Selig: Pirates' rebirth a positive step for baseball

Rob Biertempfel
| Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 10:18 p.m.

Pirates owner Bob Nutting was content to stay out of the spotlight Tuesday when the farewell tour for outgoing MLB commissioner Bud Selig rolled into PNC Park.

Selig, whose term expires in January, chatted for 20 minutes with reporters before heading to a private suite to watch the Pirates play the Los Angeles Dodgers. Nutting looked on quietly, standing along a wall toward the back of the room.

Would Nutting, who will have some say in who replaces Selig, be interested in the commissioner's chair? Nutting smiled at the suggestion.

“I think the greatest honor and best job in any sport in America would be the baseball commissioner's job,” said Nutting, who became the Pirates' principal owner in 2007. “There are so many more people than me who are truly qualified for it. Right now, my heart is in Pittsburgh with the Pirates. We've made so much progress since I've stepped in. I'm absolutely committed to stay here and see this through. This is where I want to be.”

In May, Nutting was named to the seven-man committee that will select the next commissioner.

The panel is chaired by St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt. It includes owners Dick Monfort (Colorado Rockies), David Montgomery (Philadelphia Phillies), Arte Moreno (Los Angeles Angels), Jerry Reinsdorf (Chicago White Sox) and Jim Pohlad (Minnesota Twins).

“I think it's a sign that Bob is gaining influence in the industry,” Pirates president Frank Coonelly said. “For us in Pittsburgh, that's a good thing.”

Selig invited Nutting to join the group. Selig sees the Pirates' success as proof that changes to the game's economics — particularly revenue sharing — that happened during his tenure have worked.

“The ability to provide hope and faith in as many places as possible is nowhere more dramatic than it is in Pittsburgh,” Selig said. “This is maybe as dramatic evidence as anything of how this sport has changed and how we've solved our problems.

“Nothing is perfect, but we've come a long way.”

Plenty of challenges await the next commissioner. The game will need a new collective bargaining agreement in two years. Rapidly escalating local TV deals could threaten competitive balance. Baseball needs to improve how it uncovers talent and how it markets itself outside the United States.

“The sport is as good as it's ever been, by far,” Selig said. “So the idea is to keep that going. That's not as easy as it sounds.”

Even a small group of owners, such as this succession committee, has competing interests. Nutting brings a small-market flavor to the group. In that sense, he's a standard-bearer for the little guys in the game.

“It's a very important responsibility,” Nutting said. “It's critical that baseball continues to improve the competitive balance and recognize the challenges that small-market teams have.

“We have never used resources as an excuse in Pittsburgh. But it is a real challenge as we move forward — as we look at new digital properties, as we look at (media) rights, as we look at other changes in the game — that we understand what's important for markets like Pittsburgh.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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