Didn’t see this one coming.
From a general business perspective, it makes a lot of sense. The Pirates and the the Penguins compete with each other for corporate dollars, even though their seasons don’t really overlap. (Unless the Penguins go deep into the playoffs, which they have the past two years.) Together, they would create a pretty solid force in the city — not as strong as the 10,000 lb gorilla Steelers, but much stronger than they are individually. And that’s before you even account for any synergies that this deal could create.
But here’s the problem: through trial and error, or maybe blind luck, Bob Nutting — the current owner — has picked the right people to run the team. The reason he didn’t for the first twelve years he was in charge was that he doesn’t really understand baseball, and neither did his CEO, Kevin McClatchy. So when they had GMs that were doing their jobs really poorly (Cam Bonifay, Dave Littlefield), they gave them the benefit of the doubt, and held on way too long.
But now the Pirates are in the right hands. Frank Coonelly, the current CEO, understands the value of sabermetrics, has been willing to spend a lot of money on amateur acquisitions, and probably holds some real political sway with MLB, given that he used to be one the top executives in the league office. The current GM, Neal Huntington, has had a smart strategy from day one and hasn’t veered from it. Whether he’s executing it perfectly is open for some debate, but I know all of us Pirates fans are much happier with the process now than we were a few years ago.
The last thing the Pirates need right now is another owner that doesn’t understand baseball, who may want his own people to run the team, and may need to go through his own trial and error process. And it pains me to say that — aside from being the ultimate hero of my childhood, Mario has also been a fantastic owner for the Penguins, bringing them from bankruptcy court to back-to-back finals appearances, a Stanley Cup championship, and a new arena this coming fall.
So I’m very conflicted. Emotionally, it’s the coolest idea I’ve ever heard. Rationally, it doesn’t really add up.
I’ll add that I don’t think Bob Nutting has been as miserable an owner as most people think. If Nutting and McClatchy hadn’t come in, it’s very possible the Pirates would be playing in Portland, or Washington, or Charlotte, or who knows where. If he has one fatal flaw, it’s that he’s hired the wrong people, and trusted them way too much. But he’s got the right people now, and I have no doubt that the Pirates will spend what they need to if they’re close to contention in a couple of years.
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