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McClatchy rips owners for spending, questions if some risking financial wipeout

By ALAN ROBINSON, AP Sports Writer

January 28, 2005

 

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pittsburgh's Kevin McClatchy lashed out at other baseball owners Friday for a return of free-agent spending that he fears may steer some clubs close to bankruptcy.

 

McClatchy, the Pirates' managing general partner, warned of a growing division between big-payroll and small-market clubs that could lead to contentious owners meetings and a much-harder stance during the next labor negotiations. The current labor deal with players runs until December 2006.

 

``I don't know what happened, maybe they drank some funny water, but they all decided they were back on the binge,'' McClatchy said. ``When somebody goes out and pays an average pitcher $7 million a year, then anybody who's an average pitcher says they need $7 million a year. That's very difficult, and when you're giving pitchers $18 million in arbitration, that also makes it difficult.''

 

NL Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens agreed to an $18 million, one-year contract with Houston, a record one-year salary for a pitcher and the equivalent of nearly half the Pirates' projected $40 million payroll.

 

Some teams criticized the New York Mets for giving a $22.5 million, three-year contract to former-Pirate Kris Benson, then for giving Pedro Martinez a $53 million, four-year contract and Carlos Beltran a $119 million, seven-year deal.

 

``I don't know about the bank vault being open,'' Mets general manager Omar Minaya said Friday. ``We competed for Pedro and for Beltran with other clubs that were right there where we were and pretty much ended up paying.''

 

The Pirates' payroll is about $10 million less than that of the Washington Nationals, owned by the other major league clubs.

 

After two offseasons with relatively few huge contracts, McClatchy admittedly was stunned with what he called a series of signings that were ``ridiculous -- at best.''

 

McClatchy's sharp talk mirrors that of the Orioles' Peter Angelos, who said first baseman Carlos Delgado's $52 million contract with Florida reflects baseball's ``fiscal insanity.''

 

McClatchy also questions how teams that only recently were talking about financial stress agreed to huge contracts. Arizona signed pitcher Russ Ortiz for $33 million and third baseman Troy Glaus for $45 million, both over four years.

 

``What you don't want to see is some of these teams spend themselves into bankruptcy -- that's not good for any of the league, that becomes a liability on all of us,'' McClatchy said. ``I'm not sure if some of these people are writing checks with money they necessarily have, and that's a negative thing.

 

He added, ``You wonder how, since they were in a tough financial spot, some of the spending is going to work, how they're eventually going to be able to pay their bills. When you're drawing 1.7 million, and you take your payroll up too high, you just do the math.''

 

The Pirates, by contrast, have signed no free agents to major league contracts and have handed out only two multiyear contracts: shortstop Jack Wilson's $8 million, two-year deal and right-hander reliever Salomon Torres' $2.6 million, two-year deal.

 

McClatchy is rooting for NHL owners to reach a labor agreement that includes a cap or some other harsh salary restraint, something he said baseball badly needs.

 

``I'm disappointed, very disappointed in the other owners, and I think as we go toward a new collective bargaining agreement, there's going to have to be some sort of constraint put on because these other guys can't control themselves,'' he said.

 

McClatchy, who serves on baseball's executive council and long-range labor committee, is promising to be more outspoken in future owners meetings.

 

``I've think they've created a hawk,'' he said. ``A lot of us are concerned and are definitely going to speak up.''

 

Despite McClatchy's glum financial talk and the Pirates' 12th consecutive losing season in 2004, the team's annual Fanfest opened Friday to what was expected to be record crowds. Attendance was way up during the first week of the team's winter caravan, which featured Wilson and promising pitcher Oliver Perez.

 

Season ticket sales are up about 30 percent, partly because buyers who keep their seats the following season get the opportunity to buy 2006 All-Star tickets.

 

 

Although I'm happy we got Delgado, I've got to agree with these owners. The problem is simple, you've got to win to keep your fan base. But when large market teams are signing the most talented players, its real tough to sell tickets...regardless of how good your farm is. A hard-cap with a large amont of revenue sharing could be the answer, but the union+steinbrenner is simply too powerful. Anyway I've got all my fingers tangled up hoping we get our stadium and our future will be a little more secure.

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Teams like the Pirates have ventured down the same road as the majority of daily newspapers in America, which is to underestimate their readership's desire for hard, insightful news and reporting (or in this case winning baseball) and instead have chosen to cut, cut, cut payroll, only to complain that fans (or readers) don't show up.

 

Pittsburgh has a long and storied history of fans supporting a winning team. What's it been, a decade or so since Pirate's fans had a winning season or a team to support? Before ownership starts complaining about others they ought to look in their own house and admit they are the reason the team isn't winning, not the owners who have decided to spend in order to win.

 

That said, I am in total agreement that salaries are too high, that a cap is needed and that the insanity has to stop. But there's no reason Tampa or Pittsburgh couldn't field a more competitive team by spending $10 million a year more in salaries and still be among the lowest payroll teams in baseball.

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The myth of competitive imbalance during the free agency era serves as an excuse to incompetent organizations.

 

Where are all those new stadium revenues (luxury suites and box seats, advertising, 200000+ increase in ticket sales, and mention parking and concessions) and skyrocketing broadcast monies going, Kev?

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Before ownership starts complaining about others they ought to look in their own house and admit they are the reason the team isn't winning, not the owners who have decided to spend in order to win.

672742[/snapback]

 

Amen.

 

Look at what Detroit did (although, Illitch is one of the wealthier owners) in one offseason. Now, with the assumed addition of Magglio Ordonez (I mean, is anyone topping that 5/$55 offer?) that team has spent no more than $20 million more per season on free-agent and they're back in the "competitive baseball" arena.

 

Teams like the Red Sox, Mets, Yankees, Angels and Dodgers need to be curtailed, but if there's one thing this offseason has shown it's that the mid-market clubs can still be players in free-agency simply because the cap is at least "slowing" the Yankees and standing as a deterrent to the Mets and Red Sox.

 

A hard cap is needed, but will never be attained...I think the best that can be hoped for is a soft-salary-cap like the NBA...although even that may be too much to ask for.

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Teams like the Pirates have ventured down the same road as the majority of daily newspapers in America, which is to underestimate their readership's desire for hard, insightful news and reporting (or in this case winning baseball) and instead have chosen to cut, cut, cut payroll, only to complain that fans (or readers) don't show up.

 

Pittsburgh has a long and storied history of fans supporting a winning team. What's it been, a decade or so since Pirate's fans had a winning season or a team to support? Before ownership starts complaining about others they ought to look in their own house and admit they are the reason the team isn't winning, not the owners who have decided to spend in order to win.

 

That said, I am in total agreement that salaries are too high, that a cap is needed and that the insanity has to stop. But there's no reason Tampa or Pittsburgh couldn't field a more competitive team by spending $10 million a year more in salaries and still be among the lowest payroll teams in baseball.

672742[/snapback]

:goodpost

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