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It’s Different When It’s Your Own

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MLB: MAY 07 Athletics at Pirates
You could at least wear a Pirates cap, Bob.
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Stop me if you’ve heard this stuff before:

And what are the cheap bastards who own the team doing? Giving away their best players and signing mediocre journeymen so that they can save a bunch of money.

“The league itself does not make a lot of cash. I think there is a perception that we hoard cash and we take money out and it’s all sitting in a pile we’ve collected over the years. Well, it isn’t. Because no one anticipated a pandemic. No one expects to have to draw down on the reserves from the past. Every team has to figure out a way to plug the hole.”

The team (has) garnered a whopping zero playoff series victories since (owner) became the owner. They haven’t won a playoff series in this century. Under the owner’s watch, the team (has) four winning seasons. This is unacceptable.

I expect them to outspend teams that can’t draw fans into games, such as the Tampa Bay Rays, and I don’t expect them to outspend teams that own their own cable network, such as the New York Yankees.

Ah, just more Pirates fans moaning about Bob Nutting and Bob Nutting making excuses, right?

Wrong.

The first quote, which is about the Milwaukee Brewers’ owner Mark Attanasio, comes from a Madison, Wisconsin-based blog called Isthmus. The second quote is from Tom Ricketts, part of the family who owns the Chicago Cubs, and it made the rounds when MLB was still deciding whether or not there would be a 2020 season. The third comes from a Cincinnati Reds blog called Blog Red Machine. The last comes from St. Louis Bullpen, a Cardinals blog.

Long before I moved to Pittsburgh, I’d heard the complaints about Bob Nutting. What I didn’t understand, however, is why he got singled out for being cheap and trading away stars and not being competitive when that’s standard operating procedure for a lot of MLB owners. What provoked this particular hatred?

Apparently, living in Pittsburgh.

More than any other American city—any world city—Pittsburgh is a sports town. Not only that, but it’s a sports town where its team owners are often intimately involved with the day-to-day operations. The Rooney family has owned and run the Steelers since the team’s 1933 creation. Mario Lemieux, already a hero on the ice, cemented his legend when he almost singlehandedly saved the Penguins.

Then there’s Bob Nutting, the fourth generation of a family who made its considerable fortune running small city newspapers and printing shopping circulars. He does an interview once in a while, gets his picture taken at spring training … and that’s about it. He doesn’t show passion for the Pirates or even get spotted in his box at PNC (I assume there’s an owner’s box). We imagine that he spends more time worrying about the Parkersburg, West Virginia News and Sentinel’s advertising revenue than getting a competent catcher or closer.

In this city, that’s a borderline cardinal sin.

Although it’s many Bucs fans’ dearest wish that he sell the PIrates, with bonus points if the buyer is Mark Cuban, Nutting has indicated that he wants to pass the team along to his three daughters.

Here’s the question, though, Bob—if you don’t care, why should they?