Coonelly chats with Bucs fans
Team president discusses team's struggles online
On Tuesday, Pirates team president Frank Coonelly talked with and answered questions for fans online. What follows is a transcript of the chat.
joesbuddy: As last night's game is evidence, When can we expect to be able to upgrade the pitching staff? I don't think we can win without pitching!
Coonelly: joesbuddy, I agree with you that we cannot win without quality pitching. We received an outstanding outing last night from Paul Maholm. Unfortunately, while you can't win without quality pitching, a club does not win every game in which it receives a quality start. Our starting pitching has been a major disappointment thus far this year and it is the principal reason we are not winning more games. We have been encouraged, however, by Zach Duke's and Paul Maholm's consistent performance. Tom Gorzelanny and Ian Snell have not performed up to their, or our, expectations to date. Gorzelanny did, however, pitch much better in his outing on Sunday. It is very difficult to acquire quality starting pitching at this time of the year but we are exploring all of our options.
jm_bucsfan: Can you tell us anything ... (anything?) about the negotiations with No. 1 pick Pedro Alvarez?
Coonelly: jm_bucsfan, we are working very hard to sign Pedro Alvarez to a contract as quickly as possible. We believe that it is important to Pedro's development that he sign as early this summer as possible so that he can get into the system, have a full instructional league camp and perhaps play in the Arizona Fall League. We remain convinced that Pedro wants to be a pro ball player and wants to be a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
pitsports: I feel like the Pirates are starting to slip like they did in previous years. How is this year different from any other year? I am not seeing the accountability.
Coonelly: pitsports, I can assure you that we are continuing to demand accountability from our players and our staff. I can also assure you that the staff is working extremely hard with the players to get them to perform at their full potential.
Like any other club, we have had our share of injuries, with the recent disabled list placements of Ian Snell and Phil Dumatrait being the latest. As for signs that accountability is not being forgotten, I think you can look to the difficult decision that we made to release Matt Morris and the decision to option Ronny Paulino to Triple-A Indianapolis. I would also point to several instances in which certain "regular" players have sat over the course of the first half of the season. While we are certainly not where we want to be in terms of our record, no one is allowing the club to slip.
gobucs10: You have taken some heat lately for saying: It's a shame more fans aren't coming to the park. Is the shame on the fans or the organization?
Coonelly: gobucs10, thank you for asking that question and giving me an opportunity to elaborate. Unfortunately Mr. Cook did not find it necessary or appropriate to call me and ask me any questions prior to writing his article of today. When I said back in April that it was a shame that more people were not enjoying Pirates baseball at PNC Park, I was not assessing blame -- on either our fans or the organization. Instead, I was simply stating my opinion which is based on the undeniable facts that 1.) PNC Park is the best ballpark in baseball; 2.) Pirates baseball games are the best entertainment value in western PA; 3.) Baseball is a wonderful game to watch live. As I have said many, many times (although ignored today by Mr. Cook), I understand why our attendance was disappointing last year and is even more disappointing this year. Our fans want us to be competing for championships and we have not done that in quite some time. Thus, if I had been intent on assessing blame for our disappointing attendance, I would have placed that blame squarely on the organization and not with our fans.
piratefan11: In today's PG, Ron Cook accuses you of settling for "mediocrity" by praising the team for playing hard despite losing and making excuses for poor attendance. Do you care to share your thoughts?
