PITTSBURGH (KDKA)–Chances are a year ago, when the Pirates had basically already eliminated themselves from contention by the All-Star break, you weren’t hearing Pirates’ Owner Bob Nutting say anything close to this:
“Oh it’s been fantastic, obviously tremendously exciting season so far,” Nutting said. “This team has come out every day ready to play, playing hard and just putting an exciting show on.”
But these are different times. Times in which the Pirates are currently winners, and they are contenders, two things that haven’t been said around here in decades. Those are just a few of the topics KDKA-TV’s Jory Rand touched upon this afternoon when he sat down one-on-one with Nutting.
“It’s a lot more fun to come to the ball park,” Nutting said.
Showing up at PNC Park hasn’t always been such a good time for Nutting, but he knew that was going to be the case four years ago when he decided to blow up the organization, hiring Neal Huntington and Frank Coonelly to trade off what little talent the Pirates had in the latest of a long line up rebuilds.
“Oh it’s extremely hard, and there’s no question that every one of those decisions took into account what the fan’s reaction was gonna be,” Nutting said.
The reaction wasn’t good, especially when three years in, the Pirates were getting worse. Last year, the club had 105 losses.
One year later, though, and the dichotomy couldn’t be more stark, as those who once booed him are now singing Nutting’s praises.
“I’m getting far more credit than what I deserve,” Nutting said. “I haven’t hit a single ball. I haven’t caught a single ball. I haven’t thrown a pitch. The players out on the field really are the ones who are performing.”
Neal Huntington is the man who has acquired many of those players. Yet Huntington remains without a contract for next season.
“Neal’s been doing a great job,” Nutting said. “I’ve said for a long time, I hope he’s with the club for a long time, and as long as that’s the right fit for the club and the right fit for Neal, I hope he’s here in Pittsburgh leading this charge.”
Nutting says that as if he has no say in the matter, so when Nutting was pressed a bit further, he said, “I don’t think that public venues is really the right place to do a contract negotiation. I probably just don’t tend to put that same level of importance on having to papers signed as I do having someone on board with the organization.”
So when will a piece of paper be signed that will bring or keep a star in Pittsburgh long-term?
Fans are too used to seeing the Pirates pass up on budding talent in order to maintaining the bottom line.
“We said that from the beginning, that we need to bring talent into the organization and we need to keep it,” Nutting said. “As Neal’s pointed out, real world, we’re not going to keep every single player. We have lots of time for those discussions.
“Even Andrew (McCutchen) has a number of years ahead that are already guaranteed with the club through arbitration years, so there’s time for those discussions, but Neal has to be focused on doing everything he can to improve this club. That’s going to be bringing in new talent, that’s going to be retaining the players that we have, it’s going to be building the right mix. Really, what’s been so special about this team is they’re playing the game together.”