Recently, Pittsburgh Pirates President Frank Coonelly made a startling (perhaps by mistake) revelation about the Pittsburgh Pirates TV revenue. It is commonly held belief that the Pirates rake in around $18-20 MM in TV revenue. Coonelly suggested at a recent PiratesFest Q&A that the Pirates TV revenue is significantly higher than previously believed.
”Our TV contract places us in the top half of all Major League Baseball clubs even though our market ranks 27th out of 30. We are well positioned moving forward.” -Frank Coonelly
If a man like Coonelly is to be trusted, then it will be time to revisit Wendy Thurm’s TV revenue opus from last year over at FanGraphs. Thurm placed all 30 MLB teams into six neat categories based on their real or perceived TV revenue sharing contracts. By her reckoning, the Pirates are in the last category, “The Have-Nots”. Like most writers in the baseball blogosphere, I am inclined to question Coonelly’s statements, it seems to be a common theme.
Even if you believe Coonelly or not, the Nuttings have long reaped large revenues from owning the Pirates, while the payroll has stayed in the lower tier. Their highest-paid free agent signing in team history? Russell Martin. Many Pirates fans have been frustrated by the revenues that the Nuttings (and McClatchy before him) have made while the Pirates languished in last place for many years. Don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge that the front office has made many missteps as well, not directly attributed to money either.
Thankfully, Ninja Neal Huntington built a 2013 roster on the cheap that rattled off a 94-win season en route to a Wildcard berth. Hopefully the Pirates don’t regress too much in 2014, though some think that they will. This revelation whether planned or mistaken by Coonelly raises some new questions about the Pirates’ payroll. Why don’t they shell money out for a decent first baseman? Why pay Clint Barmes $2MM just for his glove, when they could shop around for a better shortstop or just start Jordy Mercer? Why aren’t they moving to sign Pedro Alvarez to a long-term deal?
I’m sure Bob Nutting has already privately lambasted Coonelly for his remarks. I bet he asked him something along the lines of, “Why would be raise payroll on our Major League Baseball franchise when there are more ski resorts to be purchased?