The man who started the online petition to MLB for Pirates owner Bob Nutting to sell the team never imagined it would start a grassroots groundswell of fans expressing their frustration.
By Saturday, it had more than 53,000 signatures.
Jason Kauffman, a season-ticket holder for eight seasons, started the petition Monday night after the Pirates traded five-time All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Kauffman, 43, of Ross, a former Pirates ball boy. “I figured I’ll probably get 1,000 signatures. When I woke up the next morning, it had 16,000 signatures on the petition. It has 53,000 signatures right now. That just goes to prove to you that it filled PNC Park and is now over capacity. I didn’t expect any of this.
“It just goes to prove that it’s a clear message to the Pirates: They know we’re ticked off. What people don’t understand about Bob Nutting is it’s not whether we think he’s a bad guy. It’s the ownership’s unwillingness to invest in the team.”
The Pirates have blamed their trades of ace pitcher Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros and face of the franchise McCutchen on MLB’s economic disparity, with general manager Neal Huntington comparing it to the Miami Marlins trading away NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna to reduce payroll.
Kauffman believes the Pirates owe their fans better.
“Show the fans that you care,” Kauffman said. “Look what (Marlins owner) Derek Jeter did. He had a Town Hall meeting. Show that you care about your fan base. I get passionate about it. If I didn’t care, I’d be quiet.”
Instead, Kauffman plans to take his protest a step further.
Next, he and a group of Pirates fans plan to boycott the home opener.
“I’m not going to opening day. I’m serious about this,” Kauffman said. “People are probably saying, ‘Oh, he’s doing this petition but he’ll be there on April 2.’ I’m not giving them a cent on opening day. If fans don’t go on opening day, management will know something is wrong. I can’t sit here and say I’m not going to games. I’m a baseball fan. But I’m not going to opening day.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.