Pirates president Frank Coonelly participated in his monthly live online chat with Pirates fans on Wednesday. During the chat, Coonelly answered questions about the 2011 projected payroll, the frustration of losing, the importance of September and more. The complete chat transcript follows.
Coonelly: Hello everyone and thanks for joining me today. Let's get started.
cw2124: I just wanted to start by saying I love the ballpark. I have made the trip from Rochester N.Y., to PNC Park a few times and it's amazing. I was wondering if players like [Rudy] Owens, [Brian] Leach, [Jeff] Locke, [Justin] Wilson and [Jim] Negrych can be used next year for the club?
Coonelly: Thanks, PNC Park is a jewel of which all Pittsburghers are proud. Our players love playing here and they love the support that they receive from Pirate fans. While it is too early to predict which members of the organization will make their debuts in Pittsburgh next year, we have been very pleased with the development of many of our young players. Including those that you have mentioned and many other players. Rudy Owens, in particular, has been one of the best pitchers in Minor League Baseball all season, and his latest dominant outing last night clinched a playoff position for the Altoona Curve. In addition, the Bradenton Marauders, our high-A affiliate, is poised to earn a playoff berth as well despite overcoming several injuries to key players. Many of the Curve players were part of the championship team in Lynchburg last year. These young players are developing a winning mentality and a winning attitude. In [Neil] Walker, [Jose] Tabata and [Pedro] Alvarez, we have three of the most exciting rookies in the league playing in Pittsburgh and we are looking forward to additional members of the organization making that jump next year.
bucsin09: Frank, What does the front office do during the month of September? Is it mainly evaluation?
Coonelly: Evaluation of the players on our roster is critical in September (as it is throughout the season) but the focus of the front office this September is to convince this young roster that it can play winning baseball and develop a winning attitude. We have had an extraordinarily disappointing season to date. It is critical that we finish this very poor season with a strong September. Several of our players will be playing into September for the first time but need to continue to work very hard and convince themselves that they can win at this level. In addition, the front office will be preparing for instructional league in Bradenton, Fla., and continuing to formulate offseason priorities and strategies that will provide us with the additional pieces necessary to build a winning team in 2011.
jm_bucsfan: A lot has been made about the payroll amount for 2011. What's the real deal?
Coonelly: jm_bucsfan, the Major League payroll number always receives far too much attention. Because we have completely overhauled our roster, we are a very young team dominated by players who are at the beginning of their earning cycle. The San Diego Padres are in a similar situation and have a payroll, even after picking up [Ryan] Ludwick and [Miguel] Tejada at the Trade Deadline, that is virtually identical to ours. The Padres have been in first place for most of the season, once again proving that talent and confidence in your ability and your teammates' abilities produces winning and not any particular payroll number. There are several clubs with payrolls in excess of 100 million dollars who will be watching the playoffs from home. Our focus is building a team that will win in Pittsburgh and do so as quickly as possible. The story with the payroll is that we have the capacity to add meaningful payroll in 2011 if we can identify (and trade for or sign) the right players who can help us win. As I indicated in response to an earlier question, we are aggressively evaluating the potential opportunities to add players who will help us succeed.
stargellstars: Frank, I'm a very loyal fan and a supporter of the rebuild. Still, it's hard to ignore the issues of the past week (financials) and the losing. PLEASE, tell me something good to look forward to in 2011!
Coonelly: First, thank you for your loyal support of our decision that Pirate fans deserve a winner and would support a complete overhaul of this team if they were convinced that an overhaul would produce winning baseball in Pittsburgh again. We cannot ignore the losing and cannot expect our loyal fans to ignore it or to accept it. Quite simply, while we understood that the building process would include growing pains, the losing this season has been unacceptable. Pirate fans have endured far too much losing, have exhibited a tremendous amount of patience and deserve a winning team as soon as possible. The sharp focus of everyone in the organization, from the front office to the players, is building a culture of winning immediately.
dj324: How does it feel to be president of the losingest team in baseball and what are you going to do to change it?
Coonelly: dj324, given that we have many young readers of this chat, I will keep my answer G-rated. It stinks. It is embarrassing, painful and incredibly aggravating. I never expected us to sit with just 44 wins on September 1, 2010. We have more talent than that and I expect us to play much better during this last month of the season. While the losing this year has been painful from a personal perspective, what hurts the most is to see the pain and disappointment on the faces of our great fans who rightfully expected much more from us. The losing is unacceptable and will change. While we will not deviate from a solid plan of building a winning organization through outstanding scouting, player development and significant investments in talented amateur players, we will look to add to a very talented core of young players currently in Pittsburgh and continue to evaluate everything that we do in order to finish strong in 2010 and make significant progress in the win/loss column in Pittsburgh in 2011.
Coonelly: Last question for today...
believeinpirates: Mr. Coonelly, why can't the Pirates be like the Rays?
Coonelly: I want to thank everyone for participating in today's chat and for your support of the Pirates. believeinpirates, there is absolutely no reason why the Pirates cannot have the type of success the Rays are now enjoying. The plan that we are executing is identical to the plan that worked for the Rays. Much like the Pirates, the Rays had attempted to take shortcuts to winning for many years by signing veteran, well-past-their-prime free agents. Their efforts at shortcuts, while well-intentioned, were as unsuccessful as the Pirates similar efforts. Flooding a system with highly talented young players and refusing to rely on quick fixes will serve us as well as it served the Rays when they had their building process eight years ago. I often hear that success in markets like Tampa and Pittsburgh cannot be sustained but the Rays are doing a nice job of dispelling that notion. Clubs like the Pirates and the Rays, and most clubs in Major League Baseball for that matter, cannot retain every player for his entire career. That is why building a deep pipeline of talent is critical for sustained success. Minnesota and Tampa are enjoying that sustained success now and we expect to be giving Pirates fans the same type of sustained winning in the near future.
Coonelly: Thanks again, everyone, for joining me and for the great questions. I will talk to you all again next month.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.