patsyrollo: Hi Frank. Do you think there will be a time, +/-10years, that player contracts won't be 100 percent guaranteed? Thanks for hosting the monthly web chats.
Coonelly: Patsyrollo, you're welcome. Thanks for joining. It is hard to predict if guaranteed contracts will dissipate. However, there are ways that clubs can protect themselves, including relying on club option years as part of the contract package and requiring that a player earn a portion of his compensation through performance bonuses.
no_smoking: Can you tell us more about the new "Green Team" that will be helping the environment by collecting and recycling bottles in PNC Park?
Coonelly: The Green Team is a special group of employees who will collect any recyclable bottles that are left in the seat locations following the game prior to the time when the normal cleaning sweep takes place.
scruffduff: Hiya Frank! I noticed Kip Wells having a nice game the other night. If you had to pick one former Pirates starter from the last eight years to return for a spot-start for the Bucs in the 2008 playoffs, whom would you select?
Coonelly: If healthy, that would have to be Jason Schmidt.
dgmoskos: I was encouraged that Ryan Doumit found his way into the lineup on Opening Day. Does this suggest that the Pirates are addressing their inability to score over the past decade or so by starting a lineup that might be able to produce more?
Coonelly: We are certainly making real efforts to increase our ability to get on base and to score runs. Don Long, our new hitting coach, has been preaching discipline and patience at the plate, and I think you saw the early returns on that philosophy in Monday's game when Tom Glavine was removed after five innings and 97 pitches. With respect to Doumit, he is a dangerous hitter from both sides of the plate who has worked extraordinarily hard this offseason and Spring Training, and he has earned an opportunity to be an integral part of our offense.
iansmuth: Frank, will the Pirates be taking the best player available in the Draft now even if it could be hard to sign him?
Coonelly: iansmuth, this is a question that I am asked at virtually every stop. As I have repeatedly stated, we will select the best player available who we believe we can sign, and we will do so even if it may be difficult to sign the player. We need to add premier talent to our system and Greg Smith, our new scouting director, has been given that direction not only in the first round, but in each of the 49 rounds that follow.
xcutters: If the top 25 players come north to Pittsburgh, why is Steve Pearce then in Triple-A? Why would Pearce need more seasoning in Triple-A?
Coonelly: xcutters, we are very excited about Pearce and believe that he will play a large role in our success in the very near future. As you know, Steve has been moved from first base to right field. This is not an easy transition, but one that we are confident that Steve can make as he begins the 2008 season in Indianapolis.
butterjc81: On Monday night the Pirates lineup ran over the Braves bullpen like a massengale tanker track plowing through a picket fence just off Interstate-10. How much of this can be attributed to the atmospheric change the Pirates franchise experienced in the offseason?
Coonelly: butterjc81, I am not sure I fully grasp your analogy, but I'm sure our hitters would appreciate it. As you know, I do believe that the instruction and leadership that the players are receiving from manager John Russell and his staff matter, and I expect the Bucs to be more disciplined and productive at the plate, and as a result, score more runs.
flabucs: Hi Frank, ownership has stated that we will go out and get pieces if we are competitive this year. Assuming that we would be somewhat competitive, when would you start considering us not on a down streak, but actually at a point where adding a piece or two could make us a legit contender?
Coonelly: flabucs, that is a very good question. There is no magic date on which we would look to make additions to strengthen our lineup. Much of that will be decided based on the performance of individual players on the current 25-man roster, the performance of players at Indianapolis and Altoona and the talent available from other Major League clubs.
serie_23: What are you planning on doing differently in Latin America after the completion of the new academy in the Dominican Republic?
Coonelly: serie_23, we are planning to be far more aggressive in terms of scouting and signing players in the Dominican Republic as well as Venezuela and other international markets. We will not wait until the academy is completed, however, as that process has already begun. The new academy in the D.R. has already raised the Pirates profile in that country and should provide us with a competitive advantage as we attempt to sign premier talent in the international markets.
Since taking over as club president, what has been your biggest challenge to date?
