If you’ve paid attention to the Pittsburgh Pirates and have been on social media in the past 4 months, you know there’s been a war between fans. One one side are the fans that are tired of owner Bob Nutting being cheap and have vowed to not go to any games (we’ll call them The Boycotters), and on the other side are people that defend the front office’s actions and the team (we’ll call the The Defenders).
How did this all start? This actually isn’t anything new. People have complained that Nutting is cheap and doesn’t care about winning for years. The Pirates have always been one of the teams with the lowest payrolls. There have always been people that defend the team because it’s a small market or because they love the team no matter what. What really set off the war was January 14 and 16 when the Pirates traded Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen.
On January 14, the Pirates traded Gerrit Cole, former number 1 overall pick and ace of the staff, to the Houston Astros for pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, infielder Colin Moran and minor league outfielder Jason Martin. Either people were outraged that he was traded at all or were angry about the return. Then on January 16 they traded Andrew McCutchen, who was a huge fan favorite and face of the franchise, for pitcher Kyle Crick, minor league outfielder Bryan Reynolds and $500,000 in international signing bonus allocation. This one hurt because McCutchen was beloved in Pittsburgh and it seemed like he wanted to retire as a Pirate. Even the Pirates indicated they wanted to keep him for the rest of his career. He is making $14.75 million in 2018.
After the McCutchen trade, things got ugly. In a preview of the season, ESPN mocked the Pirates and said they were hopeless. A petition was created to have Nutting removed as owner, and it got over 60000 signatures. Things got ugly on social media (well it’s always ugly; it got uglier). Fans were either criticizing the owner, or defending the team’s strategy. Things got quiet until the Pirates home opener when it was revealed there were still thousands of tickets unsold. The home opener was always a sellout. Currently average attendance is 15,287; last year it was 23,697 and 27,768 in 2016.
Meanwhile on the field, a funny thing happened – the Pirates were winning. They started the season 8-2 and have kept that going; they currently have a 25-17 record and are in first place in the NL Central. The Boycotters weren’t as loud and The Defenders were bragging that team was right to make the trades. Things were relatively calm until this past weekend when the Giants came to Pittsburgh for a 3 game series. This was McCutchen’s time back in Pittsburgh and PNC Park was nearly sold out for the series. Social media erupted and it still hasn’t died down. The Boycotters are mad at how Cutch got treated. The Defenders are mad that anyone would criticize the team.
So who’s right? Both sides have a point. The Boycotters say the Pirates could spend more and are always putting money ahead of winning. The Pirates are currently 27th in payroll. They can’t spend like the Yankees, but they can spend more. The Defenders say the Pirates have made the right moves, spending money doesn’t always mean getting better players, and being 8 games over .500 justifies that.
I’m calling for a truce in this war. At this point, everyone has picked a side and isn’t going to change their mind. When either side puts out a tweet attacking the other, it’s not accomplishing anything other than making the atmosphere toxic. Boycotters – we get it, you don’t like the owner and won’t go to games, and that’s okay. There’s no need to call the other side ‘sheep’. Defenders – you support the team and/or the management, that’s fine. There’s no need to attack the other side, can’t we all just get along?