Mark Madden: Pirates owner Bob Nutting’s babble is worthless without action |
Mark Madden, Columnist

Mark Madden: Pirates owner Bob Nutting’s babble is worthless without action

Mark Madden
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Pirates owner Bob Nutting speaks during a news conference at the administration offices Monday, Oct. 28, 2019.

The rebranding of the Pittsburgh Pirates sailed through calm waters when owner Bob Nutting met with the media Monday.

The lure was cast. The media bit. Fished in, just like “Wayne’s World.”

The changes made will prove cosmetic. Mere rebranding. Business will be conducted like always: Profit über alles.

I’m a big fan of new president Travis Williams, the Penguins former chief operating officer. I trust Williams. I don’t trust Nutting. Williams will speak truth to power. But will Nutting listen?

Nutting’s medicine show Monday was amazing, especially given he has zero charisma, not even of the hillbilly variety. Afterward, even Nutting’s most virulent critics were talking about how “serious” Nutting seems to be.

“Serious?“ Serious about what?

Does anyone believe Nutting suddenly had an epiphany that will direct him to spend in line with small-market success stories like Milwaukee and Cleveland?

Nutting didn’t want to talk about spending Monday.

“I think it’s too early to talk about payroll for next year,” Nutting said. “We need to get a new general manager in.”

Talking about increased payroll might lure a better general manager. Just a thought.

It’s not too early to talk about spending more — unless, of course, you don’t plan to. The Pirates don’t plan to.

Spending less, not more, might be part of the short-term picture.

The Pirates never have done a true rebuild, where they burn the major-league roster to the ground and start over with drafting and development.

That might be right up Nutting’s alley. It seems logical, and payroll can be slashed to the bone. The drafting and development process has a much better chance now that GM Neal Huntington and his incompetent flunkies are gone.

An actual rebuild is something the Pirates can sell. Nutting is always selling.

The Pirates lost 93 games last season. Attendance has dropped by a million since 2015. How much worse can it get?

A legit rebuild enables Nutting to vow (whether he means it or not) that — unlike in ‘15 when the Pirates won 98 games — the next time the Pirates do put together a good team, money will be spent to maximize that window. Small-market teams can only spend in cyclical fashion, striking while the iron is hot.

That’s a good promise for Nutting to make, because he might never have to fulfill it.

You might be getting the idea that I will never believe one word Nutting says.

I won’t. Nutting has done nothing but siphon money out of Pittsburgh for 12 years. I need deeds, not words, to convince me he’s “serious.”

Another facet of Nutting’s dog-and-pony act Monday revolved around him expressing the need for Pittsburgh to understand how MLB’s economic structure handicaps the Pirates.

How can Pittsburgh not know that? It’s talked about constantly. It’s all over the media.

Anyway, who cares? It’s just more excuse-making.

Other small markets conquer that handicap. Tampa Bay and Oakland made this year’s playoffs with the 30th- and 23rd-highest payrolls in MLB. (Tampa Bay was aided by having the Pirates as a trade partner.)

It’s time for action, not words.

The Pirates’ housecleaning and Monday’s babble mean nothing until we see the action that follows. Until there’s a tangible and quantifiable change in the Pirates’ approach, it’s all mere re-branding. The new president, GM and manager may be nothing more than a different set of co-conspirators.

It cost Nutting $10 million to make Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle go away. That’s toilet-paper money in MLB. A small price for a new set of downs and perceived rebirth.

Don’t believe anything Nutting says. Don’t be stupid.

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