Mark Madden: Pirates owner Bob Nutting, others specialize in absurdity
With sports media and social media bleeding into each other (think bloody mess), content is at a premium.
It doesn’t have to be good content. It doesn’t have to be true content. It just has to be voluminous.
As a result, a lot of nonsense gets put out there. (Ahem.)
Consider the preseason word-drool of Pirates owner Bob Nutting and president Frank Coonelly.
Coonelly said he expects the Pirates to win the National League Central.
Nutting said the Pirates payroll is “not controllable.” But it certainly is, and Nutting controls it. It’s not inscribed on stone tablets. It hasn’t cut itself by approximately 25 percent over the last three years.
Nutting said the Pirates will never have a $200 million payroll. OK. How about a $100 million payroll?
Nutting said that giving one player a Manny Machado-level contract would throw off the clubhouse dynamic. “Clubhouse dynamic.” Is that an advanced stat? Don’t good players trump clubhouse dynamic? (OK, maybe not with the Steelers.) How often is Nutting in the clubhouse?
The proper followup question to such drivel is, “You are so full of crap.”
But the need for content is what’s most important. Anyway, the media is mostly frightened of rich guys like Nutting.
The Penguins aren’t immune to such baloney.
General manager Jim Rutherford said defenseman Jack Johnson is playing well, and that fans and media haven’t given him a fair chance.
Nobody could play as bad as the vitriol directed at Johnson via the usual outlets. But every stat, fancy and otherwise, says Johnson has performed poorly.
It’s understandable that Rutherford would defend a player he signed to a five-year, $16.25 million contract this past offseason. But by no definition is Johnson playing well.
Perhaps Johnson will play better. There’s a better chance of that than there is of Nutting increasing payroll.
That bring us to the Steelers. Absurdity orbits around them like a twisted solar system where the planets bump into each other.
Ex-NFL player Marcellus Wiley on Fox: “You can get rid of (Antonio) Brown if you want to. It’ll be a mistake because you’ll be stuck with Ben Roethlisberger, who’s really the root of this issue.”
Ex-NFL player Deion Sanders on Twitter: “The Steelers have a real problem and the elephant in the room is about to be exposed for what and who they really are. This won’t end well, I promise (you).”
Ex-Steeler Ryan Clark on ESPN: “If you’re a black ex-player, you’re made to feel like you should support everything that’s black.”
When Brown and Le’Veon Bell became prominent cogs in the Steelers’ machinery, the Steelers mostly stopped winning playoff games. Does anybody know why the quarterback with two Super Bowl rings is absorbing so much criticism?
Clark said Roethlisberger isn’t a natural leader, or an ideal one. Fair enough.
Coach Mike Tomlin is definitely an enabler. He won’t suddenly turn into a fixer.
But the “root of this issue” is that big-time sports organizations are absolutely scared to death of their star athletes. Because if you don’t let them run roughshod over everything, they might leave. Like Brown and Bell are doing after having run roughshod over everything.
Brown turns 31 before next season. He will decline soon.
Bell averaged 12.5 games over his five Steelers season, milking injuries at inopportune times. The New York Jets are worried about Bell’s conditioning. Maybe Bell is the “elephant in the room.” (A fat guy can say that.)
As for Roethlisberger, GM Kevin Colbert gave the stamp of approval to Roethlisberger calling out teammates in public: “They should listen.”
The most important Steeler is staying.
But the Super Bowl window has slammed shut. Playoffs? Maybe, if management executes a perfect offseason.
How’s that for content?
Options considered but not chosen:
• Will Rutherford make a big move by Monday’s trade deadline? (Probably not. There’s not a Stanley Cup-winning deal to be made.)
• Are the Penguins soft? (Maybe. But they responded well after San Jose’s Evander Kane invaded their time-out huddle Thursday. What a bush-league move by Kane.)
• Phil Kessel will be traded this coming offseason. He has hit his expiration date in Pittsburgh.
• Should Zion Williamson play for Duke again or sit until the NBA Draft? (Depends on the severity of his knee sprain, which seems minimal. But Williamson should be in the NBA getting paid right now.)
• The Pirates starting rotation is horribly overestimated, but that’s par for the course when it comes to their local media stooges.