Spring training for the Pittsburgh Pirates has begun. The Pirates have docked their ship of hope and now are looking at an ancient fading treasure map: trying desperately to find a hidden treasure chest filled with promising young, unproven and questionable talent, along with a stabilizing stash of veteran talent. Have the Pirates hit upon a secret with their bargain basement player acquisition approach? Have they stumbled upon the motherlode or are they destined to dig up a chest filled with fool’s gold?
Just looking at the MLB NL Central and according to Spotrac, the Chicago Cubs shelled out $206 million to pay their squad for the upcoming year. The St. Louis Cardinals also had some fairly deep pockets as well kicking up $148 million. The Milwaukee Brewers spent $117 million, a bit frugal compared with the Cubs. The Cincinnati Reds coughed up 95 million “duckets” to oil the fears of “the big red machine.” The Pittsburgh Pirates as usual parted with 57 million “dead presidents.”
KDKA’s Rich Walsh recently chatted with Pirates owner Bob Nutting. Mr. Nutting offered some insight into the Pirates 2019 season. The following is an excerpt from that interview.
Walsh expressed the fact that a few fans may have been frustrated (over the Pirates’ lack of effort to upgrade the team to be a bit more competitive in 2019.) “I really respect and appreciate the concerns that the fans have,” Nutting said. “But I also want them to know that internally, we believe we are moving forward on a good path. There is a lot to be excited about in 2019.” With the Bucs’ payroll currently sitting at second-lowest in the league, Nutting says that they will not worry about the dollar amount and instead make moves they deem necessary, “no matter what the cost.”
“Neal (Huntington) has the flexibility, will continue to, and needs to have the flexibility to opportunistically, strategically and intelligently add to the team where he can. I think we need to be nimble and opportunistic.”
Nutting was critical of the current financial system with Major League Baseball in terms of team salaries. “There’s no question that the economic system doesn’t create a level playing field now.”
As far as I am concerned, that is whining, whining and whining all the way to the bank. Is the Pirates current ownership making a zealous enough effort to help level the economic playing field for themselves? There is a distinct difference between spinners and spenders. If the Pirates ownership were just as aggressive spending as they are marketing, they would compete for a World Series title, annually.
Let’s hit rewind for a moment. The Pirates’ previous owner, John. W. Galbreath, paid the money that was necessary to field and maintain an ultra-competitive team. There were not many bobblehead nights, T-shirt giveaways or fireworks nights needed during that era of ownership. These promotional and marketing gimmicks were not necessary because the Pirate teams that were fielded during the tenure of the Galbreaths were almost always going to be at the very least, competitive. Now to be fair to Mr. Nutting, free agency was not running amuck oftentimes overpaying a few undeserving players based on false narratives and overvalue. Mr. Galbreath also understood from his experience as a racehorse owner that the mule that plowed the field to plant and grow the oats to feed his thoroughbreds could not be placed in the starting gate to compete in a horse race.
The Pirates have a general manager and field manager that are above average. If ownership would dig just a little deeper into those bottomless pockets, the team, fans, the city and the region just might have a chance to cheer for a winner.
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