Finding new GM will be Coonelly's first task
PITTSBURGH -- Frank Coonelly, a top labor lawyer in the commissioner's office, has been named by the Pittsburgh Pirates as team president.
"To be named president of such a historic ballclub is a tremendous opportunity and true honor. The quality of the city and its people were a major factor in my decision to take this position," Coonelly said in a news release issued by the team. "I have a great deal of respect for the knowledge and loyalty of Pirates fans. Pittsburgh is an extremely proud sports city. I am absolutely committed to restoring that same sense of pride among Pirates fans."
Coonelly feels the Pirates have a "real opportunity for success" and said his first task is to find a new general manager to replace Dave Littlefield, who was recently fired.
"We must develop a system that regularly feeds premier talent to the major league level, while at the same time putting our current group of young players in the best possible position to succeed," he said.
The 47-year-old Coonelly will oversee the Pirates' day-to-day operations and would hold 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.
Coonelly was a lawyer at Morgan Lewis & 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.
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.
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.
In related news, Major League Baseball named Daniel R. Halem, a partner at the New York law firm Proskauer Rose, to succeed Coonelly, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick has learned.
Halem, a Cornell and Harvard Law graduate, has counseled MLB and several other professional sports leagues on labor and employment issues. He has represented the Montreal Expos, Kansas City Royals and Florida Marlins successfully in salary arbitration cases involving Orlando Cabrera, Carlos Beltran, A.J. Burnett and several other players.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
MORE MLB HEADLINES
- Mets rookie P Wheeler wins 1st career start
- Red Sox put P Buchholz (neck strain) on DL
- Yanks' Tex goes on DL; surgery for Youkilis
- O's homer twice off Verlander to top Tigers