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Pittsburgh Pirates:  Ownership Not Holding Up Their End With Fans

Pittsburgh Pirates: Ownership Not Holding Up Their End With Fans

Pittsburgh Pirates: Ownership Not Holding Up Their End With Fans

First, let’s flashback to a poignant [club president] Frank Coonelly quote from February 21st, 2011:

“Today, no but we will be able to support that payroll very soon if our fans believe that we now have a group of players in Pittsburgh and on its way here in the near future that is competitive. We need to take a meaningful step forward in terms of attendance to reach that payroll number while continuing to invest heavily in our future but I am convinced that the attendance will move quickly once we convince our fans that we are on the right track.”

(Bolding my own.)

Coonelly’s absurd notion that attendance must increase prior to the on-the-field product improving actually became reality for the Pirates during the 2011 season. Despite finishing 18 games under .500, and losing for an insurmountable (except for themselves) 19th straight season, PNC Park’s turnstiles whirred dollar signs on bobblehead- and non-bobblehead nights alike:

2010: 19,919 fans per game

2011: 25,255 fans per game

My high-end math skills tell me that’s an increase of 5,336 fans per game. Considering the average ticket price in 2011 was $15.30, the Nutting ownership brought in an extra $81,641 per home game, or…

$6,694,545.60 over the course of the 81-game home schedule in 2011.

Clearly, just as Frank Coonelly requested prior to the 2011 season, the fans did their part. So now, the Nuttings are supposed to step in and hold up their end of the bargain, right? ….Right?

1. Despite a 19th straight losing season in 2011, the club has already committed to raising ticket prices in 2012 (link above). They are also expected to continue their practice of charging higher game day walk up prices, which was negatively received by fans when introduced last year.

2. According to Baseball Reference’s constantly updating offseason payroll tracker, the Pirates have only committed $15.8MM to payroll to date, and that’s largely due to the dual albatrosses of INF Clint Barmes’s $5.5MM and C Rod Barajas’s $4MM, which more than doubled the team’s payroll. They are currently lowest in the Major Leagues in payroll.

3. According to the same payroll tracker, the Pirates are projected to kick off the 2012 season with a $50.0MM payroll, again last in the Majors by $6,000,000.

4. As of November 28th, the average MLB payroll in 2012 is projected to $96.74MM. The Pirates will be over $46,000,000 below that, and that’s assuming they even get to $50MM this offseason.

5. And if all of this wasn’t a big enough slap in the face, today, ESPN’s Keith Law revealed that he doesn’t believe the Pirates consider star CF Andrew McCutchen “untradeable”, causing fans to wonder whether ownership’s solution to stalled contract extension talks is to simply save eight figures a year and trade McCutchen, rather than locking him up long term.

So, just to summarize:

Last year, Pirates’ ownership shifted accountability from themselves to the fans, urging their patrons to show up in greater numbers before they’d consider raising payroll. As a testament to the pure loyalty of a long-suffering fanbase desperate for a winner, Pirates’ fans responded in masse, with a 5,300+ per game increase in 2011. Yet ownership slashed payroll at the start of the offseason, is at least listening to dealing Andrew McCutchen to save even more money, and is projected to head into 2012 with the lowest payroll in the Majors- barely half of a MLB club’s average payroll. Oh, and if that weren’t enough, they’re raising ticket prices to boot!

Refresh my memory, Mr. Coonelly. Who isn’t holding up their end of the deal here?

 

Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter @jim_krug

Be sure to check out other great articles at isportsweb.

By The Baseball Page
Monday, 28 Nov 2011

 

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PNC Park, Pittsburg Pirates
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