The Pittsburgh Ownership War Heats UpS

Pirates owner Bob Nutting is still bitter over the Penguins' ownership group's attempt to buy the Bucs. When the Pirates fired back with a petty, "objective" column (on a team-run site) trashing the Pens for this season's failure, it ignited a firestorm.

Run Burkle and Mario Lemieux made an unsolicited offer to purchase the Pirates in January, an offer that was rebuffed. But Nutting must not have been happy with the city's almost unanimous support of the bid, which manifested in signs at games, op-eds in the paper, and Facebook groups urging him to sell. You can't blame them; the Pens have been one of the best franchises since the lockout, and the Pirates haven't made the playoffs since 1992.

This week, enter Pirates Report. It's made to look like an unofficial team site, with blogs, message boards and the like. But even though it doesn't say it anywhere, it's an open secret that it's owned and operated by the Nutting family.

Monday, a column from itinerant sportswriter Paul Ladewski ran under the title "Like Bucs, Penguins Still Have Work to Be Done." That link points to the Google Cache of the page, since the original article has been taken down. You'll see why.

Perhaps unusually for a column on a Pirates site, it doesn't seem to talk about the Pirates much. Instead it revels in the Penguins' second-round exit.

Now that the Penguins have gone belly-up in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years in the Sidney Crosby era, maybe we'll hear less about how their ownership will turn around the Pirates in no time if given the chance.

The fact is, despite every conceivable advantage from first or second overall choices in four consecutive drafts to the mother of all lottery picks to a league that operates with a salary cap to a pucks-mad fan base, the Penguins have been unable to dominate their own division let alone the entire league.

Or did you know that, while the Pirates have gone 17 years without a sniff of .500, the Penguins have hoisted exactly one Stanley Cup in that period?

[snip]

God help the franchise if Sid the Kid goes down any time soon. Cart him off and the Penguins are the New York Rangers all of a sudden.

I wouldn't wish that on even a Philadelphia Flyer let alone Crosby, who represents everything that is good about professional sports. I wouldn't wish that on any team owner let alone Mario Lemieux, a guy that only the devil could root against.

It's just that, before people wish for the Penguins to step in and save the baseball team in this town, they should remember that the Penguins have to help themselves first.

Meow!

Almost immediately, commenters on the column went after Ladewski for his pettiness, but the real venom was saved for Bob Nutting and the Pirates. The perception in Pittsburgh is that the site is just a mouthpiece for Nutting and the front office, and this didn't exactly assuage that belief.

The angry comments kept coming, and the outrage spilled over outside the site, to become the talk of the town. This morning, the column was taken down from Pirates Report.

That hasn't stopped the vitriol, which continues in the comment section of Ladewski's next column.

Such is the misery of Pirates fans. Not only has their team's sub-.500 streak outlived their household pets, but now they're told they're not allowed to be happy for the city's other teams.