Coonelly addresses the troops
Pirates president Frank Coonelly addressed players and staff this morning prior to the start of the third full-squad workout. Owner Bob Nutting was expected to join Coonelly in the meeting; however, due to an illness, Nutting was unable to fly down from his home in Wheeling, West Va. He is supposed to make it down to Bradenton later on in Spring Training, though, and might be addressing the team on his own then.
Coonelly gave reporters a synopsis of his talking points after the meeting ended, and the theme centered around accountability and expectations. You’ll remember last year that the message management delivered to open Spring Training was one that stressed accountability by players, staff and management. On Thursday, Coonelly gave an assessment as to how he believes the management team stayed accountable to the promsies they made to the organization when they arrived.
Coonelly stressed the renewed focus in the amateur June draft: “We said we were going to select the best players available despite the perception of signability or agents that represent them. We said we were going to concentrate on every single round of the draft and look for talent at every single round of the draft and not think that our job was over after we made our first-round selection. We did that. And we secured some high-level players in some later rounds of the draft.”
He relayed information about the development of the organization’s new academy in the Dominican Republic: “We said we were going to become again a great organization in international markets and in the Dominican Republic in particular, and I reported to the players about the opening of the academy on April 30. We’ve added a lot of talent to that system.”
He stressed the changes made in the Minor League system: “We told players a year ago that we were going to completely change how we develop players to play Pirate baseball. I told players that those who were in that room who were in the Minor League system can attest to an increased intensity of the teaching and that the expectation level was raised.”
He told players that the management team hasn’t stopped trying to acquire talent and that those two Trade Deadline deals last July were part of their plan to develop a more firm long-term foundation: “We wanted to let [the 2008 team] compete for the National League Central. And we did that. A lot of things went right last year and we had players who had breakout years. But unfortunately as we sat at the end of July, we were not competitive. And since we are not pursuing 82 wins, we decided to make changes, all for the purpose of acquiring additional talent. We are very excited about the eight players we received in those trades.”
And Coonelly reminded players how the organization held true to its promise that it would try to identify the right players to lock up to long-term deals: “We told the players last year that we were looking for opportunities to make long-term commitments to players in the organization that were part of our core. We had three of our core players agree to long-term relationships with the club. Really, it can’t be done unless these players believe in the organization, believe in what we’re saying and believe in what John Russell is saying in the clubhouse.”
Coonelly then closed by reiterating the expectations for 2009: “Bob [Nutting] set those expectations at the beginning of the [winter] caravan when he said that he expected to improve and win. We are building a team to win as soon as possible and that we want these players to believe in themselves and believe in the organization. We expect improvement this year. The external perceptions of our finish this year are not going to be favorable to us, but they need to believe in themselves. They need to believe in themselves and they need to believe in the teachers they have here. Let’s set our own expectation levels and that expectation level is to win this year.
We’re pleased with what we were able to accomplish [last year]. Obviously the thing that we didn’t accomplish was winning at the Major League level. At the end of the day, accountability is going to mean winning at the Major League level. Players understand that, and I understand that. We are pleased with the progress that is made and the execution is being made. But we need to win at the Major League level for this to be successful.”