Baseball commissioner Bud Selig strenuously denied that the Pittsburgh Pirates were emphasizing profits over victories, and said the idea that the franchise ownership was pocketing revenue was "economic myth."
"I know how painful this is for the fans in Pittsburgh," Selig said in an extensive interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "But, in watching this management team the past couple of years and how aggressive they've been and how they're restocking the farm system, that's where they had to start. And if they weren't doing it, you'd hear from me."
The Pirates have drawn considerable fan criticism -- along with internal clubhouse dissatisfaction -- for trading some of their top and developing talent. Last season, Jason Bay was shipped to the Red Sox. In June, former National League All-Star outfielder Nate McLouth was sent to the Braves. Later that month, outfielder Nyjer Morgan and pitcher Sean Burnett got moved to the Nationals.
In return, the Pirates received mostly midlevel prospects.
"I understand the frustration of the Pirates' fans," Selig told the Post-Gazette. "But I have great confidence in [team president] Frank [Coonelly], and I know that [chairman] Bob Nutting is committed to building this franchise. Do I believe they're on the right path? I'm very confident they are. I understand the cynicism, and I understand the reluctance of people to get excited. It's a very painful process, a painful transition."
The Pirates sank to a new low three weeks ago, when they clinched their 17th consecutive losing season, the longest such run in any of the major pro sports.
The Pirates revealed a profit had been turned in each year from 2004 to 2008, though exact numbers are not known. Selig said, according to the newspaper, that each franchise's financial situation is regularly checked, and all revenue-sharing funds must be used to improve its rosters and development.
"The economic myth that they're putting it in their pocket is just not right," he told the Post-Gazette.
According to the newspaper, the Pirates got $28 million in revenue-sharing money last season, and $15 million to $20 million in broadcast contracts and other sources.
If the roster remains as it is for Opening Day in 2010, the payroll will not exceed $28 million. Pittsburgh's payroll this season was $47.4 million.
The Pirates' players -- many of them since traded -- have expressed their distaste for management's decisions.
LaRoche told the Post-Gazette in early June: "It's kind of like being with your platoon in a battle, and guys keep dropping around you. You keep hanging on, hanging on, and you've got to figure: How much longer till you sink? It's fine. Heck with it. We're not the GM. We don't run the team."
Wilson told the newspaper in late June: "They're businessmen. They're trying to achieve winning baseball in Pittsburgh. The biggest question is: When is that going to be? When do things start turning around? ... I've been here nine years. I've seen two or three of these trades every year and still haven't had a winning season."
Sanchez, who is out for the season and scheduled to have surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, told the San Jose Mercury News that he most likely would test the free-agent market, and does not expect to return to the Pirates.
"I loved it there," Sanchez said, according to the Mercury News. "But there's not the same guys there. Everybody I came up with got traded. Once you make a decision like that, it's hard to go back."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.