Coonelly: kirkmlb, excellent question as well. While the organization faces many challenges, the one that I would identify as the most important at this point is changing the perception of our fans with respect to our ability to compete. For far too long, Pirates fans have been told that the Bucs cannot compete under the current economic system. I disagree strongly. We can and will win under the current rules, and it is my job to convince our fans that this is very doable.
kirkmlb: While at Spring Training, which young player(s) impressed you the most?
Coonelly: Several of our young players impressed me during Spring Training. I would agree with the majority of the players polled by the Post-Gazette, who believe that Nate McLouth is poised for a breakout season. Also encouraging were the performances of Paul Maholm and Zach Duke, both of whom worked extremely hard during the offseason to put themselves in a position to succeed.
cbh1: Frank, do you feel that the revenue-sharing policy currently in place is really helping small-market teams like the Pirates? Also is there any rule within that agreement that requires the teams receiving the revenue to spend it solely on the on-field production?
Coonelly: cbh1, there is no question that the revenue sharing system in MLB provides significant assistance to clubs such as the Pirates. The revenue-sharing payments to clubs like ours has grown considerably since the inception of the program in 1997. There is a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that requires clubs to use revenue-sharing proceeds to improve their club's on-field performance. This is an intentionally broad standard reflecting the realization that improved performance on the field comes not only from investment in Major League payroll, but also from investments in academies such as we're building in the Dominican Republic, Minor League players and various other investments that will improve a club's performance.
todd_meche: Can you elaborate on the Yates/Redmond trade a bit. I don't know much about either party, but Yates throws really, really hard. Thanks in advance.
Coonelly: todd_meche, Tyler Yates is a hard-throwing right-hander who gives Russell a very strong option late in games. Fortunately for us, Yates was the odd man out in the Atlanta bullpen and we were able to bolster our bullpen by making the trade. Todd Redmond is a starting pitcher who we liked but saw as, at best, a fifth starter in the Major Leagues.
schnoah2: With Evan Meek never pitching above Double-A, will the Pirates spoon feed him into easier situations or will it be trial by fire for him?
Coonelly: As Russell has said, we will need Meek to be a productive member of our bullpen. Russell may look for less pressure-filled moments other than those that we had late in the game on Monday to get Meek his first Major League experience, but I expect him to be pitching in difficult situations throughout this season. Like Yates, Meek gives us another power arm in the bullpen, a commodity we have lacked in the past.
rjr7653: If McLouth is the Pirate with the best chance of having a breakout season, how do you see the development of Nyjer Morgan? Do you think it will be hindered by not being in the lineup every day?
Coonelly: rjr7653, we were very encouraged by Morgan's work during the spring as well, and that is why he made the 25-man roster. Morgan can provide quality at-bats as a pinch-hitter as he did on Monday night, but he will also give Russell the ability to spell Bay and Nady on occasion. In those games, we will have less power in the lineup, but will have the addition of Morgan's speed to go along with McLouth's speed and power at the top of the order. This will give us a different look and a different way to score runs.
todd_meche: Did you have a problem with Ronny Paulino voting for himself on a variety of things (breakout season, MVP, etc.) during the Pirates preseason voting?
Coonelly: I have no problem with Paulino voting for himself for a number of those categories. It shows me that he is confident in his abilities and is committed to helping the Pirates win. We expect Paulino will play a large role in our success this year, both at the plate and behind the plate.
buddysqrl: I'm sure you've received a lot of feedback (good and bad) regarding the roster moves you have made. I, for one, want to compliment you on putting together a solid team. Last year's team was so close to being in the hunt.
Coonelly: buddysqrl, thank you for the kind words. Like you, I believe that this team is stronger than it was last year and, in particular, the addition of Doug Mientkiewicz, Luis Rivas and Chris Gomez make our bench much stronger than it was last year.
Thank you all for participating in this second chat session. It is encouraging to see the passion and pride that you have for the Pirates, and we look forward to returning that same passion and pride to each of you throughout the season.