Coonelly: New GM to decide Tracy's fate

Frank Coonelly has held the Pirates' presidency long enough -- two days and counting -- to probably have a good idea who he will interview for the general manager's position.

Another name may have popped onto that list yesterday.

Terry Ryan, the highly respected Minnesota Twins general manager the past 12 years, resigned yesterday, opening the door for longtime assistant Bill Smith to become the Twins' general manager.

Ryan, 52, is supposed to remain with the Twins as a senior adviser to Smith, but one never knows.

Coonelly is certainly aware of Ryan. He helped the Twins and other clubs with salary-arbitration cases while working in Major League Baseball's New York offices.

"I know all the general managers," Coonelly said. "Probably more important for a GM search, I know the assistant GMs quite well."

That means current assistant general managers Ruben Amaro Jr. (Philadelphia), Chris Antonetti (Cleveland) and Peter Woodfork (Arizona) could be in the mix.

Coonelly bio
  • Who: Frank Coonelly
  • Age: 47
  • Position: Newly named president of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • Previous position: Senior vice president and general counsel of labor for Major League Baseball
  • College: Bachelor's degree in public service from Penn State; JD from Catholic University Law School in Washington, D.C.
  • High School: William Tennent High School in Warminster, Pa.
  • Family: Wife, Debbie, three daughters, ages 19, 18 and 16, and one son, age 14
  • Today
    • Game: Pirates (RHP Ian Snell 9-11, 4.00) vs. Houston Astros (RHP Roy Oswalt 14-7, 3.41), 8:05 p.m., Minute Maid Park, Houston.
    • TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).

Others who might be considered by Coonelly are Tony LaCava, the Oakmont resident who is director of player personnel for Toronto; Ed Wade, former Philadelphia Phillies general manager who now scouts for San Diego; and Dan Evans, a special assistant in Seattle's front office.

Evans was the Los Angeles Dodgers' general manager for two of the five years current Pirates manager Jim Tracy was the Dodgers' manager.

That could be neither here nor there.

There is this, however. Coonelly said yesterday the new Pirates general manager will determine Tracy's fate.

"The general manager has to hire the manager," Coonelly said.

Coonelly, 47, a Penn State graduate, was introduced as Pirates' president yesterday, even though he began work Wednesday.

He previously was senior vice president and general counsel of labor in the commissioner's office, responsible for labor relations with players and umpires.

He also was the architect of the "slotting" system, which provided suggested signing bonuses for picks in the June amateur draft.

Now Coonelly will be the architect of the Pirates' fortunes -- or misfortunes. The team is one defeat from securing a 15th consecutive losing season.

Naming a GM to help raise the team is Coonelly's top priority.

"We're looking for the very best general manager who can turn the Pittsburgh Pirates into a winner most quickly," Coonelly said. "A general manager needs to be able to rely on player evaluations with the eyes and on statistics. I firmly believe that statistics are extraordinarily important.

"Within the industry, some of the more senior generation scouting directors see me as a 'moneyball' or stats guy. I don't view myself as that because I think you're foolish if you don't utilize the baseball people who scout and see players on a daily basis.

"I have no preconceived notions whether the person we hire as a general manager will be perceived by the fans and the writers as a baseball person or one of the smart new breed."

Coonelly, a Philadelphia native who was captain of his high school ice hockey team, is unsure how many candidates he will interview for the GM job.

"If there are eight candidates who I believe are outstanding, I'm going to want to talk to them," he said. "If I think there are only three candidates who are outstanding, we're going to stick with three."

Bob Nutting, who hired Coonelly, kept the president search as quiet as he could.

"It wasn't a front-page beauty contest," Nutting said. "And I'm very pleased with the way it turned out."

So will the GM search be conducted in the same close-to-the-vest style?

"Probably closer," Nutting said.

After the general manager is hired, that person and Coonelly will take a hard look at people employed by the Pirates.

"I have a lot of contacts within the game who know who's good and who's not good and I've already begun that process," Coonelly said. "And the GM we hire will have those same type of contacts. We will figure out who the people are who are going to help us move forward and who the people are who have been holding this organization back."

Coonelly was asked yesterday about the slotting process he devised for the amateur draft.

Three months ago, the Pirates signed Clemson left-hander Daniel Moskos, the fourth pick overall, to a $2.475 million bonus -- the figure allotted to that pick. The Pirates passed on Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters, who might have been the best player in that draft. It was believed Wieters' adviser, super agent Scott Boras, would ask for a signing bonus of perhaps $11 million. Baltimore took Wieters with the next pick and signed him for $6 million.

If a similar situation arises next June, Coonelly said the Pirates would exceed the slot money if he felt it was worth it.

"Oh, absolutely," he said. "If I believe the value of the player we're able to select is above the value of the slot, we'll follow the proper protocol, but we will go over the slot."

The length of Coonelly's contract was not revealed, but that seems a moot point with him.

"My intention is to be here a long time," he said.

Paul Meyer can be reached at . First Published September 14, 2007 4:00 AM


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