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Sunday, April 10, 2022

Records show the Pirates’ payroll is often covered by ticket and food sales. Whether they should spend more has tormented fans

In 2013, 2014 and 2015, fans’ spending on tickets and peanuts, popcorn, and other concessions covered the payroll, based on an analysis by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of never-before-released documents created to fulfill the team’s rental agreement for its use of the baseball showpiece PNC Park. 

In 2013, the first time the Pirates made the postseason since 1992, net ticket and concession revenue totaled $70.8 million — the same season the team shelled out $66.8 million on its opening day roster.

The next year, the Pirates made $80.7 million in net ticket and concession revenues while spending $71.9 million on their roster.

What does it all mean? Is it evidence, as endlessly debated on call-in sports shows, in bars, and on social media every time the Pirates trade or haggle salary with a star player, that owner Bob Nutting is trying to do baseball on the cheap?

Or is it, as the Pirates organization argues, an unfair analysis — a facile assessment that doesn’t take into account the costs of running extensive minor league operations, scouting and player development staffs and paying for facility overhead?

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 10, 2022 at 11:46 AM | 11 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: pirates

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   1. sanny manguillen Posted: April 10, 2022 at 12:47 PM (#6071038)
They need some things to spend money on. They were spending a lot on the draft in the years before it was made illegal to spend a lot on the draft. They made at least one big spend in Mexico, and got Jung Ho Kang from Korea. They also thought they had Miguel Sano wrapped up,but bungled it. Now they can't spend what they want internationally, either.

They usually extended their young position players through arbitration and into a year or two of free agency - McCutchen, Marte, Polanco, Harrison, now Hayes. It's been hard to spend there, recently, because player development hasn't brought good young players to the major league team.

True free agents, then, are where they might have been some "opportunities" to spend. Under the Coonelly-Huntington regime, the "big" free agent deals they got done were for Liriano and Nova, and failed to get done for Happ going into 2016. From those signings, it seems their limit in free agency was around $35 million, and that their risk analysis made even a fourth season prohibitive. It'll be interesting to see if Cherington has approval to give a fourth year to anyone.

At the lower end of the free agent market, they seemed wedded to their own analysis of value, wherever the market went, so they've usually ended up waiting till February to pick through the leftovers. And they've tended not to care who's on the bench in the years they're obviously not contending.

   2. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: April 10, 2022 at 01:33 PM (#6071046)
Or is it, as the Pirates organization argues, an unfair analysis — a facile assessment that doesn’t take into account the costs of running extensive minor league operations, scouting and player development staffs and paying for facility overhead?

Not to mention those ownership salaries and bonuses.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: April 10, 2022 at 03:19 PM (#6071070)
Baseball teams are pretty small businesses. Sure the minor leagues cost money but the players are paid virtually nothing, managers and coaches aren't paid much, the rest is being run by the owner of the minor-league team. I don't know the financial arrangements at PNC and obviously somebody is paying for grounds crew, maintenance, security, etc. but I'm not sure the team is paying for all of it. Still, none of that is particularly expensive.

But sure, tix and concessions probably doesn't cover the entire cost of running the team. But the intro doesn't mention the local TV contract nor the, oh, $130 M or so the Pirates get through common and shared revenue. Just based on what's in the excerpt, we know that the Pirates revenue is at least $250 M these days. (Why is the excerpt citing 2013-14 numbers???)

While obviously MLB owners would rather articles like this weren't written at all, they still love the fact that the writers don't seem to have a clue how MLB finances work. I don't get why every article like this doesn't start out with "every team in MLB gets $210 M plus half their local revenues. In the case of team X, that is approximately ..." The Pirates this year are spending about 1/8 of their revenue on MLB payroll ... 1/8 ... OK, maybe 1/7. Not surprisingly, they have been outscored so far 18-7 (they just had a big inning).
   4. The Yankee Clapper Posted: April 10, 2022 at 03:59 PM (#6071077)
In 2013, 2014 and 2015, fans’ spending on tickets and peanuts, popcorn, and other concessions covered the payroll …
Reportedly, the ultimate goal is to fund the entire MLB payroll with just the parking fees.
   5. sanny manguillen Posted: April 10, 2022 at 04:05 PM (#6071078)
Why is the excerpt citing 2013-14 numbers???

