MILWAUKEE -- Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said today that he has no issues with the Pirates' finances or commitment to winning in light of the team recently divulging $35 million in profits from 2007-09 and a $20.4 million distribution to ownership.
At the same time, Selig appeared to applaud team president Frank Coonelly's statement last week that there could be a "meaningful" increase in payroll for 2011.
Asked if he would prefer to see the Pirates' payroll increase, Selig replied, "Well, that's up to them. But I've read already where they said they were going to do that. And so, that's fine, sure. They said they're going to do it."
Coonelly told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Aug. 20: "We have the capacity to add to payroll in a meaningful way. We'll be evaluating the trade market and free agency and, if we see a player or players we like, we'll be aggressive." In a later interview, Coonelly said on the same topic, "I've already said we have the capacity to -- I didn't say we would -- increase payroll next year and going forward."
The Pirates' 40-man roster payroll projects to finish the season at $44 million, lowest in the majors. The likeliest target for an increase, according to team sources, would be in the range of $50 million, which still would be among the lowest in the majors.
Selig told the Post-Gazette last September that he had no issue with the Pirates' finances and that he never received a complaint from a team owner or the players' union. He reiterated both Friday, adding that the teams and the union had access to all teams' figures teams before the recent leaks of five teams' books to the Associated Press and Deadspin.com.
Selig cited as evidence on the union front a meeting between the Pirates and the union's new chief, Mike Weiner, during spring training in Bradenton, Fla. That was aimed -- and succeeded -- at heading off a union complaint similar to the one that prompted the Florida Marlins to pass the Pirates in spending this year.
"I feel comfortable with telling you that the union wanted to talk about Pittsburgh six months ago. They did and left satisfied," Selig said. ""Let me say this to you: We constantly check everything. The players association has all the numbers. You have to look at the long view of numbers, not just a year or two."
On related topics, Selig, attending the Pirates' game with the Milwaukee Brewers partly because of a pregame news conference to announce scholarships for the University of Wisconsin-Madison:
• Applauded the Pirates' investment in the draft, which has been highest in the majors over the past three years at $30.7 million and was second-highest this season at $11.9 million: "I follow the draft intimately, and I think they've done a good job of signing players the past two or three years. I think they're on the right track. I really do. I evaluate everything that goes on, and people tell me the kids that they're signing are good. I know there's frustration, and I understand that. And I'm not unsympathetic. But I really think they're on the right track."
• Described baseball as having unprecedented competitive balance: "Am I satisfied with everything that's gone on? I've said that the system needs to be tweaked here and there. But overall, the system was set up to achieve competitive balance, and you now have the Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers ... and we could go on and on. What this has proven is that this has led to more competitive balance than we've ever had. Am I satisfied the system is working? Yes. Am I satisfied that it's absolutely perfect? No."
• Commented on Pittsburgh's sentiment after 18 years of losing: "I do understand. Remember, I ran a club. But I watch a lot of the Pirates' games, and I like what some of the younger players are doing. But it does take time, and I think they're doing it the right way. I got an analysis of the draft this year, from a series of general managers independent of that, and the Pirates' draft rates really well. I have to hope that the results will eventually show. ... I'm satisfied that they're making good progress right now. I'm hopeful. And I hope people are right that they've done very well in these drafts."
• Criticized the teams' books being leaked: "I'd rather not have it done. It was not done properly. It's sad that people violate confidences. I would not do that and I know baseball would not do that. If you give someone your word about something, that's the way it's supposed to be."
Dejan Kovacevic: email@example.com . Find more at PBC Blog.