Pittsburgh Pirates Fans Petition MLB to Force Nutting to Sell the Team!

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) /

A petition at Change.org asking MLB to force the sale of the Pittsburgh Pirates is gathering steam. Over 50,000 fans have signed the petition.

For many Pittsburgh Pirates fans, the trades of Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen were the last straw.

After watching their team become competitive from 2013-2015, it has been disheartening to see the team regress the past two years due to the lack of proactive improvements by ownership and management. Owner Bob Nutting is simply not interested in winning. Fielding a competitive team is far secondary to the main goal of reaping massive profits.

Nutting is about to receive a $50 million one-time payment to eash major league team from the sale of MLB Advanced Media to Disney.  With such an infusion of cash, the fans feel that now is not the time to be rebuiding. Fans feel that the extra money could be spent to bolster the roster. Instead, general manager Neal Huntington traded Cole and McCutchen, reducing the payroll even further by a whopping $20 million dollars. Estimates show the current payroll at about $78 million for the 2018 season.

All of the players acquired in the trades are set to make near minimum MLB salaries. All have several years of club control, which helps the Pirates guarantee cost certainty, which translates to guaranteed profits. None of the six players acquired in the trades are in the top 100 MLB prospects of any of the traditional list publications, such as Baseball America or even MLB’s own list.

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The $50 million received by each owner also comes with no strings attached, meaning that Nutting could actually pocket the entire check. Nutting remained non-committed as to where the cash would be invested. He hinted, when asked by DKPittsburghSports beat writer Lance Lysowski, that the money could possibly be invested in improvements to facilities, such as Pirate City. Not a peep about perhaps using it for the acquisition of major league talent.

With the $50 million infusion there was tremendous opportunity to extend contracts or add quality major league talent to make the Pirates competitive. Instead, ownership and management choose to sell off Cole and McCutchen, dump salary and rebuild.

The fans are tired of losing beloved players from a team that refuses to compete, especially when the resources become available to do so.

One Pirate fan decided enough was enough.

Known only as “J.K.,” he formed a petition at Change.org to try to induce Major League Baseball to invoke a clause which would force owner Bob Nutting to sell the team over lack of competitive investment.

Here’s the text of the petition:

"“Pittsburgh is a baseball town that is being destroyed by a greedy owner. There are so many loyal fans who truly care and support this team through thick and thin. We deserve better. I, like many others, endured so much pain watching a losing franchise from 1993 until 2013 when we saw playoff baseball return to Pittsburgh. You could see and hear the pain we kept inside all those years being released that October night. If you have had a chance to witness that glorious night, you know Pittsburgh is a baseball town. We’ve had enough! There needs to be change from the top of the organization down. Bob Nutting needs to sell this team, so that we can see a competitive baseball team year in and year out. It is obvious that he doesn’t want to spend the money to make that happen. We need an owner who has a competitive spirit and loves the game of baseball!”"

The original goal was 35,000 signatures. The first two days saw the petition garner a very respectable 28,000 signatures. It garnered a little media attention, along with doubt that anything would become of it.

But yesterday something amazing began to occur. Exasperated Pirates fans everywhere began jumping on board.

Suddenly, the voice is a little louder. The roar of discontent is building up into a crescendo.

By late Friday morning, as the word continued to spread through fan sites, Twitter, and Facebook., the petition had grown incredibly to over 50,000 signatures!

Professional sports fans have an expectation that when they increase their support of their team, ownership and management should increase their investment toward higher competition. It isn’t happening with the Pirates. Higher attendance only translates to bigger profits for Bob Nutting. He is a billionaire professional sports team owner with the resources to improve his product and yet he chooses not to.

According to Forbes, the Pirates had an operating income (profit) of $43.6 million in 2014, $35.6 million in 2015 and $51 million in 2016, their first non-winning season since 2012. Spanning the ten seasons from 2007-2016, the Pirates have profited a whopping total of $273.7 MILLION dollars.

Yet general manager Neal Huntington faced the public time and again and said that the Pirates did not have the money to pursue quality free agents.

The team and its roster is shrewdly constructed for profit only.

And in those very few seasons where the Bucs actually find themselves competing, it’s just a bigger treasure chest for billionaire owner Bob Nutting.

Meanwhile, the petition continues to grow as rapidly as the frustration of Pirates fans everywhere.

It’s entirely likely that nothing will be done at all. MLB may agree that Bob Nutting has every right to milk every penny of profit out of the Pittsburgh fan base without earnestly improving the product to field a competitive team.

Without a forced sale, the success of the petition may ultimately be realized as a wake-up call to Nutting. Fans are not content, they will not accept the status quo, and the threat of boycott is very real.