This week, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded starting pitcher Gerrit Cole and outfielder Andrew McCutchen, launching a rebuild that should keep the franchise far from the playoff hunt for at least the next couple years.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pirates fans are not thrilled about the team’s direction. As of 2:45 p.m. ET on Thursday, more than 45,000 people have signed a Change.org petition demanding that Nutting sell the team. The petition’s organizers have already upped their stated goal from 35,000 to 50,000 and soon might need to raise it again.
“Pittsburgh is a baseball town that is being destroyed by a greedy owner,” the petition states. “We’ve had enough! There needs to be change from the top of the organization down. Bob Nutting needs to sell this team, so that we can see a competitive baseball team year in and year out. It is obvious that he doesn’t want to spend the money to make that happen. We need an owner who has a competitive spirit and loves the game of baseball!”
Pirates fans have persistently complained that Nutting was not willing to spend enough money to keep the Pirates competitive. Per Sportrac, Pittsburgh ranked 24th in payroll in 2017, despite entering the season as a playoff contender, and have not placed higher than 23rd this decade. After three straight postseason berths (but only three total playoff victories) from 2013-15, the Pirates have finished below .500 each of the past two seasons.
This week, Nutting, who bought the Pirates in 2007, called the choice to trade McCutchen “one of the most emotionally agonizing decisions that we have had to make in my tenure.”
Bob Nutting on McCutchen trade. pic.twitter.com/70NaoU1uoS
— Colin Dunlap (@colin_dunlap) January 15, 2018
The Pirates were probably not going to contend for a division title in 2018, but fans are justifiably peeved that ownership would rather sell off franchise icons than spend a little more money in pursuit of a playoff spot. Pittsburgh largely squandered an impressive McCutchen-Cole-Starling Marte-Josh Harrison-Gregory Polanco core in part because management was unwilling to add veterans through free agency or trade. They’re not going to sit quietly as beloved players are traded.