Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting is a newspaper mogul. His baseball decisions are now impacting his day job, it seems. From the Post-Gazette, which Nutting does not own:
Weirton Medical Center, based in West Virginia, announced Thursday that it is pulling advertising from three publications owned by Ogden Newspapers over “the failure of the Pirates to craft a deal to keep Andrew McCutchen a Pirate.” Nutting is Ogden’s CEO.
The boycott is apparently temporary, but it’s not without teeth. According to the article, the Medical Center advertises in three of Nutting’s papers across two states and that they run full-page Sunday ads along with extra advertising during the week. They are characterized as one of the largest advertisers in Nutting’s papers in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. Such full-page ads are pretty dang lucrative for local papers.
The spokesperson for the Medical Center talks about the boycott in terms of community values and wants to remind Nutting and the Pirates that the club and the decisions it makes is important to the community. The financial hit will remind him of that, I’m sure, and the impulse to him him thusly is admirable and understandable. Unfortunately, it will not make a difference in how the Pirates are run because it does not reflect the reality of modern baseball teams and the way in which baseball owners view their property.
There is a lot of talk from team owners about sports teams being community assets and quasi-public institutions when the team owner needs something. Say, a new ballpark or a tax abatement or parking and traffic allowances and free security for their entertainment venue in the form of police patrols and the like. They also use the whole community spirit thing when they want to leverage the public as a marketing tool. Think of parades and rallies and things in which the sports team is cast as part of the fabric of the community in order to drive ticket and merchandise sales.
When it comes to the revenues, expenses and profits of the team, however, owners demonstrate just how private and closely-held their businesses are. That extends to player acquisitions and trades. It would never occur to Bob Nutting that failing to maintain the Pirates’ recent winning track record and then trading Andrew McCutchen was a thing about which the public was entitled to input. The public’s anger at him may cross his mind, but believe me, neither he nor any other sports owner believes that the public has an actual say in such matters. It’d be just as logical to them for the public to suggest that they can tell him which entree to order the next time he sits down to eat at Altius.
All of which is to say that, however understandable and noble the intentions behind the advertiser boycott, Bob Nutting does not care and will not make decisions about his baseball team with such concerns in mind. It’s his meal. he’ll order whatever he wants. Even if you’re the one paying for it.