Adam Lindner | Sports Editor
It’s kind of funny: The last game that I attended at PNC Park was on Aug. 17, 2017, when the Pirates fell to the St. Louis Cardinals on a showery summer evening, 11-7. Many days after that, I fought the urge — albeit, a small one — to go see the Pirates again. I preferred to keep the number of my visits to PNC Park to a minimum, but not because I didn’t enjoy them.
Instead, I just couldn’t justify spending too much of my money on Pirates tickets. As a conscientious sports fan, I felt guilty walking into that beautiful stadium, knowing that my money was going directly into the pocket of owner Bob Nutting, who is evidently more interested in turning a profit than putting a winning product on the field.
Now, following the trades that sent Gerrit Cole to Houston and Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco, I really regret not returning to PNC Park again after that Cardinals game. I had several opportunities to catch Cole and No. 22 in action as Pirates for one last time, but never did.
However, especially following the McCutchen deal, the Pirates have cemented my sentiment that I won’t be purchasing any Pirates tickets this year, and if I do attend a game, it will be as the result of tickets that have been gifted to me.
Why such a complicated and nuanced stance, you ask?
Because I’m a broke college student that loves Pittsburgh sports. That’s why.
I just can’t justify spending my own money on the Pirates anymore.
But for the casual, unconcerned fan, why is attending a game at PNC Park all that bad?
Especially for a college student, a trip to a Pirates game is typically an inexpensive and relaxing way to bask in the season’s warmer temperatures.
Besides, for those who aren’t deeply invested in their fandom for the Pirates, boycotting games deprives them of more than Nutting would lose in such a situation. Should the average, lukewarm fan even care about the carefully budgeted, below-average product that Nutting puts on the field?
In reality, not really, unless you care about the fact that the owner of the Pirates consistently takes Pittsburgh’s great fans for granted.
With a roster payroll that routinely sits among the league’s lowest, it’s not that Nutting is challenged financially — Forbes reported last spring that the Pirates are now valued at an estimated $1.25 billion. Instead, Nutting’s ownership group has a way of perennially looking toward the future — with no final reward in sight.
Four years ago, the Pirates had one of the most talented young casts in all of baseball, with McCutchen, Starling Marte, Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker headlining a youthful nucleus.
However, following a 94-win season and a National League Division Series appearance, the Pirates failed to add anybody of note in the offseason. They won 88 games in 2014 and 98 in 2015, but continued to opt for laying low during the winter months, and lost Walker following the 2015 campaign.
Some of the prospects that Nutting incessantly refused to give up had finally developed into difference-making players, and the owner had a true opportunity to do something special in Pittsburgh with a franchise player patrolling PNC Park’s center field grass.
Instead, Nutting wasted the prime of McCutchen’s career, content with fielding a team that was always just a few players away.
“It’s refreshing to come to an environment where the team is willing to continually put resources into the club,” Cole said in his introductory news conference in Houston on Jan. 17, “and continue to move forward and try to provide the best possible product for its fans.”
After wasting away in Pittsburgh for long enough, I’m sure it is exhilarating to finally join a club that’s dedicated to winning.
It’s unfair to Pittsburgh’s players to boycott games solely to send a message to the owner of the team, but for fans that want to do what they can to improve the future of the organization, lessening the number of trips taken to PNC Park hits Nutting where it matters: His pockets.
For those who don’t feel strongly enough to avoid Pirates games, there is nothing inherently wrong with attending them.
Just beware — a covetous owner is profiting off of your apathetic attitude, and if your new favorite player is due for a new contract soon, his days in Pittsburgh are numbered.
For followers who have had enough, something must change.
In the meantime, spend your money on championship-level teams that deserve it: the six-time Super Bowl champion Steelers, and the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Penguins.