Nutting discusses changes since taking control

The Post-Gazette is running a “five-part series on the Pirates’ bid to reshape the franchise,” beginning today. In the first part, Dejan Kovacevic sat down with Bob Nutting, with the two discussing the changes that have been made since Nutting became principal owner of the team one year ago. It is apparent that Nutting has come to understand what Pirate fans want to hear. Last January, he was quoted as saying:

As far as questioning my commitment or my family’s commitment to winning, I think that’s completely inappropriate.

This caused a bit of an uproar among Pirate fans, as they felt 14 years of losing baseball was enough to question anything. In addition, there were few signs of any commitment to winning from the franchise for many years. Now, Nutting is singing a different tune:

I recognize that it’s probably fair and appropriate that our fans will always wonder about either our commitment or our competence until we actually get the team on the field to execute. I’m willing to accept that, whatever I say … it’s only words. The proof is going to come through winning baseball games.

That is what the fans want. Action. Changes. Tangible improvement. Some sign of life. It is possible that Nutting did not realize how big of a mess the franchise was when he made his original comments. Apparently, he recognized it. There have been major changes in the organization in the past year. The front office was rebuilt. Managers and coaches have been replaced. The Pirates will soon break ground on a new training facility in the Dominican Republic.
The next step will be the players. The Pirates currently have mostly mediocre players on the Major League roster. The farm system is in terrible shape. There is quite a bit of work to be done in order to build depth and increase the talent in the organization. General Manager Neal Huntington has attempted to trade some of his veteran players for impact prospects, but has had no success in doing so. The process will likely take considerable time.
The other interesting quote from Nutting in this article relates to payroll. When asked if the team will ever spend at a competitive level, he said:

When the pieces are lined up for us to contend, it’s my responsibility to make sure we can take advantage of it. The answer is yes. We’re not going to have any artificial barrier where we can’t ever be competitive. The Brewers are a great example. They supplemented only after they had the foundation built. They didn’t do it three years ago. They did it last year. It’s a very rational, orderly approach, and it’s one I’m very comfortable with.

That is the right idea. The Pirates are not the Yankees. They will never be able to build a team through free agency. The problem is that the Pirates never have any quality talent on the roster. I would rather see the team cut as much Major League payroll as possible, and either pour it into scouting and development or save that money for a time when it is helpful. Signing Jeromy Burnitz or Tony Armas today will do little to improve the team. Having some extra money in 2012 to add the last piece to a great young ball club could make a world of difference. Now, where are we going to get that great young ball club?

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Posted in Bob Nutting, Jeromy Burnitz, Neal Huntington, Nutting Family, Tony Armas. Comments Off on Nutting discusses changes since taking control

Pirate Roster: What Can Coonelly, New GM Do?

I think there have been enough words written discussing the hiring of Frank Coonelly as president and dissecting his announced philosophies that I can skip out on posting about that stuff here.
If you haven’t already done so, check out this five-minute video clip at the Post-Gazette, this article about the search for a new general manager and the open letter Coonelly wrote to Pirate fans. There’s a bio available, too, but I think we’ve been over most of that.
From those sources, you get a good understanding of what Coonelly says he wants to do in Pittsburgh. No sense in my attempting to rehash any of that when you can go straight to the horse’s mouth.
Rather than put Coonelly’s words under the microscope, let’s consider the hand he’s been dealt and his possible actions. Speculating about what we’d do in his shoes is infinitely more palatable than attempting to determine if this was an acceptable hire before the Pirates have even finished engraving his nameplate.
From where I’m sitting, there are distinct decisions to be made in five areas:
1. A new general manager
2. The glut of first baseman and corner outfielders
3. The long-term futures of Bay, LaRoche, Sanchez and/or Nady
4. Aligning the farm for most efficient returns
5. Piecing together a pitching staff
What Coonelly and his hired help do with this quintet of question marks could determine the fate of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club for the next decade.
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Pirates Announce Hiring of Coonelly as President

According to a press release posted on Pirates.com, the Pirates have just announced officially that Frank Coonelly will be taking the reigns as team president.
Bob Nutting’s quotes with emphasis added:

Frank brings a tremendous amount of baseball experience to this role. This experience will be a critical asset for us moving forward, including in the short term in the selecting of our new General Manager and assembling our baseball operations team.

