I’ll admit that I’m still digesting all the Coonelly news, trying to make sense of exactly what has happened. I think we’re all a little surprised that so much has gone down so soon, especially considering the state the franchise is in. It’s not as if our Pittsburgh Pirates had all of a sudden hit a sour note; we’ve been in the dumper for 15 years. Two monumental decisions were made in the past two days after none had been made in the last six years.
In any case, we’re all trying to piece together what’s going on in an attempt to take a guess as to what’s coming next. The Pirates still need to find a new general manager; make decisions on the coaching staff, front office personnel and scouts; decide whether or not there’s enough talent in place to compete in 2008. The rollercoaster ride of news headlines has just started.
Forgive me for jumping the gun, throwing out an opinion on a situation I’m still learning about—but I think I know which puzzle piece needs to be put into place now.
The Pirates must pair their president, Frank Coonelly, with a general manager who has a keen eye for talent.
I keep pointing to this interview Nutting gave, but only because it’s so important:
One thing that I have learned in the search process for the president … is that there are two very distinct skill sets that we need; one for the general manager, [an individual with a] single-minded focus on the baseball operation, and then a second person, the president, who has overall responsibility—[who] needs to be grounded in the fundamentals of baseball but doesn’t have the day-to-day focus for making the moves that the general manager is charged with.
Coonelly meshes with that second job description perhaps better than any other candidate could. He has an intricate knowledge of the financial aspect of the game, from the draft to free agency to arbitration. He knows the biz of baseball as well as anyone, and that’s absolutely essential to an organization like ours where prudent spending is so crucial.
Now, the Pirates must make an attempt to bring on a general manager who can complement Coonelly’s offerings. And to do that, they need to find someone with a strong scouting and development background. They need a GM who can pick the needle from the haystack. Coonelly will properly allocate the resources; the GM must divvy the dollars up among the most qualified players.
Let’s be realistic: Just because the Pirates have made encouraging front office decisions doesn’t mean that they’re any closer to upping their payroll to $70 million. What is does mean is that they’re trying to bring in the individuals who can do the most with what they’re given.
We’ve heard the names of Paul DePodesta, Tony LaCava, Walt Jocketty, Dan Duquette and others mentioned in the same breath as the CEO vacancy. If I’m Frank Coonelly, I’m making an effort to bring aboard a similar-type candidate to fill the general manager opening. I don’t want another Dave Littlefield, a guy who’s trying to cut his teeth in professional baseball. I want someone who knows how an organization needs to be run from rookie ball to the major leagues.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Coonelly will have an impact on improving the Pirates’ draft strategies, international presence and the like—the business stuff. But to maximize his return, Coonelly should bring on another bright mind that can consistently succeed in player development, free agency and trades—someone who knows how to buy low and sell high.
If the Pirates ace the general manager hiring, they might just be headed in a promising direction. Picking up Coonelly seems to be a solid first step, but there’s still a long way to go.