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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

How can Pirates win back fans? Transparency and ‘the process’ | TribLIVE

Weren’t the Pirates a smart team just a few years ago?

What can the Pirates do to win back their fan base? Ron Dick, an associate professor of sports marketing at Duquesne University, thinks he knows the answer.

Trust the process.

“We’re getting mixed messages from the (Pirates),” Dick said. “One minute we’re told, ‘We’re going to win as many games as we can in 2018.’ Then they go out and trade their best player and best pitcher.

“They need to get in a room, all of them — the sales and marketing people, the general manager and the owner — and say, ‘Let’s be transparent. Let’s just say what we’re going to do, be consistent in the branding of our product, and go from there.’ It really is that simple.”

Before he started at Duquesne in 2006, Dick held marketing posts for 15 years with the New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. He also was a consultant for the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Knicks.

Dick knows how hard it is to try to sell tickets for an underachieving team.

“The Pirates are going to keep doing the giveaways, the fireworks, the concerts,” Dick said. “That’s the marketing strategy. That’s the part you can control. You can’t always control the product.”

Jim Furtado Posted: January 24, 2018 at 09:12 AM | 24 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: pirates

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   1. Russ Posted: January 24, 2018 at 09:42 AM (#5612266)
Weren’t the Pirates a smart team just a few years ago?


Sort of. The problem is that in order to get better just through development, you have to be really freaking smart, not just kind of smart. Obviously, Huntington, et al. are better than what we had before, but you either have to be the best at drafting/development or be willing to spend money to fill in what doesn't work out (which, last year, was losing Kang and having crappy pitching).
   2. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 24, 2018 at 09:59 AM (#5612275)
The professor's not addressing that the current managers went through their "trust the process" period ten years ago. If you focus on that process instead of the results from 2013-15, management doesn't look very good. They're supposed to be a player development juggernaut now, instead they're filling holes by collecting 25-year olds from other teams.
   3. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: January 24, 2018 at 10:40 AM (#5612305)
The Process for the Pirates has already come and gone. Problems:

A) Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Neil Walker, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Jose Tabata have a total of 2 All-Star appearances between them. No true stars except McCutchen.

B) The Pirates ownership will never stop being cheap. They traded Neil Walker 2 years ago and now they are trading McCutchen and Cole. Maybe they will be the next 2017 Brewers led by Joshes Harrison and Bell and Taillon, Glasnow and Chad Kuhl will all be great starters. But it will not be the culmination of a plan, it will be a huge surprise.

C) What money they did have, they needed to spend on a bunch of veteran reclamation projects for the rotation. They could not produce, or trade for, any young starters who were reliable at all except Cole and Jeff Locke. Every year we were impressed by what they got out of Liriano, AJ Burnett, JA Happ, Edinson Volquez, Ivan Nova etc, but those guys were not exactly cheap. And the ones who did not pan out (Wandy Rodriguez) were also not cheap.

D) The loss of Kang was really a huge blow out of nowhere.

Now we start Pirates Process Part 2, led by the same people. Do we trust it?
   4. Sunday silence Posted: January 24, 2018 at 12:15 PM (#5612426)
why the fascination with Clint Hurdle.?
   5. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 24, 2018 at 12:18 PM (#5612432)
why the fascination with Clint Hurdle.?


He's a good clubhouse guy with veteran cred who's also open to incorporating analytics into his managing.

He's also a really good dude, which isn't strictly a job skill, but does make people inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
   6. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 24, 2018 at 12:20 PM (#5612437)
The Pirates ownership will never stop being cheap.


I think it's less about "will", and more about "can". Maybe ownership could have spent $5M or $10M more over the last couple of years, but at the end of the day, it's still a really small market with a cheap media rights deal. They're always going to be punching up relative to the rest of the league, no matter who's signing the checks.
   7. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 24, 2018 at 12:28 PM (#5612449)
I think it's less about "will", and more about "can". Maybe ownership could have spent $5M or $10M more over the last couple of years, but at the end of the day, it's still a really small market with a cheap media rights deal. They're always going to be punching up relative to the rest of the league, no matter who's signing the checks.

Maybe. But why was KC able to push the payroll to $140M, while the Pirates seem stuck at $100M. Forbes estimates the Pirates have higher revenue than KC, and made $51M last year.