Sounds like a housecleaning to me.

He is extremely intelligent, driven and absolutely committed to the Pirates organization moving forward. The Pirates are extremely fortunate to have him.

Perhaps hinting at all the talk concerning Coonelly’s previous role as slot money enforcer and collusion enabler for MLB? Blogs have talked at length about how Coonelly’s previous job description might not necessarily translate to his philosophy with the Pirates.

From the change of control in January, to Kevin’s announcement in July, to the change at the General Manager position, and now the addition of Frank, all have been orderly steps in the same direction to move our organization forward. I am committed to building an organization that can celebrate a culture of success, a culture of high expectations, and frankly, a culture of pride. This is another step toward that vision.

He’s done nothing that makes me question his motives—yet. Since he’s been in the spotlight, Bob Nutting has seemed to be honest and legitimate. Let’s hope it’s not all a ploy.
And Coonelly:

I firmly believe we have a real opportunity for success in Pittsburgh. The best way that we can consistently compete is to aggressively acquire and develop talent, both in the domestic and international markets. This strategy has proven to be successful in other markets and one that must be executed effectively. Our immediate priority will be to find the right General Manager who will work hard to build on the baseball foundation by broadening our talent base, improving our player development systems and making the international market a true priority. We must develop a system that regularly feeds premier talent to the major league level, while at the same time putting our current group of young players in the best possible position to succeed.

Rebuilding? We’ll see, I suppose.

Posted in 2007 Pittsburgh Pirates, AAAPittsburgh Pirates Management, Frank Coonelly, Nutting Family. Comments Off on Pirates Announce Hiring of Coonelly as President

Please Stay Away from Peter Woodfork, Pirates

If you’re trying to keep track of all the talk surrounding candidates to supplant Brian Graham as Pirates’ general manager, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Over the weekend, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette mentioned seven front-office types (Muzzy Jackson, Jim Beattie, Ed Wade, Ruben Amaro Jr., John Mozeliak, Steve Lubratich and Tony LaCava) in even vague relation to the job—and that’s by no means a concrete (or exhaustive) list.
This morning, Paul Meyer tossed another name into the hat:

Peter Woodfork, assistant to Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes, could draw interest from the Pirates [as a GM]—especially if Frank Coonelly becomes the team’s president.
Woodfork, who has a Harvard background, worked with Coonelly in Major League Baseball’s New York offices before going to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Lucky No. 8?
If I were trying to handicap the race—and I suppose I am, since there are far too many candidates to cover thoroughly—then my short list would (and does) have two names on it: LaCava and Woodfork. That’s admittedly pure speculation; I’m just going with my gut based on what I’ve been reading. But again, with a seemingly endless pool of potential applicants, you’ve got to start (and finish) somewhere.
There’s been a good bit written about LaCava’s qualifications—see the discussion surrounding a Beaver County Times article penned by John Perrotto for a quick background—so let’s take a look at Woodfork.
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Pirates Must Pair Coonelly with Talent Evaluator

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.

Pirates Reportedly Pick Coonelly for Club CEO

According to Ken Rosenthal on FOX’s Saturday baseball broadcast, Bob Nutting and the Pirates have decided on Frank Coonelly to fill their chief executive vacancy.
Coonelly currently serves as Major League Baseball’s chief labor council. Earlier this year, he was considered the 12th most influential man in baseball in a list compiled by USA Today:

Coonelly, who began working with MLB in 1998, has little visibility in comparison to other MLB executives. He is part of the negotiating team for the collective-bargaining agreements with both the players union and the umpires. He is also responsible for coordinating offers of arbitration, bonuses paid to draft picks (which are “slotted” by MLB according to when the players are selected) and other financial matters.

