Two days ago the Chicago Cubs won they first World Series since 1908. No, this is not a post about the Cubs success or a rash of things that were in existence since their last World Series. This is an article that is about the explosion that was seen by many of the Pirates ‘Yinzer’ fanbase the day after the Cubs broke their curse.
How and why the yinzers were provoked to turn this victory into a front office bashing of the Pirates is unbeknownst to us here at NS9. Then again, the fickle yinzer fanbase that was clamoring for Andrew McCutchen to be traded this deadline were the same that was bashing the thought of not offering an extension 1 year ago as well.
Yesterday, however, was all about how cheap Bob Nutting’s wallet is and the fact that the Pirates will never put together a quality team as long as those profits keep coming in.
First, I would like to take this time to point out that this is not the NFL, NBA, or even the NHL. The MLB does not have a salary cap nor does it support the same revenue sharing ideas that these other organizations do. Many of the correlations seen today on social media were directed to the way the Steelers organization is run in comparison to the Pirates. You might think its because the Pirates were in the playoffs three out of the past four years while the Steelers, who might I say run this town, had just two playoff berth while earning just one victory. No, it was because the Steelers ‘spend’ money while Nutting’s Pirates don’t and never will to ensure a quality team is assembled.
This is where I would like to point out the business side of things. The NFL saw record revenues last year as it pulled in $12 Billion dollars. Of that $12 Billion, they split $7.2 of it per its revenue sharing agreement evenly across all of the 32 teams in the NFL. Essentially, the teams get to keep their local revenue, but due to all the national media deals and sales they divide all of that revenue to each team equally.
For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers last season had a local revenue of $150 Million. They received $226 Million from the NFL per is revenue share. The same market Steelers team was able to have a total revenue of $376 Million. Of that, they paid their players with a $156 Million payroll which was right at the salary cap. Yes, again the NFL enforces a $155.27 Million salary cap to all of its teams in order to promote a competitive balance.
As the NFL saw record revenues so did the MLB. In 2015, the MLB recored a record amount of $9.5 Billion, just $2.5 Billion (21%) short of the NFL. Though the MLB saw another record year, not all of the teams are seeing the increase the same way. Unfortunately, the revenue sharing does not work out quite as well for all teams in many ways. For the most part, what that team generates is what they make. If you are a bigger market you’re more inclined to have greater #FinancialFlexibility than markets that are smaller. Yes, there are some national deals that gets divided out amongst the teams and they take 31% from each team to redistribute the money, but it still doesn’t quite equal out the same. Then when you factor is that there is no salary cap, the teams with more money can certainly spend more during free agency.
For example, as we learned the amount of revenue the Steelers generated while playing in the same exact market as the Pirates, the Pirates only generated $244 Million last year. That is a 35% decrease while the MLB generated only 21% less revenue than the NFL. The discrepancy of revenue among the top teams in comparison to the bottom teams is quite staggering. Here is a chart from Forbes showing the revenue generated by each team as they are sorted by ranking.
By comparison, the New York Yankees’ revenue was $516 Million to the Pirates $244 Million (53% decrease). Meanwhile the discrepancy in the NFL shows the New York Giants revenue in 2015 was $444 Million to the Steelers $376 Million (15% decrease). This shows us that it’s much easier to compete with each other while in the MLB it is not. Let’s also factor in the payrolls. While the Giants had revenues of $444 Million, they only were able to spend $154 Million in payroll last year. The Yankees spent a total of $219 Million in payroll. Also for your information, the Dodgers spent a whopping $273 Million.
The point we are trying to make here is that teams in the MLB do face true business decisions. Small market teams much like the Pirates cannot afford the luxury of spending freely on the open market to build their teams. When the Yankees hand out a contract that pays $25 Million a year, it only equates to 11.4% of their payroll and 4.8% against their total revenue. When your answer to the Pirates problems are to just spend more money and hand out the same contract, that contract would eat up 25% of their total payroll and 10% of their total revenue. If that player does not pan out (Carl Crawford, Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Howard, Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, CC Sabathia, and many many more) it can almost cripple an organization for the present and the future. Just look at what has happened to the Phillies, Angels, Padres, and the Diamondbacks of recent. Hell, you could actually lump the big bad Yankees in this category as well.
Now that we discussed the business side, let’s discuss thought process on how the twitter GM’s clamor to build up this organization – SPEND MONEY! Everyone loves to throw around the phrase, “they need to spend money,” yet not many have any sort of execution. What we find funny is how often we hear how horrible some acquisition was as the yinzer fanbase starts writing the Pirates off again. Then that acquisition actually pans out and the same people are upset when the Pirates don’t offer a 5 year $70 million deal.
One thing we at the North Shore Nine have given credit to the Pirates for is reinvesting into their core players. Neither of us two are fans of dabbling much into the free agent market, especially if its to build a team. A truly great organization should build from within and then nab the missing pieces through free agency need to get them to the next level. The biggest reason for this philosophy is due in part largely that free agency is essentially paying players for past performance.
Due to the structure of MLB contracts, payers make pennies during their controllable period before becoming eligible for free agency. Even during the arbitration years, they still tend to far less than they would on the open market. The Pirates have lead the way in offering contracts to these younger players to give them a bump in pay while buying out a few years of their free agency eligible years. This has allowed them to lock up players throughout their entire prime years and then letting them walk as they begin the decline stage of their career.