The full article has more numbers for most of the period since Nutting took control in 2007 (some concessions data missing in early years). The thesis of the article is that, for the Pirates, tickets plus concessions (perhaps with a year's lag) seem to be budgeted as funding the major league payroll. There's some discussion as to whether that's a common practice among MLB teams, and if it's a reasonable practice.

   6. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: April 10, 2022 at 06:29 PM (#6071093)
They (...) got Jung Ho Kang

I hear you can get a shot for that now.
   7. nick swisher hygiene Posted: April 10, 2022 at 08:00 PM (#6071099)
5–and revenue sharing is budgeted as profit? seems very reasonable to me!

Edit just to say 6–fuck off with that bullshit
   8. John Northey Posted: April 10, 2022 at 11:03 PM (#6071121)
for fans the bottom line is since the last WS win in 1979 (!) the Pirates have been in the playoffs a total of 6 times - 1990-1992 (Bonds/Van Slyke/Bonilla for 2 of the years then Bonilla left for the Mets who still pay him up until 2035), and 2013-2015 (Marte/McCutchen). That is pretty pathetic. The Rays have made it 7 times and they didn't exist until 1998 and didn't do anything until 2008.

It isn't just spending money, but also being smart about it. The Rays play in a nuclear division, the Pirates in a joke division. Put the Pirates in the AL East and they'd be fighting with the O's for dead last every year. Since Bonds left in 1992 the highest the Pirates have been is 9th in the NL for attendance (the 3 playoff years). But with Bonds they peaked at 6th in the NL. You have to go back to 1972 for them to be top 5 (barely, 5th place), top 3 in 1962, best in NL for attendance 1948 (no idea why, they came in 4th, 7th the year before, same park, but double attendance from 1946 - only thing I can find is Ralph Kiner arrived in 1946 then hit 51 HR in 1947, led NL in HR in 1946-1952 so he might have had something to do with it, but he was traded the next year mid-season for $150k and an assortment of players...the more things change the more they stay the same I guess).

So the fans have never come out in large numbers, even when the team had the best player in baseball. In 2015 they almost got 2.5 million (1,404 short). 8 times over 2 million - 5 of the last 6 playoff teams plus 2001 (a 100 loss team but the first season in a new park - the next year they were in eyeshot of their 2000 attendance in the old park), 2016 (after 3 playoff appearances), and 2012 (almost 500 with McCutchen staring and Marte just coming up). Like all teams, winning is everything and star players help - perhaps more so than in some cases given the Kiner effect decades ago. Maybe the ownership there needs to look at that and say 'screw it' and sign some decent players long term to make fans care. Guess it is easier to count their millions in revenue sharing.
   9. DFA Posted: April 11, 2022 at 12:21 AM (#6071126)
Karma for stealing players from other teams back in the day.
   10. sanny manguillen Posted: April 11, 2022 at 12:27 AM (#6071128)
since the last WS win in 1979 (!) the Pirates have been in the playoffs a total of 6 times

And they've been fortunate to do that. All of their good teams have made the postseason. The best that didn't went 85-75 in 1988 and finished a distant second. Since 1983 they've had one team miss the playoffs while finishing closer than ten games back, and that was the 1997 team that went 79-83 on a $10 million payroll.
   11. Russ Posted: April 11, 2022 at 11:09 AM (#6071146)
That 1988 team was so fun. They had been terrible as long as I could remember (I was born in 1975), they were OK in 87 and they really battled hard with the Mets all summer long. I remember they dropped two big series to the Mets in late July/early August. They went from 2 game out to six over the course of two weeks and they were out of it. The 1989 team was a mess and we had to wait for all the heartbreak of the early 90's for an extra year. But the cool thing about 1988 was the lack of expectations... it was all really fun, even that hard two weeks when they dropped out of it. No worrying about people leaving for big contracts, no stress of multiple NLDS failures, just good, fun baseball.

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