Of what purpose is an alleged Pirates Fanfest if the club’s team president is gonna pass the buck to the paying customers in the most cowardly of manners? Check out the following exchange between Pirate Prospects’ Kevin Creagh and the Bucs’ Frank Coonelly ;

Kevin: Would the Pirates be able to afford a $70M to $80M payroll, in present-day worth, if this current group of players were competitive enough to merit additional outside free agents?

Frank: Today, no but we will be able to support that payroll very soon if our fans believe that we now have a group of players in Pittsburgh and on its way here in the near future that is competitive.  We need to take a meaningful step forward in terms of attendance to reach that payroll number while continuing to invest heavily in our future but I am convinced that the attendance will move quickly once we convince our fans that we are on the right track.

Translation : if you were hoping the Pirates would invest some of their revenue sharing windfall in talent, FUCK YOU.  Or as iSports’ James Krug puts it, “ownership has put the proverbial cart before the horse; after 18 straight losing seasons, they should be simply appreciative that fans show up at all.”  (link taken from the Post-Gazzette’s Bob Smizik)

Sadly, Coonelly does not place the immediate onus on the Pirates themselves to build a better, more competitive team that fans would WANT to see. Rather- as has been a consistent message from Pirates’ ownership- they desire to see a significant increase in attendance PRIOR to the team actually getting good! It’s maddening. From a purely business perspective, it is a backwards approach. You could liken it to a car company telling its customers:

“We really want to build better cars for you. But before we do, we need you to start buying our lower-quality, underperforming cars in a much higher volume.”

While many aspects of running a multi-million dollar business are highly complex, appeasing a fan base is not. Offer them a consistently competitive team, and they will show up in droves. Bobbleheads and fireworks only mask an inferior on-the-field product for so long. The Pirates were provided a jewel of a stadium in PNC Park that was almost entirely publicly financed. They are handed tens of millions of dollars every year in MLB revenue sharing and the MLB TV contract- to the point that it could cover their ENTIRE payroll most years.