Online petitions by Pittsburgh Pirates fans say they're no fans of owner Bob Nutting
Jason Kauffman is passionate about the Pittsburgh Pirates — about as passionate as a fan can get.
He's been attending games since he was a baby, and was even a ball boy for the team in the early 1990s.
"I care about them," said Kauffman, 43, of Ross. "I love this team. They're part of my family."
That's why he started a Change.org petition aimed at having MLB force owner Bob Nutting to sell the team.
The move came Tuesday, a day after the Pirates announced the trade of fan favorite Andrew McCutchen, a former MVP and five-time All-Star, to the San Francisco Giants.
"Pittsburgh is a baseball town that is being destroyed by a greedy owner," the petition reads, in part. "There are so many loyal fans who truly care and support this team through thick and thin. We deserve better."
A publicist, Kauffman said the purpose of the petition is to show there's a collective anger from the fan base regarding the decisions the Pirates' "front office" has made.
It had more than 41,000 signatures as of Thursday morning.
I am completely overwhelmed by how many people signed this petition. I was just interviewed by WTAE and the Tribune Review is doing a story on it tomorrow. Your voices are being heard loud and clear. Keep sharing! https://t.co/Nh3kzhL5Pw— The Angry Fan (@theangryfan) January 17, 2018
Over 28,000... We will be past PNC Park seat capacity at 7pm and that's definitely saying something. https://t.co/Nh3kzhL5Pw— The Angry Fan (@theangryfan) January 17, 2018
I know this petition won't force Nutting to sell but I view it more as a representation of the collective anger of the fan base, being fed up with ownership's unwillingness to do what it takes to compete in today's game.— The Angry Fan (@theangryfan) January 17, 2018
"I want them to open up their eyes and their ears and know that we've had enough," Kauffman said.
"We're tired of the 'same-old, same-old' saying: 'We're in this for a championship' when you're really not. Don't tell me your goal is to win a World Series when you're not doing anything to improve the team."
"We're just tired of the constant rebuilding."
The Pirates on Saturday traded ace pitcher Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros.
On Tuesday, utility player Josh Harrison requested to be traded, too, if "the (Pirates do) not expect to contend this year or next."
Kauffman said Cole's trade also upset him, but what happened with McCutchen is ultimately what broke the camel's back and led to the petition.
"He means so much to the community," Kauffman said. "It's not just what he does on the field. It's what he means to the community."
"Trading McCutchen (is) like trading the face of the franchise. It's almost like a death in the family."
New Ken man urges Bucco boycott
New Kensington resident Thomas Lennex, a junior at Robert Morris University, is also upset with Pirates management.
He created the Facebook event "Boycott the 2018 Pirates season" on Monday to voice his displeasure as a joke.
"I figured it would be more for my friends, and to poke fun of the decisions and get a laugh out of it," he said.
"All you 'yinzers' out there," the event description reads, in part. "Let's put our foot down and actually cause financial repercussions to those in charge at the Pirates. Like many of you, I'm tired, and have been tired of horrible decisions made for the team."
The event has since exploded, having been shared more than 2,000 times by Wednesday afternoon.
A link to Kauffman's petition is also posted on its page.
"I did not expect almost 9,000 people to join in on it," said Lennex, 21, who was born and raised in New Kensington. "If I hit around 10,000 people ... I was going to see ... if the city allows us, (if we could) have our own little (charity) event, maybe not on Opening Day, but sometime in the near future."
"If they want to get together, chip in a couple bucks, and give it to an organization that could use the money — rather than giving it to a company that doesn't seem like they want to win baseball games — I'm fair game with that."
Lennex doesn't think his event will actually stop people from attending Pirates games, but its popularity is a testament to how many people care about the team.
"The Pirates are something to the city," Lennex said. "We're Yinzers for a reason."
The Pirates organization responds
"We appreciate the passion of our fans and respect their desire to express that passion both in good times and bad," wrote Brian Warecki, Pittsburgh Pirates vice president of communications, in response to a Trib request for comment.
"The last two seasons simply have not been good enough. Our expectations, and that of our fans, are much higher.
"We embrace and share this standard, and look forward to meeting those expectations."
Petition to prove a point
Kauffman doesn't think his petition has "a chance at all" in getting Nutting to give up ownership of the team.
He just wanted to prove a point.
"There's going to be more people on that signature list than there's going to be at some of the games this year," Kauffman said. "I want Nutting to look at the wholeness of this thing and say, 'Wow.' Maybe to wake him up a little bit.
"Maybe it will force him out one day. Maybe it's the start of something here — the start of Nutting's downfall, so to speak."
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4702, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @maddyczebstrib.