Most every baseball player’s best baseball is in their rear view mirror as they hit free agency. If anything, the team may get a few quality years out of them before their contract outweighs the production they provide the team. I already gave some great examples of this mentioned earlier in this article, but this table provides a fair evaluation of why spending big in December and January is not as sensible as fans may think.
Sure, looking at the value Pujols has given so far has actually still been solid, but realizing he is still owed this ridiculous rate of money until age 41 puts it in perspective. What you can clearly see no matter who it is on this list it’s the fact that all of these players were much more valuable before they landed their mega free agent deal.
So as the Pirates continue to make sure that they lock up their own like they have with Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Josh Harrison, and Francisco Cervelli, know that they are getting the best versions of these players before they go into free agency.
Hearing about this team’s window being closed is also quite hilarious. Seeing that we have this core locked up and we have some tremendous talent coming through the farm system just shows how lazy the yinzers are when it comes to this front office narrative. A core group of Cutch, Marte, Polanco, Harrison, Cervelli, Jung-Ho Kang, and Gerrit Cole among having studs providing a full season next year like Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, and Josh Bell should get you excited knowing the type of talent this team holds. Then take a look at players like Mitch Keller, Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, Kevin Newman, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Will Craig, and the bountiful remaining quality role players in our minors tell a tale of a bright future.
Honestly, we could trade some pieces in our system to improve our major league team, for pitching, of course, and still have a solid farm to ensure we continue to compete each year going forward. However, there must be an understanding that it’s important this team does not mortgage its farm or spend big to acquire pieces or else you will be finding a lot more of 2016 seasons instead of 2015 in the future.
There could certainly be an argument that the Pirates should be raising their payroll. Both of us here at North Shore Nine would agree with that. Based on the revenue the Pirates make compared to the percentage they spend on payroll, it is not quite in line with the league. Yes they have been increasing each year, but it is not quite where it should be. Because the Pirates have such manageable contracts for the next few years, it wouldn’t be egregious to think a solid move to land a quality pitcher can be done. Though there isn’t much on the market, making a trade to acquire a player like Ervin Santana and take on that type of contract is extremely reasonable.
With this said, the last thing I want to see if a long term deal for Ivan Nova no matter what he did for the team this past season. I sure as hell don’t want any part of Mark Trumbo who after belting 47 home runs was able to still manage just a 1.6 WAR. To put in perspective, Josh Harrison had a 1.8 WAR. The chances of Trumbo replicating last year are very slim, and then you have to equate for his horrendous defense. Trumbo has a career -6.4 dWAR. The Pirates have announced they’re creating more of an emphasis on defense this season. Let’s just have whatever team the decides to overpay for Mark Trumbo deal with that contract on their own.
What really grinds my gears is the fact that because there are so many uninformed fans that get their baseball information from either Mark Madden, John Steigerwald, or Dejan Kovacevic, sites like ours have to be labeled the ‘Front Office Apologists’ because we constantly have to beat the dead horse to show how not everything is the worst move in the world. You can take a look at our site, listen to our podcast, or view our twitter and see that there are things we disagree with. However, we know you are too lazy to actually do any of your own research, so this is just a label we will always have to live with until some real change happens with this outdated Pittsburgh Media.
The reason all of us ‘Front Office Apologists’ agree with most of the decision is due to the fact that the front office has actually hit on many of their decisions than not. I’m not so sure what is hard to understand here, but it is the truth. Why is it that do many people within the ‘Burgh bash this organization so much and call out sites like us when the reality is the national media essentially give the same type of love, if not more, as we do. Neal Huntington has assembled a quality team that has made the playoffs three out of the last four years. Ask yourself how many times the Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Rangers, and Giants been in the playoffs the past four season? We are aware the Pirates have not won any championships, but they have been put in a position to have a chance. In those three playoff season, the Pirates totaled the second most wins in Major League Baseball behind only the Cardinals.
Neal Huntington has done a tremendous job over the years. He has acquired some great talent on snake like moves while also signing home grown talent to very team friendly deals. Let’s not also forgot going out and getting Jung Ho Kang on a 4 year $11 million deal which is almost illegal. This season was just lost to a series of many unfortunate events that not many could see or predict coming. Jeff Locke lead the team in innings due to a plethora of injuries to the rotation and season to forget from Francisco Liriano. On top of the albatross to our pitching, former MVP Andrew McCutchen had the worst year of his career. Kang was slow to come back from a broken leg and then became completely lost after sex allegations came to surface.
Had just one of those previously mentioned problems not have happened, you could see this team being competitive for the entire season and quite possibly playing in the playoffs for the four straight year tying just the Dodgers as being the only team in baseball to do so.
The amount of hate this organization gets from the so called fans is remarkable and pitiful. For some reason many feel its championship or bust. If they do in fact bust, then it was a year that went very bad and someone needs to pay. Then they provide the answer is to spend more money and apparently just bypass the fact that the Dodgers have been in the same exact position as the Pirates and have spent almost three times as much money.
The extreme rationality needs to be refocused to redefine what the meaning of success is. It is hard enough for any team to get into the playoffs let alone win a championship. We just witnessed a World Series that featured two teams that haven’t won since 1908 and 1948. We also witnessed a smaller market team win the World Series last year with the Royals. With that win, they followed it up with an 81-81 record and are actually witnessing their window closing. This brings us back to the question we wrote about earlier this year here as to why fans cannot be appreciative of the winning culture this front office has brought to Pittsburgh but instead hate on everything they do because of what happened in the past regime.
Thoughts? Comment below and make sure to follow us on @NorthShoreNine