Big Lead Sports Bar


Pirates' PR Nightmare Continues with Pierogi Dismissal

Let's recap this week for the Pittsburgh Pirates: they called up uberprospect Pedro Alvarez with all the excitement of the Baltimore Colts moving in the middle of the night; they announced extended contracts to their manager and GM, moves that were made in the offseason and hidden from the public all season; they're in the midst of a 12-game losing streak, closing in on yet another franchise record for ineptitude; and now comes the latest: they've fired one of their pierogies.

24-year-old Andrew Kurtz of New Brighton, one of 18 brave souls who take turns donning the outfits of Cheese Chester, Sauerkraut Saul, Oliver Onion, and Jalapeno Hannah in the fifth-inning pierogi race, was given his walking papers by Pirate management after making disparaging remarks about the team on Facebook. The remarks in question are as follows:

"Coonelly extended the contracts of Russell and Huntington through the 2011 season. That means a 19-straight losing streak. Way to go Pirates."

The move to fire Kurtz was prompted by Dan Millar, who holds the coveted title of "Pirates' mascot coordinator". 

Said Kurtz:
"He called as the game was going on," Mr. Kurtz said. "He wanted to know what was up with my Facebook message. I told him I didn't mean anything by it, and he was like, 'Well, why'd you put it up?' I said, it was just an opinion. But he took it negative and talked to his boss. And then they wanted me to turn my uniform in."
No company wants to be criticized by their employees, and this certainly isn't unprecedented. Individuals have been fired for blog postings, Facebook updates, etc., for years now, hence the ever-present anonymity of the net. 

But once again, it's not Kurtz who's going to be the loser in all this, it's the Pirates. I can just picture it now, on Monday's Pardon the Interruption, when Kornheiser and Wilbon yuk it up about the crappy Pirates firing a pierogi, eventually leading into them laughing about how the organization is such a joke. It's the kind of nugget that gets sopped up like gravy by blogs and the media, and will be a much bigger story than it probably deserves to be in no time.

No matter who is right or wrong in an instance like this, it's the Pirates with egg on their face, because it's bad press. And do you know who I place the blame with? The organization. By pulling the stunts that they pulled this week, they lost virtually any shred of credibility they have left. Do you really believe them when they say they'll sign their marquee players in the future? They can't even announce a front-office signing that happened months ago, and when they do, it's done in a way that makes it sound like the guys could be fired anyway. What a vote of confidence. 

As I told Gregg Giannotti last night, this team's public relations decisions are magnified by their residency in the same town as the Penguins and Steelers, perennial winners with a much longer rope from fans. But that's especially true for the Pens, as media and image-savvy of an organization as you will ever find in pro sports. The Pirates need to not only start over on the field, but off the field as well. Telling half-truths to fans who are supposed to support another rebuilding project and creating a PR push for players from 1960 and not the future are two of the countless examples on record. The losing hurts, but losing and being insincere? That's a double-whammy to a fan base that deserves better.

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Someone Somewhere said...

Ugh, when does training camp start?

Adam said...

The Pirates couldn't have won with the Pedro call-up. If they'd announced it days ahead of time, they'd have been slammed for just trying to sell tickets. The way they've done it (treating him like any other player) they're still getting grief.

Koz said...

The kid deserved to get canned, because you just can't do what he did. Better for him to get canned from a $25 dollar per pierogi race job and learn a lesson for the rest of his life, than make the same mistake with a career down the road.

Having said that, given the Pirates ineptitude in all things, they probably were better off not canning the kid, because they should have seen this coming. Sit him down, give him a stern talking to, educate him to proper social media conduct vis a vis your employer, suspend him if you have to: but firing him made this a story.

I feel badly for people who are sticking with this team. You all deserve better.

Koz said...


Who gets slammed for announcing their are calling up a highly touted, quality prospect?

When has that happened?

No one has ever been more trumpeted than Strasburg, and I never once heard anyone accuse the Ex-Expos of anything more than getting him where he belongs.

