ...
That leads us to another pertinent question:
Are the players in the Pirates' minor-league system ever going to develop? In our lifetime, I mean?
It's hard to believe the Pirates aren't the worst-run team in sports. I know, there are some bad ownership groups out there. The Oakland Raiders come to mind. The Detroit Lions. The Arizona Cardinals. (Good luck, Ken Whisenhunt.) The New York Knicks. The Kansas City Royals.
But the Pirates' ownership has to be at the top of the list when it comes to ineptitude.
It's not just all of the losing.
It's the way the franchise failed to capitalize on its move into PNC Park in 2001, losing 100 games that first season and then raising ticket prices for '02. Only the Pirates could move into a terrific new facility and lose $30 million in the first three seasons.
It's also the way the franchise blew another big chance last summer after Major League Baseball, presumably feeling sorry for McClatchy and showing him a little pity, awarded Pittsburgh an All-Star Game it really didn't deserve. The Pirates dragged a 30-60 record into the All-Star break. So much for building momentum.
Speaking of arrogance, what other team with that kind of miserable track record of failure would call a news briefing to announce it wasn't going to make changes to how it does business?
Like that's supposed to make us feel better?
It's all too easy, unfortunately, to take Nutting at his word about no changes. It's almost impossible to believe there will be any significant change unless the team is sold.
We can only hope that sale happens soon.
You know, like in our lifetime.
First Published January 16, 2007 12:00 am