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Neal Huntington Defends the Nuttings

I'm extremely psyched that the Pirates signed their top two draft picks, along with a few other above-slot players, but that doesn't mean the organization still can't find a way to annoy me in their comments after the fact.
Neal Huntington appeared on The Fan Morning Show on Tuesday [audio], and was quick to come to the defense of owner Bob Nutting, who "takes a beating in this town for being cheap".

A quick look at the 2010 MLB payrolls shows that the Pirates rank 30th/dead last at $34.9 million, roughly $37 million less than the next-closest team in their division, the Cincinnati Reds ($72.3 million). 

In fact, the other five teams in their division are spending an average of $97.1 million in payroll this year, going upwards from Cincy to Milwaukee ($81.1), Houston ($92.3), St. Louis ($93.4) and Chicago ($146.8). So spare me if Bob Nutting's feelings were hurt for being called cheap, even though his team has the lowest payroll in baseball and is spending at a rate of 35% of the divisional average. What are we supposed to call him? George Steinbrenner?

Don't get me wrong, Huntington deserves some kudos for getting these deals done, but really, he's just doing his job. You're supposed to take the best player in the draft. You're supposed to then sign that player. It's like the old Chris Rock bit where he mocks people who brag about taking care of their kids. I believe his comeback to those types was something along the lines of, "You're supposed to, you ignorant [deleted Chris Rock terminology]. " 

Since the Pirates were too incompetent to master the task of drafting players in the time leading up to the Huntington Era, we've been brainwashed to think that they're somehow going above and beyond by doing the right thing now. They're not. They're just doing what they should have been doing for nearly two decades.

As Joe Starkey pointed out today, the Pirates toot their horn about leading MLB in draft dollars handed out the past three years, but they are not accounting at all for international players, which make up 40% of all MLB rosters. 
 While the Bucs' three-year total stands at $31 million in money spent on the draft, Cincinnati nearly topped that with an investment in one foreign player, with the $30 million+ given to Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman. And did I mention that Cincy is spending approximately $38 million more on their Major League roster than the Pirates this year, in a similar market size? With that being the case, the Pirates better sign their draft picks, and be glad they still have any fans who even care at this point.

Don't get me wrong...I'm very happy that the Pirates selected Taillon and Allie and signed both of them, along with some other above-slot players. But I could do without the post-draft boasting by Huntington, who, like many Pirate executive, needs to be a little more careful in his selection of words. 

Signing these players was nice, but making this organization relevant again, even with them in the fold, is still a very long way off. Maybe then I will be sympathetic to the Pirates' front-office taking an undeserved verbal beating from fans and the media, but for now, I think such criticism has been justifiable.

Mondesi's House: The Director's Cut (more links, commentary, etc):


MJ said...

I listened to that interview and Huntington also made it clear that the Pirates don't plan on signing a decent free agent pitcher. I don't expect them to sign a top-tier starter, but I do expect them to actually pay some money to upgrade the slop they call this five-man rotation. More of the same.

Unknown said...

Good point, Don.

I love the Pirates and my support won't end just because they stink - I guess I'm a masochist. However, I'm getting sick of them tooting their horn on how much they have spent on the draft in the past three years. Good for them.

Now someone shove back in their face the extremely low amount they have spent on free agency in the past three years and how that ranks in MLB. You get better by burning the candle at both ends.

Chip said...

I just posted about the quality of Nuttings leadership in the other thread. Neal is right to defend him. He is doing everything it takes to build a winner and ignorant fans and sports "media" keep harping on the same tired incorrect points.

Please, Don, I've found your Pirates coverage to be rather fair in an oasis of idiots like Senile Smizik or that clown from WV on the Fan. Don't turn into one of those people.

Yes, the Pirates SHOULD spend on the draft. Except not every team does and they haven't in the past. Littlefield ignored Latin American. He wouldn't deal with Boras. McClatchy (THE REAL CUPLRIT in the Pirates misery) is the goof who cut back scouting and minor league spending. He's the imbecile who pulled us out of international signings.

Anybody who doesn't realize this organization has taken a quantum leap forward to the better since Bob Nutting took control simply has no clue what they're talking about. Which isn't shocking consider the fair weather nature of most "Pittsburgh sports fans."

