Pittsburgh Pirates’ owner Bob Nutting isn’t the most popular owner in professional sports and if you ask most Pirates fans, they will tell you he is the worst.
But despite all of Nutting’s drawbacks, make no mistake about it he really does want to win.
It’s showing it that has always been the problem.
Many would feel that Nutting is perfectly satisfied with a team that won 79 games a season ago, a 22-game improvement from just two years ago, which tied for the most wins for a Pirates team over the course of the past 20 seasons.
Why not, there was some enthusiasm from the fans, PNC Park was filling up and Nutting was making money. Sure the Pirates collapsed again and finished with a losing record for the 20th consecutive year, but judging by Nutting’s tenure as owner, 2012 was a success.
Of course the Pirates definition of success is a little different that the rest of the franchise’s around the league, but maybe in Nutting’s eyes that is just fine.
Maybe that is why he retained the entire front office and recently picked up manager Clint Hurdle’s option.
But for all of that, Nutting still wants to build a winner in Pittsburgh.
At least he talks a good game.
The word accountability is often thrown around when discussing the Pirates organization, but it something that always just seems like a clever word thrown around and something that generally isn’t practiced.
But Nutting this year claims that he must see a big step forward.
He also expresses support for what general manager Neal Huntington and Hurdle have done. But he also made it very clear that despite the extensions, no jobs are really safe in an organization that has gone this long without success.
“The mindset is we must take a step forward,” Nutting said (via CBS Sports Danny Knobler). “We expect to win. I expect to win. Clint expects to win. Neal and [club president Frank Coonelly] have the same expectation.
“The idea that an extension is somehow a free pass is exactly the message I would not want to send, and not the message Clint heard. We’ve shown we’re willing to make a change if we need to, irrespective of the contract terms.”
Who knows what a step forward is, but Nutting said the ultimate goal is to win a World Series.
Nutting also talks about having the highest payroll in Pirates history (about $60 million), but what he fails to mention is that the Pirates will still have the lowest payroll in the National League Central. In all of baseball, only the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins will clearly lower payrolls than the Pirates.
Finally, he suggested the money and commitment would be there this July at the trade deadline, although he also suggested that he prefers doing his biggest business in the winter.
“We need to get to the trading deadline in a strong position,” he said. “We’ve got to take a run. We’ve got to push our chips in early.”
This is all nice coming from Nutting’s mouth, but forgive me if it is hard to take him seriously.
We have heard this talk time and time again, but when it comes down to showing that he is serious, he falls flat on his face or disappears altogether. Hopefully this season we can go back to these quotes from Nutting and say he followed through on his words and he convinces Pirates fans that he truly does want to win.
Until that happens though, action speaks a lot louder than words.
Nutting continues to preach accountability, but the problem is that if that’s the way he wants to talk, he needs to walk the walk as well as everyone in the organization should be held accountable from the top all the way down to the bottom.
If he truly does mean business, then it is time for Nutting to look in the mirror as well.
We will see how the 2013 season plays out, but one thing is crystal clear and that is the Pirates must take a step forward.
Including the owner.