Pirates Owner Bob Nutting Refuses To Let Fans' Criticism Get Him Down

"I Don't Spend A Lot Of Time Worrying About Things I Can't Directly Control"

Eric Hagman
February 20, 2019 - 1:15 pm

Eric Hagman 93.7 The Fan

Bradenton, FL (93.7 The Fan) - If Pirates owner Bob Nutting is bothered by what fans--or, in some instances, ex-fans of the team--say about him, he doesn't let it be known publicly.  In a one-on-one interview with 93.7 The Fan at Pirate City on Wednesday,  Nutting was asked what he tells that individual who vows not to return to PNC Park as long as he is the owner.

"I can't respond to every fan, (but) I hope there aren't people who feel that way," Nutting said.  "Certainly a few years ago we had two-and-half million people in the ballpark supporting a very strong team...We didn't get the job done and bring home a world championship, but we put a real team on the field.  Clearly, we had a tough cycle over the last couple of years, significant improvement on the field last year.  I think this year we are extremely well-postioned to take that next step forward.  That's what the players believe, that's what our coaching staff believes, that's what the front office believes.  That's what I believe."

In retrospect, does Nutting feel the off-season that followed the 98-win 2015 season was a turning point?

"We don't get do-overs in baseball," Nutting said.  "What we're focused on is learning as much as we can from the past and applying that to good decisions as we go forward."

Nutting won't label that period "an opportunity lost."

"I can't spend my life looking backward.  We need to be looking at the '19 season, the 20 season.  Again, I think we are really structured to have an excellent 2019 season."

The Pirates have linked payroll and attendance, and since 2015 attendance is down nearly one million fans.  Last season's home attendance of 1.465 million was the franchise's lowest since 1996.  Is it alarming?

"Yeah, there's no question.  We absolutely appreciate all of the fans who came," Nutting said.  "We understand and respect the fans who question--particularly in the early part of last year after some of the difficult trades that we made.  What you did see was this team performed above expectations last year, and I think we're on that track again.  The team performed extremely well at PNC Park in front of an excited and committed fan base last year."

Nutting said the projection is to surpass last season's attendance total.

"Absolutely," he said.  "I don't think we have a number targeted there...but what we're going to do every day is to put the very best team on the field.  We're going to invite the fans to the ballpark, and we're going to celebrate the fans who come out to the best ballpark in America to watch their Pittsburgh Pirates playing very competitive baseball with the the target of winning."

The Pirates ended last season with an approximately $90 million payroll.  They are expected to begin this season between $70-$75 million.

"We never define ourselves purely in terms of dollars," Nutting said. "I think it's really important to look at the players we do have on the field as opposed to the ones we don't. We have an extremely young pitching corps that's going to be stronger.  We see real opportunity for growth.  We have faith in Josh Bell.  He's going to be a very good first baseman. I think we can get that bat swinging ....We didn't need to fundamentally rebuild some of those pieces, so building on the team that had a seven-game improvement last year and expecting a real improvement this year.  Again, level of optimism and belief in this team is very high."

Does the Pirates business model allow for the team to, let's say, sign a free agent to a one-year or two-year contract for $20-$25 million annually?

"I think it's more a question of what does Neal (Huntington) think and what do we collectively think will have the greatest impact on the club,"  Nutting said.  "Absolutely, Neal has had and continues to have--whether it's in the trading deadline or even during spring training--(the ability) to adjust and make additions to the roster."

Several of the team's better young players are nearing their salary arbitration years. Attempting to sign these players to multi-year contracts could be on the table.

"In general, we certainly have considered that," Nutting said.  "Frankly, we've shown a willingness and ability to get that done in the past with other players.  That will continue to be a part of Neal's strategy and a tool in Neal's arsenal."

And when it comes to the perception that fans have of him, Nutting brushes the question aside.

"I don't spend a lot of  time worrying about things I can't directly control," Nutting said.  "What I can focus on is putting the very best team we can on the field in 2019.  What worries me only about the perception is to the extent that it negatively impacts the team itself.  We can't allow it to become an internal distraction.  I think the attitude with the players has been tremendous, the attitude with the coaches has been tremendous.  They're focused on having a tremendous team on the field."



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