And enough with harping on the payroll. WHO COULD THEY SIGN? Seriously, your blog is named after one of the biggest wastes of money in Pirates history. Do you think that is the way they should go?

Should they have spent $12 million on useless crap like Xavier Nady or Bronson Arroyo? Should they have given Jason Washed Up Bay a $20 million contract? You don't spend money just to spend it. That's a ridiculous argument only made by the tragically uninformed.

The FACT is they are doing exactly what they need to do. They're spending money wisely. They're trading wisely. They're building a farm system. They're using the draft and Latin America again.

Please don't be one of those who panders to the same ignorant crowd as Alzheimers Smizik. You're better than that. Frank and Neal are doing a great job because Bob Nutting is giving them the resources to do it. He gets enough unfair criticism that Neal is right to give him the kudos he's earned. I only wish some sports writers/bloggers had the balls to do the same.

This is the first time in 18 years the franchise is truly on the right track and we have all three of those gentleman to thank for it.

Anonymous said...

Comparing the $31 million spent in the last 3 drafts to the $30.25 million ($16.25m signing bonus) the Reds spent on Chapman is unfair, as Chapman's deal was an international free agent contract. For it to be a slightly more fair comparison, you'd have to also include the money earned by all the players signed in these draft classes during their first six years in the system.

Feel free to criticize the lack of big-name international free agent signings, but the Pirates have spent more on the draft in the last three years than almost every single team in baseball, without having to sign Strasburg or Harper. Yes, the major league payroll is low, but I'd rather have them spending money to build from the bottom up.

And by the way, the Reds three highest-paid players are Harang, Arroyo, and Cordero: more than $36 million in payroll right there. That's almost half their money spent, and those guys aren't among their 5-6 most valuable players. Joey Votto makes $550k this year, and was developed in their system. I'd much rather the Pirates have guys like him and add free agent payroll afterwards.

Barry JT said...

I would much rather see them spend $30 million on loads of prospects than on Chapman. I really doubt that Chapman is worth two Strausbergs.

I really think these "Are the Pirates Cheap?" debates need to be shelved for a couple of years. Of course their payroll is unbelievably low. They routinely start three rookies and two second year players. Let's wait until Pedro hits arbitration the first time. If the payroll is $30 mil, then I think we can have this conversation.

dice said...

Of course they have spent the most on draft picks the past 3 years, look at where they draft! Here is the past 5 yrs....

2010 No. 2
2009 No. 4
2008 No. 2
2007 No. 4
2006 No. 4

Wake Up People! These picks aren't going to be cheap. I know it's different, but the Detroit Lions can probably say the same thing. The Bucco's FO is a joke.
I still can't believe anyone supports this team. I admit I care about Pirates Baseball, but I will not support this team with the Nutting's crew in charge. It must be a requirement to have political expeirence to work in the FO because this team is full of lies and propaganda.

Anonymous said...

I've been mad at this team for years. But for the first time in my life they're actually spending money for a change, even though it is just on the draft. It's a small step, but a HUGE step for the Pirates.

Can't give up now, even if this is the last time I keep my hopes up. I've come to far to just walk away.

BURGH08 said...

Thank you Don. Excellent post.

I think that if Neal just shut his trap and didn't go on with the snarky comments, all would be well in Pirate World, even the folks that think Nutting is a joke (which is most of the fan base).

At the end of the day, the Pirates HAVE to spend SOME money, or get called out like the Marlins did. How can they still make a profit, yet spend enough money to show they are putting at least some back into their franchise? Through the draft.

I am all for the moves being made at this point by going in this regard. Let's see what happens is A.) the people drafted develop and B.) the current core develops C.) if the current core is developed are still here when these picks develop...if they do.

That's a whole other animal, and until those things happen, this organization only deserves credit for doing something that every MLB franchise does. It's easy to brag about money invested in drafts when you are the among the lowest payroll year after year.

brian said...

