Did Bob Smizik's brain explode?

Ya know, if he had one in the first place. Hahahahaha, I kid, but not really.

Anyways, yesterday he wrote another column blog entry on what he's calling Liar-Gate. Ya know, the fact that team president Frank Coonelly waited about 8 months before telling everyone that the Pirates have extended the contracts of John Russell and Neal Huntington through the 2011 season.

Then he followed it up early this morning with yet another column blog entry about more lies he thinks the Pirates are telling.

Liargate -- no other word for it -- is about 72 hours old and apparently fading news in Pittsburgh, if I am to judge from reading the town’s two morning newspapers.

Um, you mean the extensions are old news already? After just 3 days? Geez, I thought that Dejan would be writing columns about it every day for at least a month. And the Trib isn't talk about it anymore either? I suppose everyone but you is being paid off by Nutting to quit talking about it. Hey Charlie, have you got your check from Nutting yet?

Liargate won’t get overlooked here.

You mean you're going to harp on something long after everyone else has moved on with their lives? That's so unlike you....

I don’t know whether I am appalled or stunned or flabbergasted or all three at the reaction from the Pirates that team president Frank Coonelly perpetrated a fabulous lie for almost eight months and there’s been nothing approaching the kind of apology it deserves.

You would think as someone who used to make money writing opinions about sports, he would better be able to describe how he feels about something.

Coonelly’s job status should be in question. But it’s not. We can only imagine what kind of job security he must have if Failin’ Neal Huntington and Losin’ John Russell were granted extension in the immediate aftermath of a 99-loss season.

Whoa. "Failin'" Neal Huntington and "Losin'" John Russell. And in comes the name calling. I doubt we'll see any apologies from Bob for insulting them. And it's so their fault for inheriting a 90+ losses a season team with a barren farm system and a bunch of below average to average major leaguers and one pretty good player. They should have been able to win 90+ games in 2008 and beat the Yankees in the World Series in 2009 if they were any good. Just like how Bobby Cox became General Manager of the Braves after the 1985 season and had them in the World Series the next year, I think. Also, Joe Torre is an awesome manager, he made the Mets winners in the late 70's. Also, can someone fact check all this for me. My memory sucks and I'm not gonna actually look this stuff up.

The background, in a sentence, is this: Coonelly extended the contracts of general manager Huntington and manager Russell last October and not only told no one but instructed the two recipients of his largess to tell no one and deliberately lied to the media, fans and public in general about the issue.

Or he extended their contracts and he probably told him that they have a new policy about not talking publicly about non-player personnel contracts. Both Huntington and Russell agree not to mention it and then all three refused to talk about it, in accordance with company policy, until a few days ago. Of course that less lying centric version of events just doesn't fit in with Bob's version of events.


From the transcript of Connelly’s ``chat’’ with fans on April 7 of this year:

``piratefan62: Any talk of contract extension for Neal Huntington and John Russell?''

``Coonelly: No, there has not been any talk of contract extensions, because we have a policy of not discussing such matters publicly. Both Neal and J.R. are keenly focused on turning around the Pittsburgh Pirates and not concerned with their contract status.''

How does Coonelly do that? How does he publicly tell a bold-face lie to a fan? Connelly’s a pretty smart guy and a lawyer to boot. He knows how to finesse a question. He knows how to give a non-answer answer. But he felt no need to do so in this case. He was comfortable telling a bold-faced lie to a fan.

Well, first of all, the fan didn't ask "Are you gonna extend Neal Huntington and John Russell's contracts?" He asked if there was any talk about it. To which Coonelly said there was no talk about it because they have a policy of not talking about it publicly.

I don’t get that.

There's a lot of things you don't get.


In an interview with the Post-Gazette’s Dejan Kovacevic, Nutting initially attempted to play down Coonelly’s lie by discussing the relative unimportance of contracts.

``I really think the contract issue is a red herring in that we have shown consistently that we're willing to walk from a contract,’’ he said. ``So, as a practical matter, I'm not sure it really means much. That's part of why there was no bally-hoo with the announcement.’’

The issue, of course, was not the importance of contracts -- which are very important -- but the truthfulness of his top employee.

On that count, Nutting said, ``I understand Frank's reasons for not wanting to announce them. And, in retrospect, I think everybody would have played the process somewhat differently."

But they aren't that important because any manager can be fired by the general manager at any time for any old reason (See: New York Mets, Willie Randolph). In the grand scheme of things, contracts aren't important, except that managers and general managers aren't put in to lame duck season situations. Dave Littlefield had a contract through the 2008 season and it ended up meaning nothing, same with Jim Tracy. Doing the job is very important and that's what the general manager and manager should be focusing on. Neal said not too long ago that the day he started to focus on saving his job at the expense of doing what's right for the franchise is the day he should lose his job.


Where’s the apology? Where’s the strong criticism of Coonelly? Where are the words that this will never happen again.

Finally, where’s the accountability?

Yeah! Where are the pink slips? Pink sips for everyone because they couldn't fix this mess of a franchise in three years and Coonelly didn't tell us vital members of the press about contract extensions. By the way, accountability and firings mean the same thing. I looked it up in the official Bob Smizik Thesaurus.

There is none in this organization, particularly on the highest level. Huntington has produced a ridiculously long list awful-looking trades that have sent a parade of less-than mediocre talent to the Pirates and the result is a contract extension.

