There was a fascinating piece on TribLive.com Tuesday written by Jeff Oliver. The article’s main focus was on comments made by former Pittsburgh Pirates minority owner, Jay Lustig, about current Pirates owner, Bob Nutting. Lustig had been a minority owner of the Pirates for close to two decades.
Lustig stated in the Oliver piece that Nutting has done a good job in “cleaning up the franchise’s finances.” However, he also said that Nutting is “too rational” to provide Pittsburgh with a winning baseball team.
“If you are a small-market franchise, if you want to win, you have to be willing to lose money. People say he is a cheap owner, but nothing is further from the truth. He allocates the money properly. He wants to make enough money to keep us from going into the red. He is running the business rationally, trying to make money. No small-market teams that win make money.”
Those were comments made by Lustig regarding Nutting. Lustig said that the Nutting family currently owns about 80 percent of the Pirates franchise, and that he “got out” of the franchise because after years of not winning, Nutting refused to sell the franchise.
“Whatever we made in profit went back into the franchise. The problem is, as a small-market franchise, the New York Yankees have $200 million more in television revenues over what we do. The Los Angeles Dodgers are fielding a team with a $250 million payroll, while ours is ($79.5 million). It’s not a level playing field. The only level playing field is the field itself.”
The quote from Lustig that stuck out to me the most was this:
“But Bob Nutting told me something that his grandfather told his father and his father told him. And that’s when the Nuttings own something, they own it forever.”
That previous quote serves as a metaphorical gut-punch to baseball fans in Pittsburgh. They will have to put up with mediocrity for many more years to come. Nutting wants to win, but he isn’t willing to lose money in order to do that. Nutting will not sell the team, he wants it to be kept in the family. Think what you want, Pirates fans, but nothing is changing. The Pirates will continue to build through the draft and international signings. The Pirates will never be “all-in” to winning, because they are not willing to spend more money than the franchise is bringing in from profits.