I don't find fault with what NH said. It seems to me he was saying his boss enabled him to do his job in the draft by giving him the financial support to bring in the talent the Pirates did. No matter what the Pirates FO says they'll get ragged on constantly by the media and casual fans no matter what type of move they make. As always winning cures all, and unfortunately it's probably another season or two before the plan starts to succeed at the Major League level.

To succeed in MLB, it's not just about having a large or "acceptable" payroll, it's about the accumulation and development of talent throughout the organization. In the case of the Pirates it means drafting and signing high-end/high upside talent. Every team had a chance to draft Allie but were supposedly scared off by his asking price,yet the Pirates took him and got him signed as a 2nd round pick for well over slot price. The Bucs have invested in a bunch of HS arms the past two drafts and given them over slot price bonuses when they could have just as easily gone off to college to boost their draft status. I'd rather have a FO that will draft an Alvarez/Taillon type than take a "safe lower ceiling" picks and supplement the ML team with mid-tier or wash-up free agents.

As for the low payroll, yes the Pirates are terrible this year, but I'd rather be bad with payroll flexibility for the future, then have players with horrid contracts and no trade clauses like the Cubs or Astros to go with a barren farm system.
Cincy was already mentioned so I'll add that Milwaukee has 50M+ of this season's payroll tied up in pitching. Outside of Yovanni Gallardo (450K) nearly the rest of the staff has performed below replacement level with a combined negative WAR. When you have to go the FA route for pitchers, you're going to pay a steep price. For Milwaukee, where they are as an organization (high draft pick position players panning out and forming their core/playoffs in 08/high attendance) it was deemed worth the risk. For a 100+ loss team and a still young and developing core of hitters like the Pirates, it's probably better to allocate the resources elsewhere than to be looking for a FA SP who will probably cost you around 10 million a year and at best will get you from a 57-60 win team to a 65-70 win team.

If the current core develops plus enough pitching in the minors pans out in Pittsburgh and we are a piece or two away in 2013-2015 and ownership/FO doesn't pony up to get them if they can be had or retain the players that can be resigned and want to be here than the Nutting bashing would be more than warranted and justified. As of today, I'd rather be taking the approach the Pirates are doing with Nutting/Huntington in building from the ground up than the half-assed "rebuilding" under McClatchy/Littlefield.

Brian said...

Unknown said...

OK, to use your Chris Rock analogy...Some guy takes care of his kids and so you kick him in the nuts for doing it?

Bob Nutting is doing all the things he needs to do. That's the point. Why should he be called evil, cheap, etc.?

What the hell else should the Pirates have done in their position these off seasons? What free agent miracle workers could they have signed?

If Nutting "justifiably" takes a beating for having a low MLB payroll, that statement must assume there was a better course of action to take using more money to get better players.

Was there? Really? Seriously?

Last year I did a study of position players, and I found that not one player was on any roster of a team in any market under 4 million people who was a free agent signing, was being paid as an above average player and who actually was performing at an above average level.

And I'm not talking about just being signed that previous off-season. I'm talking about just being on the roster no matter when the signing took place.

Not one player!

Do you understand what that means? Do you understand now that when people like yourselves bash ownership for not going out to get an above average player in free agency, they are talking about an absurdly ridiculous course of action?

If the odds of successfully pursuing that strategy are so slim, why should people be clamoring for the Pirates to do it?

They are spending their money in the right way, and hopefully saving some money for the future when that money can better be spent. That will be when Cutch, Alvarez and Co. mature and are due large salaries in their year 4-6 seasons and hopefully beyond.

dice said...

@marklandson.....I did a study too last year and I found out the Pirates you understand what that means....

BurressWithButterflywings said...

Nutting isn't doing ALL of the things he is supposed to. They are just making it look good by signing the players they should be drafting so high in the draft year after year after year after year.

They are still doing the minimum at the Major League level, so there is no reason whatsoever they wouldn't have money to sign these picks. When you take that $10 Million/yr spent on the draft and average it in with the MLB payroll, it doesn't quite as admirable.

The bottom line is, this is just another investment for the future. But not in the way you Nutters thing. They are going to hold these guys back until the last possible minute, then once they play out their rookie contract ship them off for a couple of 27 year old career minor leaguers.

