I always find interviews with owners very interesting–owners have perhaps the most impact on a club in who they hire and how they define their ownership’s prerogative role; their movements can be small, but strongly weighted. With that, here are two interviews held by two different news sources with two different MLB team owners.
The first, Richard Durett of ESPN.com/Dallas sits down with Chuck Greenberg, who just bought the Texas Rangers as part of an ownership group with Nolan Ryan, pending the MLB ownership group’s and Tom Hicks’ ownership group’s approval. Not really stirring stuff, but there’s some hidden messages in there.
Some of the better parts:
Q: Give us a sense of how this club will operate in terms of your role and others. Will you make the day-to-day decisions? How will it work?
A: I’ll be the managing partner and CEO. If you like what’s going on or you don’t like what’s going on, I take responsibility for that. Nolan [Ryan] and I will work very closely tougher. When it comes to baseball, I’m not going to interject my opinions. I love the game of baseball and I love talking baseball. If Nolan and JD [Jon Daniels] want to discuss something with me, they can, but I have complete faith and trust in the decisions that they make. I’ll be as involved as they wish me to be, but with complete faith and confidence in them.
Q: Why did you choose the Texas Rangers to make this purchase attempt? What was it about this team that interested you?
A: I think the Rangers are the perfect set of circumstances. It has a wonderful community that loves its sports. It deeply wants to believe in the Rangers, but hasn’t had an opportunity to have those dreams fully realized. They have an outstanding, young major league team and a great farm system. The baseball operation is tremendous. Four of the top 51 picks in the draft, which means an embarrassment of riches in terms of talent. But it’s a franchise that needs a little push and a little infusion of energy to help it connect in a way where the whole is more than the sum of the impressive parts. Hopefully that’s what we’re going to be able to do. All of the elements to have a great, great franchise are here. It just needs a little push and direction to get there.
Q: Where do you think this team’s payroll should be?
A: That depends. If you have a veteran team, the payroll is different than a younger team. You have to be able to scout and develop well and have a pipeline of prospects and then as they grow into outstanding players, you have to have the resources to keep them. The idea is not to be a farm team where you just have good young players and they reach a certain level and they go on to play in New York or Boston.
In a market like the Metroplex, the resources are here. We have to do a better job of cultivating that support. Is there one payroll figure that makes sense? No. I just think it depends on the circumstances. We have to be in position to continue to add the pieces and be a championship club and make sure it stays that way.
There’s a lot of say-nothing stuff in there, generic PR-type answers, but he’s saying a few things between the lines: he’s gonna leave the decisions to the front office; the team has a lot of good things developing in the minors and the market is ripe. I don’t like it when players, managers and owners speak in public relations vagueries–it’s so painfully obvious and you’re not providing anything new, so why even talk? But there was some decent insight here and there from Greenberg.
On a sidenote, though, not very good questions asked, although I don’t know if you can ask really good questions to a guy who isn’t even the owner yet.
On the flipside of that coin is the interview Dejan Kovacevic, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, held with Pirates Owner Bob Nutting. Dejan is a very good beat reporter, honest and hard-working and almost never biased–probably one of the best in the business.
In this Q and A, he poses some good questions to Nutting and gets some excellent (albeit a bit self-promotional) answers in return.
Q: Can we expect to see accountability beyond changing the roster?
A: I think, just as you saw accountability at the player level last year, ultimately, my job is very simple: It’s to set the level of expectation to win games in Pittsburgh, period. And my tool to do that is to hold people accountable to reach this goal.
I think I’ve done that effectively so far, and I believe everyone in the organization understands that the expectation is high.
Q: When you see some of these prospects about to come up — Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Brad Lincoln — what’s your view of the talent pool that could be in Pittsburgh at some point in 2010?
A: Clearly, we have more depth, more options. And what I’m thrilled about is that Neal has the time and opportunity to make good baseball decisions to be able to pull people up when it’s appropriate to the player’s development.
Do we have enough talent?
We need another great draft. We’ve had two good ones, and we need to do it again. And again and again. With international signings, we need to keep our focus on that ball, as well. We need to continue to bring in talent at the bottom every way we possibly can, so those options are available in 2010 and, hopefully, those choices become more and more difficult every year.
A: But I think we’ve shown good discipline in building this 2010 team, in that there is lots of flexibility that [Pirates General Manager] Neal [Huntington] still has. He’s building the team that he thinks will perform best for the coming year but also can still succeed going forward.
Q: So, Neal can spend more than what we see right now?
Q: Why not, some might say, just take some heat off yourself and have a $50 million-$55 million payroll?
A: Well, what I really believe is that we’ve put in place an orderly, systematic plan, and the last thing we can do is divert from that plan or change it, as I’ve seen done before in Pittsburgh and with other clubs. I believe that the decisions being made are giving the team the best opportunity to compete this year, as well as going forward. I don’t want to do anything that handicaps that.
Q: You can understand where the general public can look at the payroll with frustration?
A: Again, I understand the focus on that single number. I also strongly believe that is not the right indicator for organization performance or strength. You need to look at our commitments top to bottom, the foundation we’ve built.
I really like Nutting. Here’s hoping they’re back in the NL Central hunt in two years.