Two posts on the Pirates in two days! The Fan is giddy. Yesterday, this space featured a post saying that baseball needs the Pirates to become competitive again. Judging by what team president, Frank Coonelly, is saying, this Fan's wish will not be coming true anytime soon. Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette nailed it absolutely on the head in his article about Coonelly's statements. In fact, Collier's response is brilliant.
To boil it down for those of you not inclined to click the link, Coonelly says that he can only increase the payroll if there is a corresponding increase in attendance. Coonelly has it completely backwards. As in the Field of Dreams, "build it and they will come." Attendance and fan interest are a result of how the ball club plays and not the other way around.
Look, there are only two ways to build a winner. One way is to be uncanny in your judgment of roster construction and pay the best players to play on your team. The other way is to be brilliant in player development and home grow a talented team. Unfortunately, the Pirates are not very good trying either course. They tried the former in the past and it didn't work. Now they are trying the latter and it's not working either. How can your team rank 16th in the majors in your farm talent after getting high draft picks for seventeen straight seasons?
To some degree, this observer can sympathize with Mr. Coonelly. His team is bloody awful, so they don't have the resources some of the other teams have. Well, the Fan would be more sympathetic if that were totally true. With revenue sharing, the Pirates are getting a ton of money from MLB.com from the sales of baseball gear and from the luxury tax and other revenue streams. They may have attendance problems, but 1.6 million fans attending your games brings in a lot of money none-the-less. A fair question is to ask where a lot of that money is going. In fact, the player's union recently asked the Pirates that same question.
Gene Collier is exactly right. Coonelly's statements were utterly stupid and the exact wrong message the fans need to hear. You don't say to the fans, "show up and we'll spend more on payroll." That's just stupid. And unfortunately, stupid is the best word that describes anything Pirates-related for a long, long time.