(When you have as bad a season as the Pirates have had, I think extraordinary candor and directness are required. Sure you aren't supposed to talk about salaries or name players, but the Pirates continued lack of success requires at least a little unconventional thinking in how to communicate with their fanbase, particularly with some of the PR gaffes that have occurred this year. Rather than parody what will be written and will undoubtedly be easy fodder, here is a crack at what I would say.)
First and foremost, I would like to thank the fans of Pittsburgh for their continued support of the Pirates. In what has been an incredibly poor year, our fans have shown great loyalty to their team. The fact that our attendance has increased from last year, and that we are one of the few teams in all of baseball that can say that, shows what a great baseball city Pittsburgh is. Our fans deserve better performances out of everyone involved in the organization - myself, general manager Neal Huntington and the players on the field. Rest assured we are going to spend the next six months doing everything possible to make sure that happens and we are working tirelessly toward the goal of building a championship-caliber organization which will make our fans and the city proud.
We have committed to spend more money going forward, but it is important to recognize that we are building and going to continue to build this organization primarily through the draft. We firmly believe the draft gives us the best opportunity to compete consistently over the long-term. Because of the structure of the major league Collective Bargaining Agreement, we have cost-certainty over our major league players for their first three years and have organizational control and slightly less cost-certainty for an additional three years. Virtually all of the players on our 40-man roster fall into these categories. While some will be receiving raises, most of those will be nominal because of the structure of the CBA. As we go about our player evaluation and make our plans for the 2011 season, others inevitably will not be with the team. So, while spending will go up and we will look outside the organization to add pieces, the final numbers may not appear dramatically different.
While many in the local and national media focus only on the final payroll number I think it is important to make sure fans know what comprises that number. Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Evan Meek are going to compose 20% of our 25-man roster next year. They will make a combined $2.5 million. We see these players as part of the core that will bring the next championship-caliber team to Pittsburgh and are committed to having them here long-term, but at this time their salaries are determined by the CBA. The agreement provides us the aforementioned cost-certainty and allows us to further evaluate the long-term skills and capabilities of all our players as we determine whether to make a further commitment to them after our six years of control. We will not just spend money to reach a certain payroll number. We would much prefer to continue to invest in our Dominican Academy, our other initiatives in Latin America, and the draft, where we have spent more money than any team in baseball over the last three years.
As most fans are aware, general manager Neal Huntington is responsible for all the organization's baseball decisions. At the end of the year, Neal gets evaluated like everyone else. Neal is also tremendously disappointed with the performance on the field at the major league level. It is his job to get that right and he knows we expect more. But, and let me stress this, Neal has been directed to focus on building this organization through the draft. Drafting takes time, years of teaching and development, and while Alvarez is the only player from his three drafts to ascend to the major league level so far, the early returns appear positive, highlighted by Altoona's championship at the Class AA level.
Neal did not have an abundance of assets available to him when he took over the organization. In addition to the draft, he has worked on replenishing those assets through trades. Trading has met with limited success, but we are pleased with players like Ross Ohlendorf, Joel Hanrahan and James McDonald, who we also see as important parts of our long-term plan, and others in our minor league system, like Bryan Morris, Jeff Locke and Andrew Lambo, for whom we have high hopes. As we have said, we will continue to make any trade that we feel strengthens the organization. No player is ever untouchable. Mr. Nutting and I continue to believe Neal is the right man to lead this organization at this time and he has our full support to continue the plan he began implementing three years ago.
As you know, we recently announced our decision to let go of John Russell and his staff. We thank them for their service to the organization during our rebuilding process and wish them success in the future. John has decades of experience at all levels of baseball and we have offered him another position within the organization.
Our search for a new manager and coaching staff is underway. It will not be conducted through the media. We will do a comprehensive search and make an announcement when we have reached an agreement. We will work hard to identify the right person who can continue to work with our core of young players and help them to develop into the nucleus of talent that brings championship-caliber baseball back to Pittsburgh. That's what you deserve.
Thank you for your support.
Frank Coonelly, President, Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club