I was having a conversation with some people the other day about the state of the Pirates. As is usually the case whenever I talk about the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bob Nutting came under fire. "What they need is a new ownership group. Someone that cares. Someone that is going to spend money. "
I reminded this person of the record amount the Pirates spent on the draft this season, and their willingness to take more risks and go after higher-upside players in recent drafts after shying away from such activities in seasons past.
The guy snickered and said it was just a smoke-screen. Of course, nobody trusts Nutting, or for that matter, team president Frank Coonelly or general manager Neal Huntington. After so many PR flubs in recent years, maybe it's understandable.
However, this notion of bringing in a new owner who will "spend money" has always made me laugh out-loud. People have been clamoring for a Mark Cuban-type (or Mark Cuban himself) to ride in on a white horse and save the day.
It's believed that a risk-taking, maverick owner who is willing to spend boat-loads of money is what will cure the Pirates failures, and you know what? It just might work..........for a year or two.
Mark Cuban is a billionaire many times over, and people don't get to be worth that kind of money by throwing away millions of dollars on a bad-investment, and that's exactly what any new owner would be doing if he or she purchased a small-market team like the Pittsburgh Pirates and tried to compete on the same-level as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
What would happen is Cuban would try to win for a few years (maybe even successfully) and then realize that it's not smart business to keep spending so much money out of his own pocket when he's not generating the kind of revenue that would even allow him to break-even.
As most people know, Major League Baseball is the only major professional sport in this country without a salary cap. Large-market teams will always have an inherent advantage because they're going to have a larger local television/radio deal.
Without a cap, it's damn-near impossible to compete with the Yankees, Red Sox, or even Cubs for big-time free agents when they can offer them the moon.
When people criticized the Nutting group when it was leaked that they made $35,000,000 over a course of five or six years, I, again, had to laugh. People were acting as if the Pirates should have used that money to go out and make a splash in free agency. Who were they going to sign? It's not like they made that much in one year, it took over half-a-decade to make that kind of profit. Hell, these days, the top guys are getting $15,000,000 in one year.
$35,000,000 over five years comes out to $7,000,000 a year. For that kind of money, you might be able to get a Jeromy Burnitz or Matt Morris. We all remember what studs those guys were.
I think it's fairly obvious where the Pirates ownership group has been investing that profit.
Pedro Alvarez, Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie, and this year, Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell. Huge deals for young, unproven players with tremendous upside. They're doing exactly what a small-market team should be doing in-order to rebuild their system and stock it with talent for years to come.
2011 has been a glimpse into the future for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It's kind of easy to forget how inexperienced guys like Anderw Mccutchen, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez really are
And Alex Presley, Josh Harrison and Chase d'arnaud are prime examples of the new-found depth within the organization.
There is great hope for the future. On the pitching side, the team has found a bona fide closer in Joel Hanrahan to go along with a promising, young starting staff. I think we've only touched the surface for pitchers like Charlie Morton and James Mcdonald.
Jeff Karstens has come down to earth a little bit but has shown that he can be at least be a serviceable fourth or fifth starter. Before the year started, Karstens was barely on anyone's radar, but now, he's another cog for the future.
And most importantly, the Pirates have found themselves a legit Major League manager in one Clint Hurdle. He has made the team believe in itself, once again. He's made Pirates fans believe, once again.
The Pirates season isn't going to finish like we all hoped it would a month ago, but it's at least shown us that the organization is heading in the right direction.
This isn't to say that I think Bob Nutting is on par with Dan Rooney, but he's at least put a staff in-place capable of executing the small-market plan.
Why would you want a Mark Cuban to come in and hot-shot the future for a short-term fix?