The Pirates roster is awful and justifies having his talent at the major league level. End of story.

Adam said...

The Pirates do.

Don in this very post thinks they handled it poorly by calling him up Tuesday night (like they would have done with anyone else). He wanted an announcement ahead of time. But when the Nats did that with Strasburg, they got hell for that, too, and you can bet your ass the first thing out of the conspiracy people's mouths would have been "They're just trying to hype him to sell the place out."

It's a no win situation PR wise, so I think they did the right thing in calling him up the same way most minor leaguers are.

The Mad Bubbler said...

Ha, I love it. And the more I hear people like Chip, Nate, and Adam defend the Pirates, the greater joy I get out of them being, without question, the worst franchise in the world. They will continue to suck, continue to lose, continue to dissapoint, continue to fire people for criticizing them, continue to dupe fans, continue to string people along for the ride. It will never get old to me, nor will it ever get old to people who support them. The difference is I get nothing but pure joy and satisfaction out of it, while the idiots have to suffer.

BURGH08 said...
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BURGH08 said...

If the Pirates and their fans think they are getting a raw PR deal, let me simply quote Talia Shire in 'Rocky II'.


Adam said...

Hey Bubbler,

I'd rather give Bob Nutting every dime I ever earn than be in a room with you.

Brian said...

Koz brings up a good point, and hopefully Adam and countless others will learn that just because you have an opinion doesn't make it necessary, or advisable, to post it for the world to see. Some employers are too sensitive and go too far in their discipline, but "freedom of speech"---as some cry---does not mean you can say whatever you want without facing consequences.

That said, the Pirates outdo themselves every day, and really whomever is in charge, now or in the future, will need to understand that it will take a long stretch of fan-directed goodwill in order to bring people back and atone for these two decades of nightmarish community membership.

Koz said...

I did not hear anyone blast the Nationals for talking about calling up Strasburg.

Unknown said...

Don't forget that no one in the world outside of the Pirates organization and the kid's family would know that he's a pierogi working for the Buccos. By firing him, they turned a comment no one would pay attention to into bad publicity. Good work!

Scott said...

Thanks for calling out the Pirates on this. Some of the Pirate blogs have actually defended this action, completely ignoring that firing this kid made for a complete PR disaster.

Adam said...

O give me a break. If anyone here said anything like that about their employer publicly, they'd be fired, too.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

"Freedom of Speech" just means that you can't be thrown in jail for saying whatever you want.

A private employer, or business, has every right to deny you employment of service for saying stuff they don't like.

It doesn't always make it right, but people do get the "freedom of speech" thing twisted. It does not extend into the private sector.

I don't agree with Bubbler's mocking of Pirate fans, because I feel like he's the same type of guy who was probably making fun of Penguin fans during the "Rico Fata" era.

He's the worst kind of sports fan, the kind with no heart.

That said, you can stick it out with your team in tough times (even in the extreme example of the Pirates), but still not buy their bullshit, like some Pirate fans like to do.

I'd like think that's how I approach it.

Adam said...

For the first time, like, ever I'm in complete agreement with you...though I'm sure we probably have differing views on where to draw the BS line.

The Mad Bubbler said...

