On Wednesday, Pirates team president Frank Coonelly talked with and answered questions for fans online. What follows is a transcript of the chat.
piratefan11: Do you feel that perhaps comments regarding not following the suggested slotting system if the player will help the club have backed you into a corner, especially from a PR perspective? Could Scott Boras use that as a bargaining chip?
Frank Coonelly: Piratefan11, no, I do not feel that we have backed ourselves into a corner at all from a PR perspective or any other perspective. We have said consistently that we will take the best player who is available when we select second in the country, and that we will make every effort to sign the player. I have also said consistently that we respect and appreciate work that the Commissioner's office does with respect to the Draft and will take its recommendations into account as we move forward.
cybixler: Frank, despite the criticism he dives too much, it would appear Jack Wilson is more valuable than many realized. Any chance he's still in a Pirates uniform beyond 2009?
Coonelly: Cybixler, I hope that everyone at the Pirates realized how valuable Jack Wilson is to the club. We certainly missed him, both defensively and offensively, while he was on the disabled list. It is very difficult to predict who will be on our roster in 2010 and beyond. There is certainly a chance, to use your word, that Jack Wilson could be a member of the roster beyond 2009.
jm_bucsfan: Should we be looking at the No. 2 Draft pick overall as an indicator of the commitment of the organization?
Coonelly: Jm_bucsfan, I believe that Pirates fans should look at who we select with the second pick in the country as an indicator of our commitment to excellence. I also would hope that the fans would look to the players who we selected in each round of the draft as an indicator of our commitment to build a championship-caliber team. [Pirates director of scouting] Greg Smith and his staff have been working extremely hard to identify players who can make a meaningful impact on our Major League organization. I am confident that we will have the opportunity to select and sign players in the 2008 Draft who will help us build championship-caliber teams.
datbodee: What do you think is the key to the Pirates' success over the last month or so?
Coonelly: Datbodee, the key to our success will be a combination of improved starting pitching, outstanding defense and timely hitting. We have managed to win games in which we have not had good starting pitching by showing remarkable resiliency, and as a result of outstanding work by the bullpen. In order for us to contend for championships, however, we must receive consistently good performances by our starting pitchers. If we do that, I am convinced that the never-say-die attitude that we have demonstrated will result in a lot of wins.
vladedivac: With the First-Year Player Draft occurring on Thursday, a lot of speculative reports have the Pirates drafting Pedro Alvarez, a third baseman from Vanderbilt. With Neil Walker playing third base at Triple-A Indianapolis, wouldn't the consensus be to draft a player at another position?
Coonelly: Vladedivac, Pedro Alvarez is one of the top players available in this year's amateur Draft. He has been the top prospect, or one of the top Draft prospects, for at least his three years at Vanderbilt. If Pedro was selected and signed, he would add an impact bat at a premium position for our club.
Neal Walker is one of the crown jewels of our system and highly valued by this organization. We can never, however, have too much impact talent in the system. We would do a disservice to our organization if we do not select the best player available when we select at No. 2 in the country, and in each of the other rounds.
As we have said, we will select the best player who is available when we make our selections in every round, and [we] will not make them on the basis of positional need [on] the Major League club.
jm_bucsfan: Do you think Nate McLouth is the real deal? He's been amazing during the first couple of months. Can he continue, and what has been the difference for him?
Coonelly: We very much believe that Nate is the real deal. In fact, I was personally offended when a recent Sports Illustrated article labeled Nate as a fluke. Nate has worked extraordinarily hard to reach the level of success that he has demonstrated so far this year, and we firmly believe that Nate will continue to produce both offensively and defensively.
travislodo: What are your thoughts on today's free ticket promotion based on runs scored?
Coonelly: Travislodo, based on the fact that the tickets were "sold" out in 10 minutes, I think that our "Pirates Score, You Score" promotion was a terrific success. The promotion gave our fans an additional reason to follow the Buccos during our away series in St. Louis. It also may allow some of our fans who have not had an opportunity to enjoy Pirates baseball at PNC Park to come out and cheer on their team tonight.
While I would have rather had the club win all four games and score the 27 runs, I was pleased to see us split the series against a very tough St. Louis club in St. Louis.
This was another attempt by the organization to both bring in new Bucco fans and reward those fans who have supported us so loyally.
iansmuth: Frank, are you excited to participate in your first Draft with the Pirates organization?
Coonelly: Iansmuth, I am extremely excited to participate in my first amateur Draft as a member of the Pirates organization. The level of my excitement can be directly attributed to the enormous amount of work that Greg Smith and his staff have done in preparation for the Draft. I have had an opportunity to sit in the Draft room over the last weeks and have been extremely impressed by the information that Greg and his staff have compiled and the analytic manner in which they have analyzed that information. I am confident that they will make selections in the Draft that will have a meaningful impact in building the strong foundation that we have said we would build.
ksir36: Do you have your Draft list in order of preference yet, or are you still going over final evaluations?
Coonelly: Ksir36, we have our Draft preference list put together, but we are continuing to analyze all forms of information available to us and will continue to do that as we move through the Draft. It is possible that our list could change some as we continue to work through the night and into [Thursday] morning.
limpet: What is the Bucco Draft philosophy? I would like to see team select players it thinks have the potential to be All-Star performers in the first few rounds rather than No. 3 starting pitchers or middle relievers which has often been m.o. in the past.
Coonelly: Limpet, our draft philosophy is simple -- we are looking for impact players at the Major League level. We are looking to select the best player available to us in each round, regardless of position. We will not select a less-talented player simply because he might get to the Major League level more quickly. To build a championship foundation from within, we need to select players that will have an impact at the Major League level. We will not draft by positional need, but rather on the basis of potential impact at the Major League level.
shamtown: This team, while not looking overly dominant, has been much, much better than expected. Do you attribute this solely to the change in management, or are the players just maturing?
Coonelly: Shamtown, this will be the last question. I want to thank all of our fans for participating and I apologize that I can't answer more questions. I do, however, need to get back into the Draft room.
I would not agree, Shamtown, that we have performed better than expected so far in 2008. We certainly have shown an utter unwillingness to quit in any game, and we have won quite a few games by coming from behind and by holding the opposition scoreless in the late innings. The success that we've had to date can be attributed at least in part to the outstanding job that [manager] John Russell and his leadership team have done.
The players have dedicated themselves to competing until the last out, and that has resulted in a number of our wins. As I have said before, I believe that we have the talent on this club to contend, and we will have an opportunity to see if, with Jack Wilson's return and Ryan Doumit's imminent return, we are able to get enough quality starting pitching to make that happen.
As several other fans have noted in this chat, we cannot contend unless our starting pitching improves. Our starters who have not produced consistently to date have track records that suggest that they can provide us with quality starts. If we get the starting pitching that we believe is in these guys, I do believe that we can contend this year.
Pittguest: Thanks again, everyone, for participating in today's chat. Please join us again for the fifth installment on Wednesday, July 2 at 2:00 p.m. ET. Thank you.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.