It seems like the Pirates could push payroll up significantly, they just prefer the profits to winning.
   8. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 24, 2018 at 12:46 PM (#5612467)
the Pirates seem stuck at $100M


I don't know why. It does seem like their budgeting is remarkably rigid. They don't put money out on the expectation that it will probably come back with some profit attached to it. This goes back to the McClatchey era, and I've wondered if it has to do with a background in managing small city newspapers.
   9. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: January 24, 2018 at 12:50 PM (#5612472)
How about free money for their fans? Give away $100,000 to a fan every tenth home game. Share the wealth.
   10. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 24, 2018 at 01:06 PM (#5612486)
The old broadcaster Myron Cope suggested they do a ticket-based lottery years ago. "Give me two reserved...and ten of those general admissions." It could work in Pittsburgh.
   11. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 24, 2018 at 03:20 PM (#5612674)
But why was KC able to push the payroll to $140M, while the Pirates seem stuck at $100M.


KC was over-spending relative to its revenue stream, based on the expectation that it was going to recoup some of that money during a playoff run. That's part of the reason that they were so aggressive about cutting salaries this offseason, including dumping Scott Alexander just to get out from under Soria's contract.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 24, 2018 at 03:28 PM (#5612683)
KC was over-spending relative to its revenue stream, based on the expectation that it was going to recoup some of that money during a playoff run. That's part of the reason that they were so aggressive about cutting salaries this offseason, including dumping Scott Alexander just to get out from under Soria's contract.

Right, but while "overspending", Forbes has them breaking even. If small market teams really want to win occasionally, the owners have to accept only breaking even during the peak of their success cycle.

If the Pirates owners insist on $50M of profit every year, their chances of winning are much, much lower.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: January 24, 2018 at 03:47 PM (#5612706)
3A is way too harsh. That's a good track record of development. Starling Marte is a 5-WAR player, what does it matter that he's made just one AS game. Polanco and Tabata didn't turn out well but Taillon is just a pitcher who got hurt, missed two full years and still has made the majors and pitched pretty well. Taillon is not a failure of development.

It is a fair point that you can't expect to develop a full 8-man lineup plus 5-man rotation plus 3-4 stud relievers all at the same time ... and then keep repeating the process. But if you're bringing one average or better player to the majors every year, you're doing a pretty good job of development. The issues are most those noted in 3B and 3C -- filling in the pieces around those guys, especially as they hit more expensive arb years.

I understand many Pirate fans not liking that a franchise icon was traded but it's not that hard to take a step back and know that it makes complete baseball sense to trade a guy entering his 30s and already showing signs of significant decline who has just one year left on his contract anyway. Unless this year was going to be the last of McCutchen's career, he wasn't going to be a Pirate for his whole career anyway.
   14. Mike Emeigh Posted: January 24, 2018 at 04:55 PM (#5612754)
Transparency isn't going to win the fans back.

Basically, what happened here is that Pirate fans expected the team, coming off three straight postseasons and a 98-win season in 2015, to make a big push to get over the hump - and they didn't. What they actually did was:

1. Trade Neil Walker for Jonathan Niese, to replace A.J. Burnett.
2. Sign John Jaso & David Freese to replace Pedro Alvarez.
3. Sign Ryan Vogelsong to replace Charlie Morton.

That was it - and it left a sour taste in a lot of mouths, especially when it came with a caveat that 2016 might be a *bridge year*. The Pirates gave off the impression that they didn't care about getting over the hump, beating the Cubs and Cardinals and maybe getting past the wild card game. The fans wanted the Pirates to show they cared.

-- MWE
   15. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 24, 2018 at 04:58 PM (#5612758)
Transparency isn't going to win the fans back.

Of course. They can't even see the players.
   16. Sweatpants Posted: January 24, 2018 at 05:22 PM (#5612772)
They could not produce, or trade for, any young starters who were reliable at all except Cole and Jeff Locke.
Why do people talk about Jeff Locke as if he were good (apologies if "reliable" here meant "reliably below average")? He pitched 644.1 innings for Pittsburgh and had an ERA+ of 86. His peak performance was an obviously fluky 101 ERA+.

