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Pirates' black-ink parade fueled by local apathy

Aug 23, 2010, 12:13 PM EDT

I grew up an ardent and zealous Pirates fan, listening with my grandfather to Bob Prince on the radio and staying up late to watch road games in San Francisco, confused why anyone living in California would be wearing a jacket when it was 80 degrees at midnight in West Virginia.  In October 1992, when former Pirates first baseman Sid Bream and his body by Lego somehow tried to score from second on a routine single and Barry Bonds somehow couldn’t manage to throw him out, I knew that the exodus of Bonds and Bobby Bonilla would plunge the Pirates into mediocrity for an extended period of time.

I never dreamed it would last 18 years.

But it has, and it could last for another 18 years.  And 18 years beyond that.  In an industry where being truly competitive on the field typically requires a very large financial investment and where failure in the standings nevertheless results in a high profit, the Pirates have no incentive to spend the money that it takes to win, especially since there’s no guarantee that spending the money actually will result in winning.

That’s why I’m not surprised at all by the news that the Pirates have done very well in the statistical category that matters most:  average bank deposits.

So will the news that the folks who own the Pirates are digging up plenty of treasure while one of the proudest brands in baseball continues to be synonymous with losing?  Maybe not.

With their thirst for sports relevance satiated by the always-competitive Steelers and Penguins, many Pittsburghers regard the local baseball team as providing an excuse to spend several hours at the open-air restaurant and bar known as PNC Park, with the game merely contributing to the ambiance. 

Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the crowd.  Buy me a beer and a beer and a beer.  I don’t care if they never win here.  For it’s root-root-root for the home team, if they don’t win . . . well, that’s a shame.

But it’s not a shame.  The Pirates don’t need to win, especially since no one really expects them to.

So if the Pirates truly want to make good use of all that extra money they generate, they should give some of it to the two teams in town that actually have a chance to win a championship or two this decade.  Or century. 

Or millennium.

  1. BC - Aug 23, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    Use the extra money to pay for Rothlesburger’s defense attorney.

  2. Rex Grossman - Aug 23, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    Mike you know nothing about baseball and everyone knows it. Stick to the good sport.

  3. RichardInBigD - Aug 23, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    I posted the followin in a thread started by Drew Silva not too very long ago. Just as, if not more, relevant here than there:
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    “The Pirates, if they want to use that money to actually win, and are willing to go through a 4 ot 5 year process to do it, should spend some of that profit on a good GM, and a more discerning scouting operation. If you’d like to see an example, see Jon Daniels and the Rangers. He took a bankrupt owner in a town that had become very ho-hum about their team, and over the last 6 years has turned this thing into what would appear to be one of this years top contenders for the big prize. The GM has to be someone that’s truly tuned in to what’s going on in the big world of baseball, but doesn’t let the usual convention get in his way of getting the desired result…”

  4. Jonny5 - Aug 23, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    All I have to say is, it does not take 18 years to build a winning team from scratch. You could hump your way to a winning team in 20 some years with the right genetics. I wonder if any baseball greats would be interested in a stud program…. hmmm…..

  5. JK - Aug 23, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    Isn’t this how teams are SUPPOSED TO BE RUN!? If you’re not good, shouldn’t you at least make money? Why are hammering the Pirates for making money? Do we honestly expect the Pirates ownership group to run a charity? Don’t we WANT fiduciary responsiblity from the ownership group to avoid the Tom Hicks/Texas Rangers fiasco?
    Good for the Pirates for making money. Good for the Pirates for investing HEAVILY in the draft the past 3 years. Good for the Pirates for staying AWAY from expensive free agents whose contracts become financial burdens on the teams that sign them.
    And by the way, still waiting on the article about the Mariners financial statement since it’s available now too…

  6. Trevor B - Aug 23, 2010 at 12:46 PM

    I can train goats to play better football than you Rex Grossman.