And for people who are going to say that is baseless and Bob Nutting has only been in charge since 2007, do some homework. He became the de facto chief in 2007, he has been chairman of the board since 2003.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

Also, there is little chance either Cutch or Alvarez, let alone both, will be extended beyond their rookie contracts.

BURGH08 said...

Here are some other great 'studies':

* The standings. Feel free to pick any season since Nutting was involved.

* The report in Forbes Magazine that claims the Pirates made a "fat profit" (April 2009).

* The major league payroll compared to teams in their own division, and across most of baseball.

Again, do they deserve credit for signing those players? Sure, but I wouldn't call it a 'banner day' either. Players that get drafted typically get signed.

Unknown said...

BURGH08 said: "Players that get drafted typically get signed"

The MLB draft is 50 rounds. Teams typically only sign about half the players. Players going unsigned, even in the early rounds, is not at all uncommon. Don's notion that signing players is what the Pirates "should" be doing is correct, but it isn't a given for any team, let alone for the Pirates.

There were a lot of ney sayers who suggested the Pirates were too cheap to sign both players. That is all Huntington was referring to with his comment. The Pirates reputation for penny pinching is well deserved but I see no need to take NH to task for that comment. Those ney sayers were wrong. He has a right to point that out.

78Deville said...

Maybe I can call the Fan Morning Show and brag about how I went to work and did exactly what I was expected to do.

It just rubs people the wrong way when these guys in the front office get in front of the media and talk about how great they are. Have you ever seen Ray Shero (or Craig Patrick or Tony Esposito or Ed Jonston for that matter) statements like this? And these guys drafted FRANCHISE ALTERING PLAYERS.

Not these guys. You almost wonder if they congratulate each other after a successful trip to the restroom.

Unknown said...

@dice...Yes, I do understand what it means that the Pirates suck. It means they shouldn't have a large payroll like many of the teams that also suck.

In MLB, a high payroll is purely the function of having a lot of players who have more than 5 or 6 years of experience. That is all. It doesn't mean those players are better than the players you have with less than 5 years experience.

In fact, another study I did last year found that 85% of all MLB players who performed at even an average level had either less than 6 years in MLB or were with their original team.

So, when you are in a position where the Pirates have been, how can you possibly get much better by bringing in better players from that pool of 15% of decent players available?

You either have to trade for them (OOPS!...that's not possible because you have no good prospects in the minors to use as trade chips) or purchase them on the free agent market (OOPS!...that's unrealistic because I just showed that no other team in the Pirates' situation is able to do that).

So, guess what? The only other way you can try to get above average players is:

1) trade your aging established players for some young players that have some promise but whose original team has soured on them for some reason,

2) take free agent fliers on some players that might have bounce back years,

3) draft well and pursue an aggressive strategy of buying out high schoolers from their college commitments with over-slot bonuses,

4) aggressively pursue international free agents.

Since Bob Nutting took over in 2007 and ousted Littlefield and McClatchy, the Pirates have done ALL of those things.

Some of the moves Huntington has made in #1 and #2 have not worked out to turn around the MLB team in a short period of time. That's too bad, but that has NOTHING to do with Bob Nutting.

There is nothing that Bob Nutting could have done differently to turn the team around faster than what he has already been doing since practically day 1.

And yet, he is still kicked in the nuts by the people who use football terms like "rookie contract" when talking about the Pirates.

give me the brandy said...

There were 20 teams that could have taken Allie and they all passed because they thought the bonus money would be too much. The Pirates took him in the 2nd round and gave the 10th highest bonus of any player in this year's draft. For that, they deserve credit.

This is something that Littlefield never would have done, and that is a big part of the reason why the team is in such bad shape today.

brian said...

For those who want to invest in free agents, who on these lists (2011 and 2012 Free Agent classes) can the Pirates realistically get as an upgrade over what they currently have in the organization?

78Deville said...

@ marklandson What are these studies based on?

BURGH08 said...

* Craig said: "The MLB draft is 50 rounds. Teams typically only sign about half the players. Players going unsigned, even in the early rounds, is not at all uncommon. Don's notion that signing players is what the Pirates "should" be doing is correct, but it isn't a given for any team, let alone for the Pirates."

