The Post-Gazette is running a “five-part series on the Pirates’ bid to reshape the franchise,” beginning today. In the first part, Dejan Kovacevic sat down with Bob Nutting, with the two discussing the changes that have been made since Nutting became principal owner of the team one year ago. It is apparent that Nutting has come to understand what Pirate fans want to hear. Last January, he was quoted as saying:
As far as questioning my commitment or my family’s commitment to winning, I think that’s completely inappropriate.
This caused a bit of an uproar among Pirate fans, as they felt 14 years of losing baseball was enough to question anything. In addition, there were few signs of any commitment to winning from the franchise for many years. Now, Nutting is singing a different tune:
I recognize that it’s probably fair and appropriate that our fans will always wonder about either our commitment or our competence until we actually get the team on the field to execute. I’m willing to accept that, whatever I say … it’s only words. The proof is going to come through winning baseball games.
That is what the fans want. Action. Changes. Tangible improvement. Some sign of life. It is possible that Nutting did not realize how big of a mess the franchise was when he made his original comments. Apparently, he recognized it. There have been major changes in the organization in the past year. The front office was rebuilt. Managers and coaches have been replaced. The Pirates will soon break ground on a new training facility in the Dominican Republic.
The next step will be the players. The Pirates currently have mostly mediocre players on the Major League roster. The farm system is in terrible shape. There is quite a bit of work to be done in order to build depth and increase the talent in the organization. General Manager Neal Huntington has attempted to trade some of his veteran players for impact prospects, but has had no success in doing so. The process will likely take considerable time.
The other interesting quote from Nutting in this article relates to payroll. When asked if the team will ever spend at a competitive level, he said:
When the pieces are lined up for us to contend, it’s my responsibility to make sure we can take advantage of it. The answer is yes. We’re not going to have any artificial barrier where we can’t ever be competitive. The Brewers are a great example. They supplemented only after they had the foundation built. They didn’t do it three years ago. They did it last year. It’s a very rational, orderly approach, and it’s one I’m very comfortable with.
That is the right idea. The Pirates are not the Yankees. They will never be able to build a team through free agency. The problem is that the Pirates never have any quality talent on the roster. I would rather see the team cut as much Major League payroll as possible, and either pour it into scouting and development or save that money for a time when it is helpful. Signing Jeromy Burnitz or Tony Armas today will do little to improve the team. Having some extra money in 2012 to add the last piece to a great young ball club could make a world of difference. Now, where are we going to get that great young ball club?