  7. minnesconsin_ad - Aug 23, 2010 at 12:50 PM

    whoa….florio on HBT? i’m feeling woozy…

  8. Jonny5 - Aug 23, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    Yes, and good for them for being losers for 18 whole years while piling up the dough!!! Yay for the $$$ men. Do you also cheer for Walmart, cause they make profit hand over fist…

  9. brasho - Aug 23, 2010 at 1:00 PM

    Wow, now there’s two sports that Florio writes editorials on that he knows absolutely nothing about. Way to broaden your horizons. Perhaps you want to comment on heathcare, the school system, and/or the failures of Barack Obama in his first years in office.

  10. keg64 - Aug 23, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    I never begrudge any organization for making money. However, if a team is profitable already, does that not defeat the entire purpose of revenue sharing? I thought Lord Bud instituted that to insure that no franchise would go under. If the Pirates are raking in the cash and not applying it to the field, they should not be eligible for any alms from the other teams. As with everything else Selig has ever done, revenue sharing has not been thought all the way through.

  11. Trevor B - Aug 23, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    I’m sure he cheers for BP, Cenex, Shell, etc for churning in profits even though everybody thinks they suck, too.

  12. Jamethus - Aug 23, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    Funny how Florio comes in to post something barely baseball related (moreso his typical WV/family bonding/conspiracy theory nonsense). He trashes baseball regularly over on his blog. I’m just surprised he didn’t find a way to get Pat White or Brett Favre in this article somehow.
    At least nobody on the Pirates raped anyone, Mike.

  13. DGL - Aug 23, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    If you’re going to throw around phrases like “average bank deposits”, I’d suggest you learn the difference between “net income” and “cash distributions”.
    The Pirates have made about $50M in net income – profit – over the past four years.
    They have distributed about $20M of that to the owners. $9.6M of that was interest on a convertible note that the Nuttings, now the principal owners, bought in 2003 (basically a loan that the Nuttings made to the Pirates). Note that the Nuttings wanted to convert the interest to an increased ownership stake in the Pirates, as they did with the principal, but the minority owners voted to require them to take it in cash. The other $10.8M was paid in 2008 to cover the owners’ tax liabilities for 2006-2007 profits. Since then – after the Nuttings became principal owners – they have not made any similar cash distributions. And the minority owners have not been happy about that.
    So the “bank deposits” that you rail about are $9.6M that the Nuttings would rather have taken as equity, and $10.8M that was paid out in 2008.
    The other $30M in profits? Retained by the Pirates and used for salaries, player development, team operations, etc.

  14. Old Gator - Aug 23, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    Rex Grossman. Now there’s a name to curdle any Macondoan’s blood.

  15. El Bravo - Aug 23, 2010 at 1:19 PM

    Small correction: The following quote, “I knew that the exodus of Bonds and Bobby Bonilla would plunge the Pirates into mediocrity for an extended period of time. I never dreamed it would last 18 years. But it has, and it could last for another 18 years. And 18 years beyond that.” should read “I knew that the exodus of Bonds and Bobby Bonilla would plunge the Pirates into mediocrity for an extended period of time. Worse, I had nightmares about lasting sucktitude and it became reality. Eighteen years of sucktasm, followed by what looks like an infinite era of suckoraphalia. They suck so sucking bad and have sucked so badly for so long that it’s clear the sucking will never end.”

  16. JBerardi - Aug 23, 2010 at 1:23 PM

    Huntington is turning this team around. They just spent over 10M on the draft. Laser show, relax.

  17. steelerfan9598 - Aug 23, 2010 at 3:00 PM

    Defense attorneys are especially useful when you aren’t charged with anything – ever.

  18. steelers rule - Aug 23, 2010 at 5:42 PM

    Pirates 2012 world series winners.. mark it down!

  19. wickethewok - Aug 24, 2010 at 2:13 AM

    I expected a better article on the Buccos financial documents. This article says next to nothing and provides little insight. If you want an interesting read, I’d check out this post: http://pittsburghlumberco.com/?p=4205

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