Yesterday, Nutting had this to say about his front office openings in an interview with Lanny Frattare:

Frattare: Now you said “candidates,” that’s to say then that you’re going to hire a president and a general manager?
Nutting: Well, I was talking about candidates for GM but absolutely, one thing that I have learned in the search process for the president—Kevin McClatchy’s role—is that there are two very distinct skill sets that we need; one for the general manager —single-minded focus on the baseball operation, and then a second person, the president, who has overall responsibility—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 presumably would assume that second role as team president.
UPDATE: More on Coonelly …

  • “Frank Coonelly may be the most powerful person in baseball you’ve never heard of.” – Bronx Banter
  • “Through the continued supervision of MLB senior vice president of labor relations Frank Coonelly, the average first-round bonus, which had increased at a rate of around 30 percent annually in the 1990s, has leveled off the last three years.” – Baseball America, June 2005
  • Coonelly represented the Pirates when Jody Gerut filed a grievance over his knee injury. – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

UPDATE (4:15): The news is posted on FOXSports.com:

The Pirates’ firing of GM Dave Littlefield was a precursor to their next move—the hiring of Frank Coonelly as their new CEO, according to major-league sources.
Coonelly is Major League Baseball’s chief labor counsel, and draws high marks for his intelligence, with one executive describing him as a “phenomenal” choice.

Thanks to Geeves for help with research on this one.

Posted in 2007 Pittsburgh Pirates, AAAPittsburgh Pirates Management, Frank Coonelly, Kevin McClatchy, Nutting Family. Comments Off on Pirates Reportedly Pick Coonelly for Club CEO

Pirates Reportedly Pick Coonelly for Club CEO

According to Ken Rosenthal on FOX’s Saturday baseball broadcast, Bob Nutting and the Pirates have decided on Frank Coonelly to fill their chief executive vacancy.
Coonelly currently serves as Major League Baseball’s chief labor council. Earlier this year, he was considered the 12th most influential man in baseball in a list compiled by USA Today:

Coonelly, who began working with MLB in 1998, has little visibility in comparison to other MLB executives. He is part of the negotiating team for the collective-bargaining agreements with both the players union and the umpires. He is also responsible for coordinating offers of arbitration, bonuses paid to draft picks (which are “slotted” by MLB according to when the players are selected) and other financial matters.

Yesterday, Nutting had this to say about his front office openings in an interview with Lanny Frattare:

Frattare: Now you said “candidates,” that’s to say then that you’re going to hire a president and a general manager?
Nutting: Well, I was talking about candidates for GM but absolutely, one thing that I have learned in the search process for the president—Kevin McClatchy’s role—is that there are two very distinct skill sets that we need; one for the general manager —single-minded focus on the baseball operation, and then a second person, the president, who has overall responsibility—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 presumably would assume that second role as team president.
UPDATE: More on Coonelly …

  • “Frank Coonelly may be the most powerful person in baseball you’ve never heard of.” – Bronx Banter
  • “Through the continued supervision of MLB senior vice president of labor relations Frank Coonelly, the average first-round bonus, which had increased at a rate of around 30 percent annually in the 1990s, has leveled off the last three years.” – Baseball America, June 2005
  • Coonelly represented the Pirates when Jody Gerut filed a grievance over his knee injury. – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

UPDATE (4:15): The news is posted on FOXSports.com:

The Pirates’ firing of GM Dave Littlefield was a precursor to their next move—the hiring of Frank Coonelly as their new CEO, according to major-league sources.
Coonelly is Major League Baseball’s chief labor counsel, and draws high marks for his intelligence, with one executive describing him as a “phenomenal” choice.

Thanks to Geeves for help with research on this one.

Posted in 2007 Pittsburgh Pirates, AAAPittsburgh Pirates Management, Frank Coonelly, Kevin McClatchy, Nutting Family. Comments Off on Pirates Reportedly Pick Coonelly for Club CEO