Long time Pirate fan Wilbur Miller recently said this in a recent article at OnlyBucs.net:
"I suggested a couple weeks ago that the Pirates’ and Royals’ sudden willingness to spend money was done with an eye on the upcoming labor negotiations. Their intended audience, however, may have been the more competent and successful owners as much as the union. The owners who are legitimately trying to succeed, rather than the union, are the real enemies of scam artists like McClatchy, Nutting and David Glass."
That got me thinking.. why would Wilbur call Nutting, McClatchy, and Glass scam artists when all they have done is exploit the very system handed to them by other owners? Selig did this very thing and so did Marge Schott. And so has every other owner that had a chance.
Wilbur suggests there are owners who are legitimately trying to succeed. I suppose he meant Steinbrenner who is raping taxpayers to the tune of $420MM to build a new stadium? Or Bill DeWitt with the Cardinals and his new stadium? Or the Mets? See, new stadium deals where the organization spends their own money, allows a reduction in revenue sharing via the CBA’s ‘tax break’.
Or, maybe he means orgs like Henry’s Red Sox, Steinbrenner’s Yankees, Godfrey’s Blue Jays, MacPhail’s Cubs, McGuirk’s Braves, or Murdoch’s Dodgers? Five of the top eight gross revenue teams in MLB have revenue sharing reducing shelters in the form of media communication arms.
Wilbur is obviously bent on the state of the Pirates’ farm system — a system he has profuse knowledge and expertise in. Wilbur has said:
"CEO Kevin McClatchy has retreated from an earlier statement that [revenue sharing] funds were going partly on debt service, which is prohibited by the collective bargaining agreement. Instead, he’s resorted to vague and highly suspect claims that the money is being spent on the farm system. The team’s 2005 draft, however, brings those claims again into question."
There is no question that the Pirates farm system is devoid of impact talent. Baseball America recently rated the system 18th of all MLB teams continuing a downward slide since GM David Littlefield took over. BA said this in their 2005 evaluation of the Pirates farm system:
"18. Pittsburgh Pirates — Continued lack of impact players and decreased depth moves Pirates down the list."
If alive, Branch Rickey would probably say a minor league farm system is the R & D arm of a MLB team and, without proper R & D, the organization will never prosper. True to form, the 2005 Forbes valuation of the Pirates franchise showed zero growth in 2005. In fact, the Pirates were only one of two teams that didn’t see any franchise value increase despite the fact the organization had the 8th best operating income. It will be interesting to see how much this changes in Forbes 2006 valuation.
McClatchy and Glass are certainly manipulating MLB’s welfare check system, but so are other owners.. the very same owners who will vote on the new CBA in 2006 who have seen their franchise values soar since the last CBA came to pass.
A recent discussion was held at the Baseball Think Factory on Joe Randa’s signing this year. Some very knowledgeable Pirate fans joined in like Mike Emeigh, Steve Zielinkski, and others. Most of the comments suggested a general belief that the Pirates obtained Randa, Burnitz, and Casey simply to sell more tickets – not with ‘an eye toward the upcoming labor negotiations’ which Wilbur believes.
I agree with them because the Pirates only spent what they received in the form of MLB welfare and not a cent more. A one-year spending spree isn’t going to change anyone’s perception of the Pirates spending habits.
No matter, until the fans stand up to the owners in Pittsburgh and Kansas City and demand a better product, nothing will ever change. But that’s my take..