Pirates owner Bob Nutting met with some reporters today in the wake of his firing of general manager Neal Huntington. He made some comments about why, a month after giving Huntington a vote of confidence, he fired him (i.e. he wanted to get new team president, Travis Williams, in place first) and various and sundry other team matters.
He also used part of his time with reporters to appeal to the fan base which is upset with him for not spending more money on players and for trading away stars like Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow for what, in hindsight, seem like pennies on the dollar.
The issue, Nutting says, is that the Pirates are really only making pennies compared to the other teams’ dollars:
First off, no one said you’re “hoarding cash,” Bob. Team owners have been shown to be WAY more sophisticated about extracting cash from their clubs without just stashing it in a team bank account with a note that reads “DO NOT SPEND ON PLAYERS” on it. The Marlins immediately come to mind. When Jeff Loria owned them they often said they couldn’t spend money on players but, when their books were leaked to investigative reporters it was found that the team made substantial payments to owners in less-than-obvious line items. Payments to LLCs and partnerships for “consulting” or “management fees” or what have you. All of this was money that could’ve been used by the team on players but was not. This is not to say that the Pirates do this. It’s merely offered as an example that a team owner making broad statements about the revenues and profits and cash on hand of a club in the abstract means very little.
A team owner is not obligated to share his financials with the public, obviously, but if the team owner if going to claim that the team is strapped in order to score PR points, fans are not obligated to take him at his word, especially given the long and rich history of Major League Baseball owners crying poor when they were not, in fact, poor. Especially at a time when Major League Baseball is bringing in record revenues every year and overall payroll obligations are, actually, going down.
Which is to say: if you want sympathy, Mr. Nutting, open the books and we’ll talk.