Nutting vs Lemieux

No one is going to like this post but I think it needs stated anyway. Nutting is a vilified owner in Pittsburgh with some just cause and Lemieux is hailed as a great owner again with some just cause. However Nutting just completed his first six years as majority owner of the Pirates and I was curious how much the team improved in those six seasons compared to the previous six seasons. Just for fun I thought I’d compare that improvement or lack there of against Lemieux and the Penguins improvement or lack there of in his first six seasons as owner. Now remember this is dealing with just the 6 seasons before and after each owner respectively took over their franchise. To keep things simple I’m going to use winning percentage (wins/games played).


Six Years Before Nutting (2001-2006): 415-555 (.428 winning percentage)

Six Years With Nutting (2007-2012): 405-566 (.417 winning percentage)

Note: It seems the Pirates have essentially stayed the same. There is a slight regression which of course is now what we would like to see. One would hope that the franchise would have made more significant steps forward. That is definitely a failure on Nutting’s part. Now lets see what a “good” owner can do in six years.


Six Seasons Before Lemieux Took Over (1993/94-1998/99): 238-162-60 (.583 winning percentage)

Six Seasons After Lemeiux Took Over(1999/00-2005/06): 179-274-39 (.403 winning percentage)

* Ties are considered .5 win and .5 loss

Note: Um well it doesn’t appear a “good” owner really helped out within six years. The Penguins were vastly worse under Lemieux’s first six years as owner. Granted he had a much higher standard to live up than Nutting did with the Pirates but wow that is certainly far from acceptable as well.

Bottom Line: So can we read anything into these numbers? Not really a whole lot, no. In reality they are fairly meaningless but one thing we can take from them is that judging an owner on six seasons worth of data probably isn’t a good idea. I mean the Penguins over Lemieux’s first 6 seasons were actually a tad worse than the Pirates have been over Nutting’s first 6 seasons and Lemieux started with a playoff caliber team and Nutting started with pretty much the same talent level he continued to throw out there. There are of course other elements to consider here, Lemieux took over a team with a large amount of debt but Nutting also took on a fair amount of debt, not as much as Lemieux though. Unlike Lemieux, Nutting actually had some hand in the decision-making prior to officially taking over as owner but then again Lemieux was gifted enough to actually go out and play after acquiring the team. We could go point, counter point all day like Lemieux took over when the sport was in a financial mess can be countered with yes but Lemieux’s first 6 years include a salary capped year where the Pens could more easily compete and Nutting’s doesn’t. I’m not really interested in all that though, my only point in bringing up these numbers is that more than 6 years worth of data is needed before an owner should be applauded or vilified.



  1. Kip Marchetti

    Not a bad point .. The same point you made
    To me during the frustrating Bucs free fall.
    Admirable and thoughtful … Accurate. I
    wish I could find some comfort in the point
    as I watch the Nats have their way with the
    Cards in the bottom of the 3rd inning in game
    five of the divisional playoffs.What might have
    been … We’ll never know … And so we
    sound that familiar refrain … Wait’ll Next
    Year. Beat’ Bucs!

  2. Jamie Koch

    I’d like to see this comparison made in another 4 years. The end of your 6 year period for Lemeiux was just about the bottom for the Pens. Mario started spending the money and we’ve won a lot (including a Cup) since then. I just don’t see this in the future of the Pirates.

    • burghfan66

      The comparison isn’t meant to project anything about the future.

      However if you want to go that route the six year spans ends on a season in which the Penguins saw a 33% attendance increase despite a winning percentage that would be equivalent to the Pirates going 44-118. I don’t foresee that kind of blind support coming from Pittsburgh for the Pirates either. It shouldn’t have came for the Pens and it shouldn’t and won’t come for the Pirates. But that miraculous attendance increase is actually what helped propel the Penguins and allowed them to increase payroll.

      So as I try to point out in the article these are two entirely different situations. If the Pirates go 44-118 there is no way 2.7 million fans comes through the gates. Yet it worked that way for the Pens. My main point here is six years isn’t enough time to judge an owner. I another 4 years yes thats more fair.

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