Writing this article has been one of the biggest challenges of my TSD writing career. Not because of the merits of the opposing arguments, (although they were both very well written).
This is a challenge because I am watching the NFL season opener between the Vikings and the Saints, but am trying to write an article about the Pittsburgh Pirates. That’s like trying to rate a bowl of ramen noodles while you are sitting in a steakhouse.
Nevertheless, I persevered!
I agree with the points raised in Babe Ruthless’ argument that a team should be free to spend the money it earns however it wishes. Where I disagree with Babe Ruthless is in the presentation of that point. The examples used, such as the Washington Redskins and the Atlanta Braves, are not a fair representation of the concern the Pirates have raised.
The intention behind my question for this debate was not to design a process to eliminate or punish losing. Obviously a championship cannot be awarded to everybody, and in sports competition, there must ALWAYS be a loser.
The issue at hand was whether or not major sports organizations like Major League Baseball should tolerate the actions of a team that clearly do not place competition among its highest levels of priority. In the case of the Washington Redskins, the business may have demonstrated profitability while losing, but the organization’s actions nevertheless demonstrate an ongoing commitment to winning. The Redskins were a playoff team in 2007, and finished 2008 with an 8-8 record. Entering 2009 the front office brought in the highest priced talent that could be found. After finishing the season with a record of 4-12 the front office brought in a new head coach (who happens to be a two-time Super Bowl champion), and a very talented quarterback to try and correct what I expect to be a short-lived trend of losing.
Likewise, the Atlanta Braves may place a high priority on developing talent from within, but the organization does not support that priority with a history of releasing talented players and aggressively trying to keep payroll as low as possible.
What the Pirates have done, as highlighted by Loyal Homer, sets them apart as the bad example MLB should ABSOLUTELY take action against. The Pirates have manipulated the system SOLELY for the purposes of profitability.
The model of profit sharing employed by MLB, and similar programs like those in the NFL, does not exist to help make all the league owners wealthier. It exists to help promote parity in the league. The luxury tax that the New York Yankees (for one example) pay annually because of their high-priced talent is not intended – nor should it – as a bonus payment to the Pittsburgh Pirates. It is extra money the team can pipe into the organization to help make sure the Yankees, and other “haves,” cannot simply run away with the season each year.
The Pirates are presented to the public as a baseball team that wishes to compete in Major League Baseball. However, behind the scenes management continues to hamstring the team, making that process of winning exceedingly difficult. The current system is being USED… not as a means to enhance his team’s viability, but instead as a means to enhance profitability.
Nutting’s operation of the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise is no different than that of a slumlord. He provides his consumers with nothing more than a shell of the product they pay for. He provides them with no means for long term viability, and intentionally undermines any chance they would have at success because he absolutely refuses to expend any cost other than the bare minimum to remain functional.
As long as he gets paid, he doesn’t care what happens to the organization or the public.
The business of sports and the purpose of sports are two separate things. While I completely understand and agree with the notion that a team must remain financially viable, competition must also remain the sports organization’s top priority.