I know I'm a bit behind the ball on this (birthday + Steelers going to the Super Bowl = significantly diminished function today), but I've been thinking today about Bob Nutting's statements in the PG today and wondering just what, exactly, he's getting at.
"There's no question that my expectation in 2009 is that we have a better team than we did last year," he said. "Even as we continue to build for the long-term success of the franchise, a real, championship-caliber organization that can compete on a sustainable basis, we have to have a better team in 2009 and better than what Pittsburgh has seen lately."
OK, so that's pretty standard stuff. Trot the owner out in January and say that the team has to be better in 2009 etc. etc. But he keeps going:
"No," he replied. "That would be a very disappointing year. As an organization, we have to continue to hold people accountable for improvement on the field at the major league level, as well as organization-wide. You saw it last year with Matt Morris. We're not going to accept an inferior performance."
The accountability must extend to the top, for any sports franchise, and Nutting and Coonelly repeatedly have stated that they are no exceptions. It surely is worth noting, then, that the Pirates again will have one of Major League Baseball's lowest payrolls, with a ceiling in the range of $54 million, and have made only one noteworthy acquisition this offseason with the free-agent signing of 32-year-old utility infielder Ramon Vazquez.
See, I never understand why teams say this stuff. "Accountability extends to the top, blah blah blah." All this does is back you into a corner. What happens when Andy LaRoche hits .180 in April? People will point to these sorts of interviews and demand that Ramon Vazquez start. What good does that do anyone?
It's weird. In the NBA, the Knicks gutted their roster and basically said, "In two years there's going to be a load of awesome free agents so we have to create roster space now and we'll convince someone to sign with us, but until then you gotta bear with us while we rip this team apart." And there's no guarantee that they'll convince LeBron James to play for them, but their fans were so scarred by the Isiah Thomas era that they've mostly accepted it. So why does Bob Nutting need to stand up in front of everyone and lie about how important it is to the long-term health of the franchise that the Pirates improve in 2009?
Maybe I just shouldn't pay attention to these things, because they're inevitably just going to make me angry. I just don't know what Nutting hopes to accomplish when statements like that are made, because in the end they just create standards that makes the ticket-buying public angry when they're not met.