Of course, I never understood the fascination with Charlie Morton, either, and he ended up having a nice season last year.
   17. Sunday silence Posted: January 24, 2018 at 05:25 PM (#5612777)

The old broadcaster Myron Cope suggested they do a ticket-based lottery years ago.


can you explain what that would be? I am having a hard time figuring out whether I'd be buying tickets in order to in a lottery or buying a lottery ticket to win Pirate tickets...
   18. Sunday silence Posted: January 24, 2018 at 05:28 PM (#5612778)

I understand many Pirate fans not liking that a franchise icon was traded but it's not that hard to take a step back and know that it makes complete baseball sense to trade a guy entering his 30s and already showing signs of significant decline who has just one year left on his contract anyway.


Perfectly concise summary of the Macutheon situation. He was apparently on the market for over a year at least.
   19. Stevey Posted: January 24, 2018 at 05:59 PM (#5612798)
The Pirates ownership will never stop being cheap. They traded Neil Walker 2 years ago


This was not a "cheap" move, just a bad one. Niese was guaranteed $9M, and had two options at $10/$11M with 500K buyouts on either. Walker got $10.5M in arb. The Pirates traded him back to the Mets later when the season was lost, and presumably saved a few bucks there, but that was just a bad trade, not a cheap one.

The Pirates can probably spend more on payroll, but their far bigger problem was part one. Their core suddenly got a lot worse in 2016, and there was very little chance they could have spent themselves from 78/75 wins the last two years to playoff spots.
   20. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 24, 2018 at 06:05 PM (#5612805)
I am having a hard time figuring out whether I'd be buying tickets in order to in a lottery or buying a lottery ticket to win Pirate tickets...


You'd buy tickets to a Pirate game, and then they'd give away money to someone who bought tickets.
   21. Walt Davis Posted: January 24, 2018 at 08:49 PM (#5612959)
Their core suddenly got a lot worse in 2016

Certainly a fair point. Using the NL page's convenient WAA summaries (roughly):

2015: 3 WAA SP, 4 WAA RP, 4 WAA position. Massive hole at 1B (below-replacement), 5 WAA OF.
2016: 0 WAA SP, 2 WAA RP, -2 WAA position. 1B much better, C much worse, OF down to average.
2017: 0 WAA SP, 2 WAA RP, -7 WAA position. C and 1B both problems, OF down to -3 WAA.

So they lost 8 wins over 2 years from their OF alone. A team that looked like their only real problem was a massive hole at 1B became a team that wasn't actually good anywhere (but not always bad). And realistically, that OF looked might good coming out of 2015 so nobody would have suggested that was a place to spend money to fix things. So there's no realistic scenario where they don't lose those 8 WAA and it's hard to criticize a team for not upgrading by 8 wins elsewhere (potentially a payroll jump of $60 M even if you get everything right).
   22. Sunday silence Posted: January 25, 2018 at 03:46 PM (#5613439)


He's a good clubhouse guy with veteran cred who's also open to incorporating analytics into his managing.


If he is he is so sabr savvy why did he leave McCutheon out in CF in 2016 while compiling some horrid numbers? (-25 def runs, or -28 depending on which source)
   23. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: January 25, 2018 at 08:12 PM (#5613594)
Because McCutchen threw a fit behind the scenes about being moved out of center.

Agreed above that Walker-for-Niese wasn't a cheap move. Giving two B/C-level prospects to the Blue Jays to take Francisco Liriano's contract off their hands, however, was phenomenally cheap. And Liriano (who dominated the Reds in the 2013 play-in game) was extremely popular with Pirate fans. Ownership doesn't give a ####.

In any case, the Pirates were 25th out of 30 teams in attendance last year while winning 75 games. This year they're going to struggle to win 70. It's likely they're in for at least another decade of total irrelevance and I (and I think Russ too, based on other threads) am among a good many people who are through with them until ownership changes.
   24. cardsfanboy Posted: January 25, 2018 at 08:26 PM (#5613610)
But if you're bringing one average or better player to the majors every year, you're doing a pretty good job of development


Agree, this is the recipe the Cardinals have been using for a decade plus, even in the years where their minors didn't have respect of the media. Simply speaking if you are producing 1+ major leaguer every year, your system deserves kudos. The Pirates haven't really been bad at developing players. Josh Bell looks to be on a good path, Marte is an unappreciated stud, nobody could have a problem with Cole, and even non prospects like Kuhl have become serviceable major leaguers. (and that is just looking at their 2017 roster...and not looking at all at bench players or relievers)

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