Our Rob Biertempfel created quite the storm with his recent story from Bradenton regarding Gerrit Cole’s contractual situation- http://triblive.com/sports/pirates/10043775-74/cole-huntington-pirates Sides are firmly taken as they always are when it comes to Pirate finances. Perhaps no single group of sports supporters can be divided on any one topic as the Pirate fan base gets when it comes to how-&-when the team spends its money.
For the record, count me on Cole’s side when it comes to this most recent debate.
At best the Pirates came off as sloppy when they didn’t account for last year’s $10,000 All Star bonus when calculating Cole’s salary for this year. And that’s why his initial base offer came in $3,000 lower than last year’s total wages.
At worst they came off as holding the purse strings too tightly. That’s certainly how some national posts seem to view it- http://espn.go.com/blog/buster-olney/insider/post?id=12378 If you back the Pirates’ hard rule of keeping pre-arbitration guys to a maximum $7,000 raise per year, that’s fine. But the alleged threat to Cole from the club that it may reduce his salary to the floor if he didn’t sign the erroneous offer is way too harsh.
But Biertempfel’s story has done more than divide opinions within the fan base. A quote within it appears to be an attempt from Cole’s agent to drive a wedge between general manager Neal Huntington and owner Bob Nutting:
“What kind of message does that send to players?….The best deserve the best. You should reward the best. I can’t believe that is a Bob Nutting-approved (salary) system. It doesn’t ring with the conversations Bob and I had when Gerrit signed…I would think Bob would want to reward a guy for a special performance,” Boras said. “Other teams have that system.”
Or, what Boras could’ve more directly said is: ”I’m going to make the owner look like the good guy and the GM look like the bad guy so that maybe the nice owner decides to tell his mean GM to kick a few extra bucks Gerrit’s way.” And (by extension) Boras’ own way as well, of course.
Saying this is also self serving because it helps Boras tear down a narrative that has been built about how the Pirates operate. Many seem to believe Huntington is nothing but a keen, cherub faced cog in Bob Nutting’s machine; doing his best to operate under the handcuffed restraint of his budget conscious owner.
I’ve never believed that. I think Nutting employs Huntington because they are like-minded. I think Nutting relishes the fact that his team has a GM who not only follows the budget, but also finally has one that can do it while winning…and while enjoying the process.
And I firmly feel that if someday Huntington should go on to run the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers he’d still employ his Pirates’ principles. Sure, he’d spend more than he can here. But he’d only do it when he really had to. And he’d hate every minute of it. Huntington is a willing (and very able) foot soldier carrying out the task he has been charged to execute.
And now Boras is attempting to spin that view differently. He doesn’t want the world thinking Nutting and Huntington are in lockstep. Nor does he want us thinking Huntington would like to do more if he got more financial slack.
What Boras wants is to make Nutting appear as if he is a hands-off owner who just wants to be friendly with his wallet, while portraying Huntington as the growling pit bull at the gate. There could be some truth to that. There was some rumbling that the acrimony surrounding Neil Walker’s departure was exacerbated by a growing personal rub between the infielder and the GM, more so than just the dollars and cents Huntington was allowed (or willing) to spend.
Maybe Boras is pissed about how Huntington dismissed Pedro Alvarez (another client) from the team. Maybe he wants to smudge the image of a GM who manages to win while keeping payroll low so future free agents avoid taking a few dollars less to contend in Pittsburgh.
Or maybe he just wants to butter up the guy who actually has the cash in his bank account instead of the teller entrusted with handing it out. Whatever the motivation, Boras knows the topic of Pirate finances is a divisive one for people that support the team. He obviously believes he can also turn it into a similar issue for those running it.