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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bucs shuffle ownership structure- MLB.com

The Pirates emphasis having a ''stable platform'' for the future, but after 14 seasons of not having a winning team their future does not look pretty bright. They have good young players in Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez, but it seems impossible to think that Pittsburgh can compete in the tough NL Central.

I like the fact that the Pirates want to be financially responsible, but at some point they need to open up their pockets and spend money. They will not post a winning record for the next 14 seasons if they don't begin to sign top of the line free agents. This might involve over spending on a player or two, but after a while they will make the right signings, and this will translate into having a winning franchise on the field.

Nutting to lead organization, McClatchy stays on as CEO
By Ed Eagle / MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- In a move that the Pittsburgh Pirates hope will add clarity to their organizational structure, the team has requested that Major League Baseball recognize a change of control within the team's ownership group.

Under the proposed move, Pirates chairman Bob Nutting would be recognized as the leader of the Pittsburgh ownership. Kevin McClatchy, who has served as the Pirates' managing general partner since becoming baseball's youngest owner in 1996, will remain as the team's chief executive officer.

Nutting, who also serves as the president and CEO of Ogden Newspapers, Inc., has been a member of the Pirates' board of directors since 2002. The Nutting family, including Nutting's father and fellow board member, G. Ogden Nutting, has been affiliated with the Pirates since joining McClatchy's original investment group in 1996.

As the Nutting family's investment in the Pirates has increased gradually over time -- they are currently the majority owners of the team, so has Bob Nutting's influence within the organization. He has worked closely with McClatchy to restructure the team's finances since 2003, when the Pirates were essentially forced to trade star third baseman Aramis Ramirez to the Cubs due to financial difficulties.

"My personal involvement since 2003 has been focused on making sure we have a stable platform to ensure the long-term viability of the franchise, to ensure that we have the flexibility so that we can hold our young core together, so that we can put a competitive team on the field, and we don't have to go through that kind of trauma in the future," said Nutting.

According to Nutting and McClatchy, both of whom met with MLB.com and other members of the media in two-on-one sessions throughout the afternoon Friday, the Pirates are simply asking Major League Baseball to give its official stamp of approval on a structural change that has been occurring gradually within the organization for the past three years. They do not view the request as any kind of a major franchise shakeup.

"This has just been a gradual development," said McClatchy.

"It was a natural evolution that brought us to this point," Nutting added.

After keeping a very low public profile during his first three years as chairman, Nutting believes that it is imperative for him to become a more visible member of the organization in order to clear up any possible misconceptions about his family's role in the franchise's leadership.

"I think it's fair to the team and the fans to have clarity," said Nutting. "The speculation of our role, Kevin's role, didn't help the team. I think being clear in all of that and moving forward with a clear, understandable structure is important."

There was widespread speculation last summer that McClatchy would sell his stake in the team or be forced out as CEO by the Nuttings following the 2006 season. McClatchy announced in October that he would remain with the club, and Nutting said Friday that he wanted to "make it crystal clear" that he has "unconditional support" for McClatchy.

"Kevin is remaining in charge," said Nutting. "He's been a successful leader of the organization ... from saving the team in '96, to getting PNC Park, the best park in America, built, [to bringing] last year's All-Star Game [to Pittsburgh]."

McClatchy does not expect his responsibilities to differ drastically under the proposed structural change, either within the framework of the team or in his dealings with the rest of the Major League owners. He said Friday that he will continue to hold a seat on such important league-wide committees as the MLB Executive Council.

"I am the CEO. If you are the CEO of any company, you are responsible for the day-to-day operations of that company," said McClatchy. "I don't really see it as a major change. Bob and I have been working together since he became chairman. We have a good working relationship."

The change in the ownership structure must be approved by Major League Baseball's owners. A vote to officially recognize the shift in control will be held on Jan. 18 in Phoenix during the quarterly owners meetings.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Alan H. "Bud" Selig expressed his support for Nutting in a statement released Friday by the Pirates.

"Bob and his family provide strong, stable ownership for the Pirates," said Selig. "Their long history of leading successful organizations and multi-generational commitment to the Pittsburgh region will translate well for the Pirates. I have enjoyed working with Bob over the past several years. He has a great passion for the Pirates and a tremendous desire for the team to succeed."

The one area of the Pirates that both Nutting and McClatchy want to change dramatically is the team's on-field performance. Pittsburgh has not posted a winning season since 1992.

"We are absolutely committed to putting the best possible team that we can out on the field," said Nutting. "The community deserves improvement, the fans deserve improvement, and frankly, I expect improvement. I believe we are well-positioned to see that with the young players that we have."

How will this commitment to winning impact the Pirates' payroll, which will likely be among the lowest in the Major Leagues again in 2007 at approximately $50 million?

"It is important that we maintain the long-term financial viability of the franchise," said Nutting. "But we have jointly discussed, reviewed and committed as many dollars to the on-field payroll, developmental staff and scouting staff to do everything we can to create a solid, competitive team going forward.

"Honestly, I think the plan is working. We have constraints in a market this size. But the plan of building from within, developing your own players, holding on to your own players -- that's the way we're going to be competitive."

McClatchy was quick to note that the team has given GM Dave Littlefield increased financial resources in recent seasons, and he defended the team's lack of significant offseason additions.

"We have taken payroll up since 2004," said McClatchy. "Dave has money to spend right now. But Dave has to find the right player, the right need, to spend it on.

"I know a lot has been made about this offseason about why didn't we go out and spend $50 million on a .500 pitcher. I think it goes back to financial responsibility, which gives you financial flexibility when you need it.

"Dave is, contrary to what I have seen some places, working the phone lines very closely. He is trying to get a couple of more players that are going to go well with our young core of players. We know we have to add to [the roster]. We have the flexibility to do that. Ownership has given Dave an increase in payroll to do that. It's just a question of executing in the right area."

Pending approval by Major League Basbeall, Nutting will become the sixth principal owner in Pirates franchise history, joining Barney Dreyfuss (1900-32), Bill Benswanger (1932-46), John Galbreath (1946-85), Pittsburgh Associates (1985-96) and McClatchy (1996-2007).

"I want to make sure it gets across at just how honored I am to have an opportunity to have a control position of a truly historic franchise," said Nutting. "I am proud of my association with the team. I take the role and the responsibility very seriously -- the responsibility to the fans, the responsibility to the team and its history and now, with the change in control, the responsibility to Major League Baseball."

The Pirates also announced Friday that they will be adding two new members to their board of directors: William Nutting and Duane Wittman. Both men are executives with Ogden Newspapers, Inc. The six-man board now includes Bob, Ogden and Bill Nutting, McClatchy, Wittman and Don Beaver, each of whom have one vote apiece.

Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs


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