Coonelly's brash stance implies that he has designs on a winning season as early as 2008, a high improbability according to competitors who size up the Pirates, who have the worst record in easily the lesser of the two leagues and have few reasons to believe a stark turnaround is in the offing.
Neal Huntington during the game tonight (and keep in mind this is a message board and I didn't hear this myself, but the poster who did is pretty reliable):
* Will listen to a lot of decisions before making one. Decisions going forward may not be popular but they will be rational and logical.
Really doing what needs to be done takes guts, and the Pirates' struggles in the past six years have come in part because Dave Littlefield and Kevin McClatchy lacked that body part. Under Littlefield and McClatchy, the Pirates almost continually acted for the shortest of short terms, behaving like the Pirates were an 85-win ballclub on the brink of contention rather than the 67-win ballclub they were.
The best path to long-term success is forgetting about 2008 and building a real team here. That won't be popular, but it's what the Indians did, and it's what needs to be done here. If it seems to some fans that the Pirates have been doing that for a decade, that's because, ironically, the Littlefield Pirates never did that. He never built for the future, and the result was a team that could never get past the 75-win mark. They just weren't equpped to do so. The Littlefield Pirates were forever in denial. Acting like the Pirates are a few simple moves were contending didn't work for Littlefield, and it won't work for Coonelly and Huntington either.
This isn't to say that the Pirates shouldn't make 2008 the best they can given the circumstances, but that mostly just means combing the waiver wire, fixing the back of the roster, and trying to take advantage of minor transactions - getting the Josh Shortslefs and Matt Katas off the roster, and taking flyers on guys who might turn out to be the next Carlos Pena. With less than a week left in the season, the Pirates could still end the year with the majors' worst record, and given that they're in baseball's worst division, that probably makes them the worst team overall. This is a terrible team, and it's probably time to abandon hopes of contending in 2009. The best thing for Coonelly and Huntington to do is rebuild the organization from the ground up, and trade some of the team's more popular players in the process. That means accepting what the "rational" and "logical" among us already knew anyway - that the Pirates probably aren't going to have a winning record in 2008.
So which is it? Are we going to do the "rational," "logical" and unpopular thing, like Huntington suggests - and build the franchise for long-term success, for real this time? Or are we going to take Coonelly's route and try for a winning season next year? I'd love it if the Pirates could do both, but that'd be a magic trick that'd baffle Criss Angel.