This is an article about the Pittsburgh Pirates. It feels odd to write about the Pirates at this point. It shouldn’t be odd to write about a Major League Baseball team, that’s what I get paid to do after all. What makes writing about the Pirates so damn odd is that there is a legitimate argument to be made that they aren’t a major league caliber team anymore. That’s not something that should have to be said about the Pirates, a once-proud organization that has now been reduced to jokes and derision.
How did the Pirates get to this particular place in their history? The answer resides with one name and one name alone, Bob Nutting. Nutting has been in place as principal owner of the Pirates since 2007. Outside of one brief foray into respectability that lasted from 2013-2015 (with a barely above .500 2018 thrown into the mix) Nutting has fielded a losing Pirates team every single season.
That in and of itself isn’t worthy of an article or scorn. Throughout MLB history teams have been losers for long stretches. In most cases that was due to utter futility, or in the case of the present-day Seattle Mariners it’s probably an act of one vengeful god or another. Nutting’s Pirates squad manages to stand out because of the complete and utter lack of hope.
There are no amazing prospects coming down the pipeline. Nutting continues to cry poor year after year and that eliminates any chance of spending to improve the team. The final nail in the Nutting coffin should have been a series of quotes provided by new Pirates acquisitions this offseason. Jarrod Dyson and a few others offered up that they weren’t happy to be with the Pirates. To paraphrase the quotes, “I have to play somewhere, right?” Nutting has turned the team of Roberto Clemente, Dave Parker, Barry Bonds, and Andrew McCutchen into a last resort for free agents willing to sign on the cheap just to continue playing baseball.
There are some who would lay the blame at the feet of former general manager Neal Huntington or ex-manager Clint Hurdle. They did not have good tenures with the team, at least not in totality. The key difference between then and Nutting is that ultimately Nutting has final say over all matters having to do with the team. This includes everything from who manages the team to the disastrous decision to gut Legacy Park, home to a collection of Negro League statues, in 2015. At every turn, Nutting has failed Pirates fans, the people of Pittsburgh, and his own players.
There’s one reality at play that is important to remember, Nutting isn’t going anywhere. For all his protestations to the contrary, we’ve seen enough of MLB’s financials and sales of MLB teams in recent years to know that Nutting is raking in the cash like every other MLB owner. Some of those owners are also struggling to put winning teams on the field. They haven’t sunk to the depths of Nutting though.
Bob Nutting has taken hope away from a town that loves its baseball and there’s no sign of that hope returning. As long as he keeps turning a profit Nutting couldn’t care less about hope or Pirates fans. The proof is in the pudding, or should I say the losing and the minuscule operating costs Nutting has made his team function under. Nutting has given the Pirates a new legacy, that of a team that most people have forgotten is a big-league ball club. I’m sure every Pirates fan is appreciative of their new place in the baseball landscape.