Coonelly: piratefan11, thank you for providing the forum in which to respond to this assertion by Mr. Cook in today's P-G. Again, Mr. Cook unfortunately did not find it newsworthy or appropriate to actually solicit my opinion on this very important topic. He instead selected two unrelated quotes from articles written by his colleague Mr. Kovacevic written months apart to reach his own conclusion as to our aspirations. Not surprisingly, given this type of journalism, he could not be more wrong. We have no interest in being average. We are not at all satisfied with the team's current standing in the NL Central nor with the team's performance to date. I did, correctly in my view, tell Mr. Kovacevic that we competed in every game that we played including the games against the best teams in the league. Competing night-in and night-out is what we are supposed to do. We will not be satisfied until we are competing for championships. Had Mr. Cook asked me whether I was satisfied with the level of our play, he would have had an opportunity to understand that we aspire much higher than he suggested in his column today.
cyredmond: I realize that it is a difficult balance between competing and rebuilding, but now that the Pirates are in last place of the NL Central, is the new regime going to focus on making potentially unpopular moves to facilitate a quicker rebuilding process?
Coonelly: cyredmond, that is a question that several fans have posted today. As Neal Huntington and I have said over the last month and a half, we are constantly evaluating our situation and working hard to find opportunities to improve the depth of our organization. We will not, however, overreact to spending one day in last place. As painful as last night's blown save was for the organization, we continue to believe that this team has a chance to compete. As we move closer to the July 31 trade deadline, we will continue to seriously evaluate our opportunities to improve the club for 2008 and beyond. This group of players has worked extremely hard to prove that it can compete in the NL Central and we have not reached any conclusion that it cannot.
wewill1992: How much of the Pirates success can be credited toward hitting coach Don Long?
Coonelly: wewill1992, if you had told me when we broke camp that on July 1 we would be third in the NL in runs scored, I would have told you that we would have been competing for the division lead. Our starting pitching should have been a strength and, to date, it has not been. We have been fairly productive at the plate, as you have indicated. From the day he was first hired over the winter, Don Long has worked extraordinarily hard with each of our players and I do believe that his hard work deserves at least part of the credit for our above average offensive production.
NYPirate: How much of the Pirates failure can be credited toward Jeff Andrews?
Coonelly: NYPirate, your question is the flip side of the previous question. Our starting pitchers have not performed as well as we expected. While it would be easy to point to the pitching coach, I believe that such blame is misplaced. Jeff Andrews has worked with Snell, Gorzelanny, Duke and Maholm in the Minor Leagues when he each enjoyed a great deal of success. Jeff has continued to work tirelessly with our starters to put them in a position where they can succeed. As I mentioned earlier, Duke and Maholm have found the type of consistency that we are looking for. Snell and Gorzelanny have not, but Gorzo's improved control and command of his pitches on Sunday was encouraging and, I think, reflective of the work that Jeff Andrews continues to do with our pitchers.
showwn: Frank, do you think the current economic struggles many people are facing may have something to do with a lack of attendance? I know it's affected me adversely.
Coonelly: showwn, you ask an excellent question but I want to be careful in my response as I do not want to be accused of making excuses for our disappointing attendance. Undoubtedly, $4 a gallon for gas and the difficult economy affect people's decisions regarding entertainment choices. We understand this and have just introduced today a new family ticket plan that provides our fans an opportunity to purchase four tickets, receive four Pirates caps and get a $25 gas card from GetGo all for $75. The Pirates continue to look for ways to provide our fans with great value and the opportunity to enjoy Pirates baseball at PNC Park.
duane722: Can you assess the contribution of Doug Mientkiewicz? He seems to be an example of the never-say-die attitude that the 2008 Bucs embrace.
Coonelly: duane722, I do not think that Doug's contribution can be understated. The 2008 Pirates have indeed embraced a never-say-die attitude and certainly Doug has played with that type of intensity his entire career. Doug has been a positive influence in our clubhouse from the first day he reported to Spring Training. It is because of players like Doug that I do not believe that this club will ever give up on John Russell and his staff.
Coonelly: I need to run to a 2:30 meeting, for which I am already late, but I want to thank all of you for caring about Pirates baseball and participating in this month's chat. I hope to get to more of your questions next month.
pittguest: Thanks again, everyone, for participating in today's chat. Please join us again for the fifth installment on Wednesday, August 6 at 2 p.m. ET. Thank you.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.