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By Murray Chass

January 21, 2018

No one, as far as I know, has ever accused Frank Coonelly of being funny, but last week the Pittsburgh Pirates’ president, said something that, though unintentional, turned out to be very funny.

I called Coonelly to ask him about the Pirates’ trades, within a week, of their two best players, pitcher Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen. In particular, I wanted to find out the fans’ reaction. It’s not every week that a team trades its two best players.

“I’m not sure this is the right venue,” Coonelly said. “We’re going directly to the fans and talking to them.”

As Coonelly spoke on the telephone Friday, Pirates’ fans were already talking. More than 50,000 had signed an on-line petition ( demanding that Bob Nutting relinquish control of the team. For the past decade, Nutting has been chairman of the board.

“Pittsburgh is a baseball town that is being destroyed by a greedy owner,” the petition read. “There are so many loyal fans who truly care and support this team through thick and thin. We deserve better. … There needs to be change from the top of the organization down. Bob Nutting needs to sell this team, so that we can see a competitive baseball team year in and year out. It is obvious that he doesn’t want to spend the money to make that happen. We need an owner who has a competitive spirit and loves the game of baseball!”

In posting the petition Jason Kauffman, a 43-year-old Pittsburgh area resident, tweeted, “I know this petition won’t force Nutting to sell but I view it more as a representation of the collective anger of the fan base, being fed up with ownership’s unwillingness to do what it takes to compete in today’s game.”

Kauffman was correct in saying the petition would …

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By Murray Chass

January 14, 2018

The Yankees and the Dodgers may very well play each other in the World Series in October, as the odds established by the Las Vegas bookmaker Bovada forecast, but before they get there they have a common opponent they’re determined to overcome. It’s called the luxury tax threshold.

In the threshold’s 15-year existence the Yankees have never conquered it, paying a luxury tax every year ranging from $11.8 million to $34 million a year for a total of $340 million. The Dodgers, a latecomer to the challenge, have a five-year streak in progress, having contributed $149.6 million to the luxury-tax pool, their annual payments soaring as high as $43.6 million.

Both teams want to avoid the tax this year, though the Yankees have been more outspoken about it than the Dodgers.

“There’s no chance, zero chance of going over the threshold,” Randy Levine, the Yankees’ president, said “It’s not going to happen. There’s too much involved – money, draft picks.”

Avoiding the luxury tax was the reason …

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By Murray Chass

January 7, 2018

On my way to writing about Major League Baseball’s luxury tax and the desire of the high-spending Dodgers and Yankees to stay under the tax threshold in the coming season, I received an e-mail from a reader who for years has been a reader and supporter of The New York Times, my former and four-decade employer.

Peter Wagner has written to me before, usually decrying the Times’ treatment of baseball. I have never found him to be wrong in his view, and I didn’t disagree with him this time, even though the subject wasn’t baseball but the National Football League playoffs.

I’m sure Jason Stallman, the Times sports editor, thinks I put Wagner up to writing the e-mail; he has made this accusation before, apparently thinking Times readers don’t have …

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