I should have clarified in the first two rounds in my initial statement. Would you care to tally those percentages?

Again, great they signed them, and if you want to throw them a bone to say they are actually functioning like a team when it comes to the draft.

* The jury is still out on other facets of this organization in my opinion.

Brian writes from his list who the Pirates can "realistically get", and to that I say "exactly".

If you can't realistically afford players to upgrade to fill holes in with, why do you REALLY own a team?

* Finally, I'm not up on how 'blog responses' are done, but find it funny a guy disagreeing with Don's take simply posts a link to his blog where you can find his 'response'.

What's next? Challenging him to a dance off at the mall parking lot?

Koz said...


You have it right. Even if they ARE doing the right thing, they aren't going to boost their reputation by self-aggrandizing themselves on talk radio. Stay humble and pray for results.

Anonymous said...

gotta agree with matt bandi on this one. you run a solid blog here but the pirates just reeks of the same old "nutting is evil" themed posts. they are doing it the right way. so what if neal comes off as arrogant? would you rather have an arrogant NH or an imbecile DL?

Unknown said...


They are based on me, in the off season, looking at every player in MLB who compiled at least 2.5 WAR (Wins over replacement) and then looking at Cot's contracts and other sources to figure out how they were signed, what year of service time they had, etc.

I used 2.5 WAR as a measure simply because that's how much Andy LaRoche was worth last year, and I wanted to give fellow Pirate fans an idea of how difficult it is to find a player in free agency who would be better than what most people found unacceptable.

Unknown said...


It's not always a question of being able to afford players. They also have to want to come and play for you.

There are only about 10 teams in MLB that regularly do what you are suggesting when their team is not in immediate contention.

Steve said...

...and yet for the kazillionth time, it's amazing how people think the team will be able to field a complete/competitive roster in 2 years simply by building through the draft. There are holes that will simply have to be filled through FA signings (pitching), holes that by the time the current round of draftees is MLB ready, the current “core” of players will be near or at the end of their contracts and possibly going elsewhere. Even the rare, small market/low budget teams that the overly optimistic like to cite as examples of hope, have to go outside the system for a few pieces. Exactly who in the hell do the Pirates think is in the system that will be able to turn this rotation into anything respectable in one to two years? I’m talking realistically and with real good odds, not more of the same Lincoln/Morton failures and experiments, or some guy in A ball who’s mowing them down.

I agree with Don, doing what’s expected when you’re in the situation the Pirates are in shouldn’t be something to call the press about. I've never seen a FO so in a hurry to point fingers at itself simply sor not $hitting the bed. You don’t see the Nationals GM applauding and giving the ownership a reach around for spending money on Harper and Strasburg. Their fans would set stadium on fire if they didn’t spend it and would be within their rights to do it, yet I don’t think Pirates fans would have been so upset. They would have swallowed the excuse like always and moved on. Pirates fans who unconditionally support ownership and the FO are like the fat girl who knows she’s gonna get used and dumped on but puts out anyway because she’s that desperate to be loved (i.e a winner). There Fat girls, is that analogy better than the Chris Rock one?

brian said...

"Brian writes from his list who the Pirates can "realistically get", and to that I say "exactly".

If you can't realistically afford players to upgrade to fill holes in with, why do you REALLY own a team?"

By saying "realistically" I didn't just imply affordability. The Pirates, and many teams in MLB, aren't going to be able to give Cliff Lee the $20M a year he will most likely get this offseason. If the Cardinals inexplicably decline Pujols option this year and make him a free agent, about six or so teams will be able to afford him at the 25-30 million a year he would command. And quite honestly, with the size of the Pittsburgh market, the historical attendance figures (including winning and losing seasons) and the TV deals the Bucs will probably never be able to afford players at that price no matter who owns the team.
Being realistic about FA signings also referred to useful starters, in their mid 30s, signing here who have been on or currently play for winning teams. Guys like Carl Pavano, Ted Lilly, Brad Penny, Javy Vasquez etc; aren't likely to sign on here to spend the twilight or back-end of their career in the midst of a rebuilding job. Maybe they sign if we massively overpay, but that would be wasteful and wouldn't put us that much closer to winning the Central or Wild Card.

