|Pirates select Coonelly as president|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 11 September 2007 12:17|
By ALAN ROBINSON
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) -Frank Coonelly, a top labor lawyer in the commissioner's office, has been selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates to become their next team president, according to the only other known finalist for the job.
Chuck Greenberg, a Pittsburgh-based lawyer whose group owns three successful minor league clubs, was told by Pirates controlling owner Bob Nutting that Coonelly was the choice.
``As a Pittsburgh guy and a Pirates fan, I would have loved being part of turning the franchise around and seeing the Pirates win championships again,'' said Greenberg, whose group owns the Pirates' Double-A Altoona and Class A State College farm clubs. ``But I wish Frank Coonelly only the best.''
Fox Sports initially reported Saturday that Coonelly was Pittsburgh's pick.
``It is premature to make any formal announcement relating to our search for a new team president because it would be unfair to the other candidates,'' Nutting said in a statement Tuesday. ``As I have stated in the past, Frank Coonelly would be an exceptional choice. He is an extremely bright, very capable and a well respected baseball executive. His experience and leadership would be very well suited for the president's role. The Pirates would be extremely fortunate to have him.''
The 47-year-old Coonelly will oversee the Pirates' day-to-day operations and have the job previously held by Kevin McClatchy since 1996. McClatchy, the Pirates' primary owner from February 1996 until January, announced two months ago he would resign as chief executive officer at the end of the season.
Bockius who worked as an outside counsel for baseball's Player Relations Committee until he and Rob Manfred - baseball's executive vice president for labor relations - moved from the law firm to the commissioner's office in 1998. Coonelly has been extensively involved in labor negotiations with players and umpires, salary arbitration and making recommended assessments of player value for free agents and amateur draft picks.
Described by colleagues in baseball as intelligent, motivated and a rugged negotiator, Coonelly seems a logical choice for a small-revenue club that traditionally has one of baseball's lowest payrolls.
Because Coonelly has always been on the owners' side in negotiations, his hiring is not likely to generate much initial enthusiasm from Pirates players - many of whom favored Greenberg after playing for his minor league clubs.
The Nutting family ownership group has shown no signs of substantially increasing the payroll to make the Pirates more competitive with other NL Central clubs in similar sized cites, such as Cincinnati and Milwaukee. The Pirates are closing in on a 15th consecutive losing season, one short of the major league record.
Nutting, apparently unhappy with some recent player signings and trades, made it known he wants a chief executive who makes solid business decisions.
In the last two years, the Pirates have overpaid for at least three players by industry standards, including outfielder Jeromy Burnitz, third baseman Joe Randa and pitcher Matt Morris, who was acquired from San Francisco at the July 31 trading deadline. The Pirates did not ask the Giants to pick up any of Morris' salary and are responsible for all of Morris' $9.5 million salary in 2008.
Among Coonelly's first jobs will be hiring a general manager to succeed just-fired Dave Littlefield. Phillies assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who deals frequently with Coonelly, is believed to be among those who will receive strong consideration.
Coonelly lives in Bucks County and is a Phillies season ticket holder.
Greenberg is known as a hands-on, innovative owner who gets along well with his players. His Altoona club was honored last year by Minor League Baseball for being the best-run club in the minors and annually produces several times the revenue of comparable clubs.
Among those in Greenberg's ownership group are retired Penguins star and owner Mario Lemieux and retired Steelers running back Jerome Bettis. Greenberg helped Lemieux acquire the Penguins in federal bankruptcy court in 1999 and represented the Penguins in negotiations this year that helped the club land a new arena that will open in 2010.