Charlie covered most of the substance of the interviews in his earlier post on the subject. I have only a few things to add, which are available below the cut. Please read his piece first, if you haven't already done so.
This meeting was plainly an experiment on the part of the Pirates, and from my perspective it seemed to be a largely successful one. The team treated us like legitimate journalists, rather than purely fannish types, which is to their credit. We were told that we were allowed to ask any questions that we wanted, write about anything that was said, make recordings of the conversation, and take photos. Most of the leading voices from the Pirates blogosphere were there, and some of the notable absences (such as Pat from WHYGAVS) were purely a function of unavailability. Both Coonelly and Huntington took a few questions beyond the pre-stated time limit, which was also very generous of them. Subjectively, the discussion backstage seemed to me to be of a generally higher level than the one with the fan base at large. Huntington and Coonelly appeared to feel more free to speak in an off-the-cuff manner, in the knowledge that we knew enough about the subject to not misunderstand what they were saying and were impartial enough to not deliberately take something out of context in an effort to make them look bad. I found the experience to be extremely interesting and informative, and I hope that the team will remain open to similar exchanges in the future.
The logistics of the session were not ideal, though that's hardly unexpected for a first-time event. You can never imagine all the things that might go wrong with something like this until you actually go out and try to do it. The primary difficulty last night was the venue. The stage for the fans' Q&A sessions was set up in the southwest corner of the convention center, as in past years, and our private session was held around a table behind some curtains just to the side of the stage while the player Q&A was underway. The stage's sound system combined with the room's high ceiling to make hearing and communicating a challenge at times, as Charlie noted in his writeup. In particular, I had trouble hearing parts of Kristy's questions, as she was seated three chairs to my right and occluded fairly effectively by Charlie's giant pumpkin head. The absence of Walker (due to a sudden illness) was also unfortunate, in that none of us had prepared questions for Maholm, and as a result our interview of him may not have been entirely to the standard that I, at least, would have liked. Those were both small matters, however, in the grand scheme of things.
I asked one question that didn't make it into Charlie's roundup: Whether difficult or contentious negotiations with player representatives like Boras (during the dispute over Pedro and the signing deadline) or Plummer (during the unsuccessful Sano negotiations) have ever led the team to cross a representative's name out of their book and do no more business with him in the future. Coonelly indicated that they have not, and that teams that say that they're doing things of that kind are generally just blowing off some steam, although he conceded that it's sometimes difficult not to take such things personally during the negotiation process. This is exactly the answer that I would have hoped to hear.
Charlie emphasized the team's faith in Owens in his writeup, and he's absolutely correct to do so. I'd go so far as to say that the team's belief that Owens is an elite pitching prospect was the single strongest point of emphasis over the course of the entire discussion. Both Huntington and Coonelly brought him up and elaborated on his merits at some length when the discussion turned to prospects, culminating in Coonelly's comparison of Owens to Kyle Drabek. Other arms like Morris and Locke were name-checked, but the sheer volume of praise for Owens made it plain that they see him as being at the head of the pack. Coonelly's contention that our prospects' rankings were suppressed by a lack of lobbying of analysts like BA made me wonder exactly how prevalent that sort of thing is within the industry, as well as whether we plan to try and do more in that area in the future. One would think that the presence of former BA staffer Chris Kline on our scouting staff might be a useful lever, if we were inclined to do so.
Charlie's point about market inefficiencies is also well-taken. As speculators take notice of arbitrage opportunities within a given market, they generally jump up and down on top of those arbitrage opportunities until they're squashed flat and no more money can be squeezed out of them. Subsequent opportunities may arise, but they generally aren't of the same magnitude as their predecessors, much as the lobsters pulled from the waters off the shores of Nantucket these days are only a fraction of the size of the ones hauled in by those fishermen's grandfathers a few decades ago. This is a process that has been going on since the earliest days of the game, with the creation of farm systems, the expansion to the west coast, and integration being a few early examples of sharp operators tapping into new and advantageous sources of talent from outside the MLB structure of the time. As such, I don't know that it's impossible for us to find the next great untapped player resource (a new or underutilized foreign player supply, perhaps?), but it's certainly an area where we need to hope that the team has a concrete plan that is in the works (which they would not want to publicly disclose right now, for obvious reasons), rather than just a generalized belief that solutions can be found at the appropriate time.
If you would like to ask questions of your own, please don't forget that PirateFest continues today and tomorrow, at the convention center downtown.