and the link to the Post Gazette story is HEREFor years, there's been a hope that Mark Cuban would buy/save the Pirates, for the reasons being that A. he was from Pittsburgh and B. he was rich.
As weak as the Pirate ownership has been, I was never on board with the Cuban dream. Call it merely a hunch, but I didn't feel that it was the right fit, although that's certainly open for debate. And I never had a firm grasp of how serious he really was about buying it.
But the news I read last night from Dejan Kovacevic in the PG is something that I can believe in. Believe in, back, support, whatever you can do to push it forward, you can bet that I'll be on board.
Both franchises appear to be telling a different side of what happened, but one thing is for sure: the Pirates' and Penguins' head honchos recently had a closed-door business meeting. The Penguins sources are saying Lemieux's Penguin partner, Ron Burkle, made an offer to buy the Pirates. The Pirates are saying it was about another matter, and continue to insist that the team is not for sale.
Bob Nutting is no dummy. His group has been feeding this cash cow on a diet of revenue sharing and broadcasting rights for a long time, and according to Forbes, it is worth about $288 million. For comparison's sake, Kevin McClatchy paid $95 million for the team back in 1996. So basically, in the last decade-plus of strictly losing baseball, the value of the franchise has nearly tripled. One can only imagine what it would be worth with a winner on the field, selling more tickets, more merchandise, and higher local broadcasting rights.
If anyone has proven to know what they're doing in the field of pro sports ownership, it's the Lemieux/Burkle group. What they've done with the Penguins did take a matter of some luck in the draft, but also needed the right touch to finish what the lottery Gods gave them. That's hiring Ray Shero, that's managing the payroll, that's having a fan relation staff second to none. They know Pittsburgh, they know Pittsburgh sports, and they know Pittsburgh sports fans. Having their people in charge of the Pirates could be a dream come true for the long-suffering Bucco fan.
Where this goes from here is up in the air. To have this news come out during PirateFest is probably the worst-case scenario for that organization, but face it, their existence has been worst-case scenario since Sid Bream crossed the plate in 1992. They're used to dealing with bad news.
But from a fan point of view, now that's where this gets interesting. If you thought there was pressure on Pirate ownership in the past, that's going to pale in comparison to what will happen next. Mario Lemieux has been The Best Thing To Happen To Pittsburgh at least three times by my count - he saved the Penguins on the ice, he saved the Penguins from bankruptcy, and he saved the Penguins from moving. And that's not to mention the Stanley Cups and millions of dollars raised for local charities. How there's not 10 statues of this man around town is a mystery in itself.
Bob Nutting? Let's take the high road and say he's not quite as distinguished with the locals. And that league-low $35 million payroll and likely 18th consecutive losing season isn't going to win him many more friends.
This is a story that began months ago, but is only being talked about now. I think it could be one of the biggest developments in Pittsburgh sports history if it actually comes to fruition. Turning around that franchise just might be the impossible. But if there's one guy who we can count on to do the impossible, it's Mario Lemieux.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Please Oh Please Oh Please Let This Happen...
From Mondesi's House...