Yeah, I've had Pens season tickets since 2003, so you're wrong. I was there for 9-0 against New Jersey. 8-0 against Montreal one year. I sat there and watched Detroit carry le coupe around. I even sat there til the sickening end of game 7 last month. I'll stick with my teams no matter how bad they suck (of course not always with a smile on my face), as long as they are TRYING to win and not feeding their fans a bunch of BS. One of my most shameful secrets is I am a huge New York Knicks fan...I don't know why but I am. They are awful. I mean god awful. But they try to win. They really do. They just are buffoons and make terrible decisions. Even if they get LeBron they'll probably find a way to F that up too.
That's why I don't understand how people in this city (Don included) can sit back and make fun of the Cleveland Browns and then support the Pirates. The Browns TRY to win. They spend money, they trade up for draft picks. Does it work? No, because they're idiots. The Succos are doing both. Not only are they not trying to win, but they're also idiots. I can forgive the idiot part, hell I've been doing that with Pitt for as long as I can remember (another organization I love with a passion that disappoints 9/10 times). But at least that one time was when they sent Joe Pa's sorry ass packing, and he's been too scared to come back ever since.
I agree the Succos had every right to fire the guy, anyone with a 9-5 that's sat through a meeting or two knows you can't just blast your own company. But seriously...seriously Pirates, you have nothing better to do? Other teams are winning, and you're disciplining pierogies. Dan is right, why would you even bring that bad press upon yourself? You know why the Steelers and Penguins don't have these types of problems? Cause they win. They put winning first and everything else falls into line. But the Pirates realize they'll never win, so they have to protect their image of "Hey, we're trying, seriously! Don't let anyone else tell you different". These crooks rake in $50+ million a year and they're worried about pierogies...good lord... this whole ownership feels like a Monty Python sketch.

Nate said...

Yeah, and if the Pirates start winning in 2013 I'm sure you'll have had season tickets since 2001.

Nobody was saying the Pens were trying to win when they cut Jagr. In fact, Pittsburgh was very, very unkind to them between 92 and the modern era. I'd argue even worse than they are to the Pirates - at least Pittsburgh directs anger at the Pirates. The whole city was completely apathetic to the Penguins, to the point that the team almost went bankrupt.

BURGH08 said...

Son, you really need to do your homework on knowing that the team did go bankrupt (almost?), why they did, and steps they made in the long run.

Something tells me though you were sucking on your mom's nipple when it happened, and have no clue what you are talking about. Ask someone older than you about the climate in the city when Jagr was traded, or again look into it other than giving a blind opinion on it.

Of course the Pens didn't have as good of a chance after Jagr left, but when he did, it broke an ELEVEN YEAR STREAK of making the playoffs. After he left? It took FOUR YEARS before they made the postseason again. We all know what happened after that.

Jesus, and I thought Adam was the biggest dumbass here.

Adam said...

Right, Bubbler, Joe is so scared he's hiding in Tuscaloosa with the defending national champs in a few weeks. Good one.

But to the point, you might not believe in the plan being implemented. A lot of people don't. What I have a problem with is you poisoning the discussion for those of us who do. Calling us "idiots" contributes nothing to the dialogue.

Speaking for what I would think is now a majority of Pirate fans, I believe in the plan, not necessarily the people. You can question whether or not the front office will competently carry out the Minnesota/Tampa/Oakland model, but you argue that what they've done to this point doesn't constitute "trying", because it's worked in other cities, making your argument flawed from the start.

When it becomes clear that Huntington's talent evaluation sucks 2-3 years down the line, I'll be calling for his job, and 4-5 years from now, when the Nutting doesn't give the money to try and keep Alvarez, McCutchen, etc., I'll go after him, too.

I hardly think that's "idiotic"

Anonymous said...

The baseball experience is starting to change in this city. Other than the normal constant, which has been the losing, the Pirates are taking something else from us. One of the great things about baseball: being a fan of the actual on-field action.

I was at the game on Saturday, wanted to see Alvarez hit after I bought some nachos. I wasn't exactly at my seat yet, so I went outside just below the grandstand seats to see if I could see the at-bat. There was an usher there and our discourse went as such.

"Where are you located?"

"I'm in 303, but I just wanted to see the at-bat here."

He waved with a grin and said "Adios."

"I can't even stand here and see the at-bat?"

He waved again and said "Adios."

Anyone else see something wrong with this?

Steve said...
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Steve said...

Burgh08 - Thanks for that comment. You saved me from saying something similar. Nothing more annoying than a naive Pirates fan trying to tie that teams epic problems to another teams past moments of futility. Apathetic to the Pens problems Nate? I wanted Patrick stoned for that Jagr trade. Yeah, we know why he did it, that's not the issue. The problem is that he cared nothing about the quality of the return, kinda like most every Pirates trade since you've been eating solid food. 2013? If this Pirates organization can become a legit winner in two more years, I'll not only buy season tickets, but I'll buy yours too. Notice I said "legit", not a one game over .500 team that uses that measly accomplishment to claim the corner has been turned and raise ticket prices.

