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Saturday, August 15 2020 @ 11:11 am UTC
Fractured Fairy Tales   
By Wilbur Miller

As we all know, the real villains in the Pirates’ seventeen-year losing streak are the Nutting family. Oh, we probably can’t hold them accountable for the first three years, before they had any stake in the team, but they probably should be blamed for it anyway. We just don’t know exactly how they did it yet, thanks to all the Pittsburgh journalists being in cahoots with the Nuttings and not asking them any questions. But we can definitely blame them for the last fourteen years, since we know that the Nuttings have been hiding behind the curtains and calling all the shots throughout that time.

Here’s a timeline that shows how the Nuttings have exercised their iron control over the Pirates:

1996: Kevin McClatchy assembles an ownership group and buys the Pirates. He installs himself as CEO and solidifies his control by getting a provision in the agreement that gives himself two votes on the board. Ogden Nutting’s contribution toward the $90M purchase price is a $2M loan.

1997-2001: After putting together the ownership group and installing himself as CEO, McClatchy immediately decides to begin relinquishing control of the team to Ogden Nutting and his 2% ownership stake.

1996-1999: Although he’s decided to let Ogden Nutting run the team, McClatchy heads the arduous and difficult effort to get public financing for a new ballpark that he can turn over to the Nutting family.

2001: By this time, Ogden Nutting, who has no interest in baseball, is making all the baseball decisions for the Pirates. McClatchy celebrates his success in getting a new ballpark built by remaining as a mere figurehead and target for abuse.

July 2001: Ogden Nutting hires Dave Littlefield to be GM. Due to clerical error, the applicants all interview with McClatchy.

2001-2007: Littlefield successfully implements Ogden Nutting’s plan to make money while losing.

2003-2006: Ogden and then Bob Nutting ensure that the Pirates avoid the slightest appearance of a rebuilding plan. They allow the farm system to fall into ruin. They reward the obviously incompetent scouting director and farm director by promoting them to vice president. They forbid any above-slot signings in the draft. They refuse to spend any money in Latin America. They require the Dominican affiliate to operate out of a substandard academy with inadequate baseball facilities and poor living conditions. They cling desperately to all of the team’s veterans to avoid adverse fan reaction. They refuse to allow Littlefield to trade for prospects. They require that all of the team’s resources be spent in an effort to win 75 games every year so that short-term attendance won’t be hurt. All the while, they remain in hiding while McClatchy takes the abuse for the team’s failures.

October 2006: With ownership’s unpopularity reaching unprecedented heights and the team nearing the American team sports record for futility, Bob Nutting decides to become the face of ownership and forces McClatchy out.

2006-2007: Although he’s been making all the baseball decisions all along, Bob Nutting goes all over MLB seeking advice on how to run his team.

July 2007: Because he is unwilling to spend any money on the team, Bob Nutting allows Littlefield to trade for Matt Morris and the $13M left on his contract. Nutting has been making all the baseball decisions all along, so he doesn’t do this because he feels dependent on Littlefield’s advice. He just feels like spending the money, even though he’s unwilling to spend any money.

August to October 2007: Nutting fires his father's choice for GM and the guys he promoted to vice president as a reward for successfully implementing his and his father’s scheme to make money while losing.

September 2007: Nutting hires an aggressive CEO with definite ideas of how to run a baseball team. Nutting goes from secretly making all the baseball decisions, to being the face of the franchise and primary target of abuse while having to contend with a CEO who expects to make all the baseball decisions.

2008-2009: Nutting decides to launch a full-blown rebuilding program that involves angering the fans by trading away the team’s 90-loss veteran roster, acquiring prospects, building a $5M facility in the Dominican even though it figures to earn no PR benefits from 98% of the fan base, spending more on draft bonuses than any other team, spending in the top third in Latin American bonuses, and abandoning the pursuit of 75 wins every year despite the likely impact on short term attendance. Nothing, however, has changed.

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