Yeah! I mean what were they thinking trading Jack Wilson? They got so screwed in that one. I mean, Wilson isn't playing and Snell got DFA'd and sent to AAA. Meanwhile, Cedeno plays more games than Wilson and he's a better Shortstop than Wilson this season and he's younger than him. Or maybe he means Brandon Moss, Charlie Morton and Jeff Clement. But in all three cases those weren't the only players acquired and in all three cases they were traded with minor leaguers who are still in the minors and they were taking on players who fell out of favor with their previous teams but were still considered talented enough to be major leaguers. Or maybe he means Andy LaRoche, considered a top prospect at the time of the trade. The Pirates were willing to take a chance on them and in those cases it didn't work out. And if fans shouldn't get excited about minor leaguers, then they shouldn't grade trades as failures with players acquired still in the minor leagues. Also, no mention of the draft? I guess that he can't say that Huntington has overseen 3 terrible drafts. Actually he probably could and the Yinzers who read his blog will not question him at all. I mean if Smizik says it, it must be true.

Russell has overseen a parade of losing on the field that comes with fundamental mistakes his players should have learned in Pony League if not spring training and which gets greater every season and he gets to keep doing his job.

OMG! Russell inherited a bad team and the team is still bad because he couldn't add 25 or 30 wins through pure managerial skillz. And he couldn't get bad players to suddenly become great players. I'm not sure if Bob's heard the old phrase "Good players make good plays. Great players make great plays." And it means that bad players make bad plays. There's little Russell can do other than try to minimize mistakes by bad players and to get good players to live up to their potential.

Coonelly oversees this mess and self-brands himself a liar in an industry that requires a close and honest relationship with the fan base and he continues without reprimand.

Um, where did Coonelly say he was a liar? And if Nutting gave permission to not mention the contract status of key non-player personnel, why should Coonelly be reprimanded? "Well, I told my boss that I was gonna do things this way and he agreed with it and now he's yelling at me for it." Actually, not getting reprimanded makes it seem less Dilbert-ish.

Bob finishes off Part I by complaining about the "best management team in all of sports" comment by Bob Nutting from two years ago and says they're the worst. In both cases they're just opinions and just because Nutting says best and Smizik says worst doesn't mean that either is true.

Part II:

See? Bob Smizik will forge on while most normal people and almost all the rest of the press will move on with their lives.

Many applauded the fact the blog branded Pirates president Frank Coonelly a liar for suggesting to the public there had not been contract extensions awarded to general manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell, when, in fact, there had.

I based that charge on this exchange during a Coonelly pnline chat with fans in April.

The Blog branded him that? I think he means that he branded him. But according to Part I, Coonelly did it to himself. Also, have never done a pnline chat before. Did Coonelly pwn that chat?

Smizik goes on to rehash a bunch of stuff talked about last time.....

Everything they say is now open for debate as to its veracity. Every statement needs closely examined as to its precise meaning.

Not that this is anything new with this organization. If you don’t believe me, let’s play a guessing game. Tell me what member of Pirates upper management said this and when?

“I am energized about our core group of exciting, young, talented players. We have one of the youngest teams in all of baseball and now will be able to keep them together for several years.’’

Hmmm...Syd Thrift in 1988?

It was said at the start of a season, all right, but not this one. Those words came in a letter from owner Bob Nutting to fans in January of 2007. Nutting, it turns out, was so energized by the core group of exciting, young, talented players that he watched almost every one of them be traded away.

Damn, got it wrong! Pat Lackey, the guy who runs the blog "Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke?" said this about that comment in the letter Bob Nutting wrote in 2007:

You can say all you want that we have an exciting core of young players,but if you know anything about baseball you can't honestly look at the team and believe it. Lots of work needs to be done before this team will amount to anything.

If you believed that the Pirates had an exciting core of young talented players in 2007, you weren't really paying attention. It's probably a good thing that Bob Nutting started to pay attention and fired Dave Littlefield in 2007.

Let’s try the next one:

"The ownership group is not taking money out of the team and putting it in their pockets. We are not moving profits."

Do you believe what Nutting said in Jan. 2007? Perhaps you do, perhaps you don’t. But I’d be willing to bet more people are less likely to believe it today than they did last week.

So are you saying they are pocketing profits? Where's your proof? Oh, you don't have any, in fact you aren't saying they are. However, because you think they lied about the contracts, they might have lied about this too. And if more people are less likely to believe something, then that makes it less true, right?

But here’s the real question: Will you believe the Pirates when they say they have every intention of doing their best to keep this latest core group of players -- Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker -- together.

However, they phrase it will you believe it or will you think back to how Nutting said the same thing in 2007. Or will you think back to how Coonelly deceived about the contract extensions.

Here's the difference between those players and the "core" that was in place in 2007: That core of Bay, Nady, Sanchez, Wilson and LaRoche would be together through the 2009 season. After that, most of those players would be gone through free agency. Sanchez and Wilson stayed with the teams they were traded to. Bay, Nady and LaRoche all moved to other teams. Bay left Boston for the Mets. Nady went from the Yankees to the Cubs and LaRoche left Atlanta and went to Arizona. Boston, New York and Atlanta sure were cheap not to keep those exciting young players on their teams. Funny that you don't see Smizik going after them for not signing those players to new deals.

The current "core" will be in place through 2016. McCutchen will be able to leave through free agency in 2016. The rest will be free to leave in 2017. Until then, the Pirates have 5 years to put together a winning team instead of just two years. Sure, it might not work. Huntington could be dead wrong and they might have to start all over again.

It's getting late. I'm pretty sure that in a couple hours, we'll have Part III and maybe even Part IV. I just wonder how many years he's gonna focus on the so called "Liar-Gate" thing.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the managing editor (Charlie) or SB Nation. FanPosts are written by Bucs Dugout readers.

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