Maybe the Bucs can take a risk on guys coming off injury plagued seasons like Rich Harden, Chris Young or Erik Bedard with short-term, incentive laden deals. Most of the other guys on the list would be more expensive versions of the back-of-the-rotation types that we have now.

When the Pirates are good and in contention for a playoff berth, that is when it is time to fill out the roster with FA acquistions. 2011 is not that time.

Again, the key for the Bucs is to develop the talent from within and make sound decisions on whom to keep and make long-term commitments to. Hopefully enough pitching currently in A+ and AA (Morris, Owens, Wilson, Locke etc) can be solid MLB starters to go with the recent “ace-level” signings and compliment the core we have in place which is mostly everyday players.

If they start winning (possibly), the attendance is 30,000+ a night (not so sure), all forms of revenue are being maxed out (maybe) and they aren't properly investing in the organization by making sound baseball decisions (ultimately time will tell, but I believe they are doing it right) then I wouldn't be opposed to a regime change.

give me the brandy said...

@ Steve: This team won't be good in 2 years without outside help, I think even die-hard Bucs fans would admit that. 3 years is possible, and by then I'd be all for adding some pieces through free agency/trades and hopefully they will expand payroll at that point. If by then they aren't willing to do that, then we will know that Nutting really is just a cheap bastard.

Your analogy makes no sense because my rooting for the Pirates has no effect on whether they produce a winning team, so no, the Rock analogy was better.

BURGH08 said...

"It's not always a question of being able to afford players. They also have to want to come and play for you."

They will consider you a hell of a lot more if you have the money to pay them. They also will consider you if you have players worth playing with.

Maybe someday these young guys will be some of them. Highly unlikely that there will be enough of them though.

BURGH08 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BURGH08 said...

"would you rather have an arrogant NH or an imbecile DL?"

I'll take C: What NH does without trying to take shots at what the fan base thinks of his boss.

Again, good work on getting them signed, but if they didn't spend money on the draft, they would have been ripped most likely in the same fashion the Marlins were. They have no choice but to spend SOME money.

If you want a blog where you want to pat NH and Nutting on the ass, then maybe this isn't the place for you. Or most of the region for that matter.

By the way, the PLC blog that lined a 'response' predicted the Pirates would win 76 games this year.

In other words, for a team that many thought would lose 100 games this year, and lost 90 or more games since 2004 (when they lost 89) would actually lose 86 this year.

I think there is nothing more that needs to be said here.

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

@inclementweather - that comparison is EXTREMELY fair. It's all young talent acquisitions. And while the pirates are near the top in MLB Draft spending, they are likely near the bottom in my made up category of "devleopmental talent acquisition spending". They keep tooting their own horn, all the while, their draft spending isn't that impressive. Like the post said, they're just FINALLY spending WHAT THEY SHOULD. How much did the pirates spend on Miguel Sano?

While, the Pirates payroll is unGodly low, who should they be paying? I would rather see if the young guys can play (J. Clement/S. Pearce/etc) and find out for sure that some of these guys shouldn't play everyday (A. LaRoche/L. Milledge/etc) than watch another x nady/n mclouth/j bay outfield ever again. That being said, 'Cutch NEEDS a raise next season.

@dice - great point about draft position!

@brian - 2011 - Man, would i LOVE to see Cutch/Tabata/Crawford in the outfield! There wouldn't be any bloop singles or extra bases against that D! Ain't gonna happen, but ...well, yeah, ain't gonna happen. Josh Fogg is still around? In the majors?
2012 - Adrian Gonzalez is a player too, but we'd have to outbid a LOT of teams for him.
I realize that Crawford & Gonzalez will be THE catches of free agency the next few years, but i'd at least TRY to get them. Hell, while i'm living this pipedream, might as well go after Cliff Lee in 2012 too? I really don't feel like you COULD overpay for these three guys. They're all proven performers.

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

To further Dice's point about draft position, here is a chart from baseball america of how much over slot each team spent in the 2010 MLB draft (bucs rank 5th)

('Slot Total' means what the team would've spent if it signed ALL of its picks in the first ten rounds at slot value)