Bar Keep - You expected anything different? If the organization isn’t going to cut you a break why should it’s employees? Keep buying those tickets though, I want Seven Springs to be sparkling for my ski trip.

Adam - C'mon. You know if things remain status quo, in another 5-years you'll get right on board with whatever spin the Pirates ownership and management decides to send your way. They can gut the team to the bone again and you'll praise the new direction and defend it with a staunch fervor that would make JoePa blush.

The Mad Bubbler said...

I can never pass up a good shot at Joe Pa. BTW, Penn State scheduled their match with Alabama in 2005, when the Tide was coming off a 6-6 season and facing numerous NCAA sanctions for their football team.

Anyway Adam I honestly can't argue with your stance on the Pirates, I hope everyone feels that way though. I guess my problem is is that I am 100% sure in my head that Nutting will not be paying that money to keep the guys they have, and that 4-5 years down the road not enough people will be angry with him for him to sell the team, and he'll make millions more between now and then. And even if he gets run out of town (once again I highly doubt it, if people's opinion hasn't changed by now it most likely never will) he's still a millionaire. Seriously where is Kevin McClatchy right now? Counting his millions, not giving a f*** what a couple thousand people in PGH think of him.

Adam said...

When we scheduled Syracuse they'd just won 10 games. It all balances out, and Pitt was no brilliant light in 2005, anyway.

And I certainly share your skepticism about how much Nutting will put forward when the time comes, though if Huntington is good enough, he might be able to overcome that by building a system that consistently feeds the club with talent, and can absorb the departure of a McCutchen or Alvarez. That said, it'd be preferable to keep these guys for as long as possible (without overpaying).

That said, just don't lump everyone who supports the organization into the "idiot" category. There are compelling reasons to believe in what the club is doing at this point. They've given us their plan, and until they break from it, we might as well try to enjoy the process.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

You compare it to us making fun of the Browns.


But even though the Browns suck, I would expect that their fans stick with them through their crap years too.

It doesn't mean you have to be an idiot, it just means you're loyal.

And if you really were a Pens fan back in the 02-06 years, I bet you heard plenty of people disparaging the Pens and their fans. I heard a lot of people calling Lemieux and the team cheap during that time period, and calling whoever still supported them suckers.

So now you're just going to do the same to people who still root for the Pirates?

Fact is, they're the only team I can bring myself to care about in MLB, whether I want to or not. If they suck, then so be it I guess. They're still my horse in this race. It's not like I'm buying craploads of merchandise and season tickets anyways, but I still keep track of and discuss the team.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

No matter what I say in haste, I will always support the Pirates so long as they exist and can never root for any other team.

I just don't understand how people can lambaste those of us who are skeptical of the FO's moves and motives given the history.

Of course, I also can't believe how many people feel bad for Ian Snell regarding his suicide comments and are blaming the Pirates fans and organization for that....... I'll tell you what, I wanted to commit suicide everytime he opended his mouth.

Unknown said...

It's clear that the firing of the Pierogi Kid was just another salary dump. The Pirates are looking to bring in a Rally Monkey and pay him in bananas.

The Mad Bubbler said...

Louis Lipps - The difference is that the Pens were losing up to $10 million a year, while the Succos make at least $50 million a year. Whoever called Pens fans in those years suckers is just a moron who probably wanted them moved out of town. I guess people who supported the Steelers last year are also suckers, since they were bad last year. It's hard to pay Jagr $10 million a season when you're losing $10 million a year. On the other hand it's not that hard to pay someone like Freddy Sanchez $8 million a year when you make $50 million a year, unless you're a cheapskate and would rather make money than win.

Billkamm said...

Instead of firing him just call in Randall Simon. He knows how to handle these things.