I’m tired of Bob Nutting.

Tired of him being tired of the narrative that spending more money on the Major League roster does not translate into a winning formula in Major League Baseball.

He’s wrong.

From 2013 – 2019, teams that spent above the league average for total player payroll won almost 53 percent of their games. That .528 winning percentage includes 8,125 regular season wins, 46 of 70 postseason berths, 10 of 14 World Series appearances, and 6 of 7 World Series championships.

Bob Nutting is wrong.

Teams that spend more money typically win more games. Take the Kansas City Royals, for example. KC is the only World Series winner of the past seven to have a payroll under the league average, but their 2015 payroll figure, $127-million, was a $28-million increase from the previous season when they lost to the San Francisco Giants.

KC spent more. They got close in 2014, and then went for it and got it in 2015 not by sticking to some ridiculous penny-pinching approach, not by trusting a flawed process, but by spending more money, 29 percent more, and truly going for it.

The Pirates were close in 2015. 98 wins and a third straight wild-card appearance. The Bucs looked primed to finally make a run at a division title in 2016, so did they follow Kansas City’s lead from one year earlier?

Nope. Nutting, Coonelly and Huntington pulled the purse strings tight, spent exactly the same on payroll, did not add a single player of consequence and closed their slightly opened championship window.

Bob Nutting is wrong.

Spending money on Major League payroll increases a team’s chances of winning, significantly increases a team’s chances of making the playoffs, and even more significantly increases, in fact, almost guarantees that one of those higher payroll playoff teams will win the World Series – Bob Nutting’s and the Pirates’ often stated goal.

The Pirates total payroll has never been above $99-million, and the team has not ranked higher than 21st in Major League Baseball for total payroll, even during that exhilarating three-year run from 2013-2015.

Here are two fun charts that might dispel Nutting’s nutty myth that the Pirates’ penny-pinching payroll process is anything but an alliterative fallacy: The first chart details the spending habits of World Series participants and winners as a sort of litmus on Nutting’s assertion that the Pirates are trying to build a championship team:

Year NL WS Team (payroll) AL WS Team (payroll) Pirates payroll/rank Playoff Teams Above MLB Avg. Payroll
2019 Washington ($168M) Houston ($169M) $72Mil/27th 8 of 10
2018 Los Angeles ($199M) Boston ($227M) $91Mil/27th 7 of 10
2017 Los Angeles ($259M) Houston ($138M) $98Mil/24th 6 of 10
2016 Chicago ($184M) Cleveland ($106M) $99Mil/21st 9 of 10
2015 New York ($116M) Kansas City ($127M) $99Mil/23rd* 6 of 10
2014 San Fran. ($171M) Kansas City ($99M) $77Mil/27th* 6 of 10
2013 St. Louis ($121M) Boston ($170M) $71Mil/27th* 4 of 10
AVG NL WS Payroll Pirates Avg Payroll Difference
$174,000,000 $86,714,286 $87,285,714
* denotes Pirates earned NL Wild-Card Berth

Again, keep in mind that Nutting’s and the Pirates’ stated goal is to win the World Series. Not only is the Pirates total Major League payroll more than two times less the average ML payroll number for a World Series participant over the past seven years, but they have spent an average of $113-million-plus than the average payroll of the past seven World Series champions.

My guess is that Nutting is just making stuff up when he says he and the Pirates want to win a World Series. My guess is that Nutting just wants to make as much money off of owning the Pittsburgh Pirates as possible.

As for the second chart, it just breaks down the average number of wins and winning percentages of those teams who spent above the league average (a place the Pirates have never been in the modern spending era of large market/small market baseball teams):

Year No. of Teams Above MLB Payroll Avg. Winning % of Teams Above MLB Payroll Avg. Avg. Number of Wins Teams Above MLB Payroll Avg. Pirates Wins and Winning Percentage Season Result
2019 14 .538 87 69/.426 Missed Playoffs
2018 16 .536 86.8 82/.509 Missed Playoffs
2017 15 .504 81.7 75/.463 Missed Playoffs
2016 15 .546 88.5 78/.484 Missed Playoffs
2015 12 .527 85.4 98/.605 Lost W.C.Game
2014 11 .524 85 88/.543 Lost W.C.Game
2013 12 .516 83.7 94/.580 Lost Div Series
Avg. 13.6 .528 85.5 83/.515 0 WS/0 NLCS


While the Pirates seem to be reasonably competitive during this seven-year stretch, don’t forget the 20 consecutive losing seasons, all of which were completed with very low ML roster payroll numbers, that preceded the 2013 breakout year. Take away 2013 through 2015, and the Pirates are a 24-year case study for low-spending model failure.

So just spare Pirates fans, Mr. Nutting, when you lie about wanting to win a World Series on a budget. That’s not the world of Major League Baseball, and it’s not the truth. Teams that spend more money on the Major League payroll win more games, make the playoffs more, and almost always participate in or win the World Series than teams who spend less.

Bob Nutting is wrong.