McClatchy may jump off Pirates' sinking ship

Nl Notebook

September 24, 2006|By Compiled from interviews and other newspapers' reports.

While Orioles fans grow continually disillusioned with the performance of their team and a faction has pleaded with owner Peter G. Angelos to sell the club, another maligned owner of a struggling franchise may very well jump ship this year.

Kevin McClatchy, the Pittsburgh Pirates' chief executive officer and managing general partner, has been noncommittal on whether he will sell his control of the team, which just clinched its 14th straight losing season.

"I've said that I'll comment on my situation after the season," McClatchy said. "I'll let everybody speculate on that until then."

Here's some speculation: McClatchy's "no-comment" stance means he is done - without ever seeing a plus-.500 team in the Steel City.

A newspaper mogul, McClatchy became the Pirates' fifth owner since 1900 when he bought controlling interest in the team in 1996. The sale price then was $92 million; Forbes magazine estimated this year that the club is worth $250 million.

McClatchy's legacy will include his insistence on the necessity of a baseball-only stadium in Pittsburgh. He got his wish in 2001 when PNC Park, one of baseball's best venues, opened.

But McClatchy's reign also will be remembered as a tight-fisted one in which the Pirates were almost always at the bottom of the sport's salary structure. The Pirates' $47 million payroll to start the season was the fourth lowest in 2006.

Regardless of his decision, McClatchy doesn't expect a significant payroll hike in 2007.

"It's going to remain the same regardless of ticket sales, but I think it's a number than can float a little bit," McClatchy said. "It's more important to get the right product out there than a number that is attached to it."

The Pirates began the season 30-60 under new manager Jim Tracy but have played over .500 since the All-Star break.

Stabilizing center

This is the winter to need a center fielder. There are five former All-Stars who could be available, a list headed by Gold Glovers with team options that might not be picked up: St. Louis Cardinals' Jim Edmonds, Minnesota Twins' Torii Hunter, San Diego Padres' Mike Cameron and San Francisco Giants' Steve Finley. Texas Rangers' Gary Matthews, a 2006 All-Star and potential Gold Glover, is an unrestricted free agent, as is the Chicago Cubs' Juan Pierre. And there are whispers the Atlanta Braves could move Andruw Jones in the right deal.

Intriguing option

A name to watch: Cubs right-hander Wade Miller. He hasn't pitched a full season since 2003 and he's coming off shoulder surgery earlier this year. His command is still shaky and his velocity isn't up to past standards. But that didn't stop scouts, including one from the Orioles, to go to Chicago this month to see him pitch. Only 30, he could be a nice risk-reward free agent.

Quick hits

Free-agent-to-be Luis Gonzalez said the San Diego Padres could be his top 2007 choice. Others include Atlanta, the Houston Astros and both teams in Chicago. ... When the Los Angeles Dodgers hit four straight homers in the bottom of the ninth Monday against San Diego, they became the first club to do it since the 1964 Minnesota Twins.

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