Open Letter From Frank Coonelly

To Pirates Fans:

Dear Pirates Fan,

As we begin the 2010 offseason, I would like to take this opportunity to let you know how grateful we are that you, our fans, continued to show your passion through some very difficult decisions to accelerate the overhaul of the organization during the 2009 season. Like you, we are extremely disappointed with the performance of our Major League Club this past season. But, for the reasons set out here and illustrated in The Pirates Blueprint, we are just as encouraged about direction of the organization and its future.

While the post-August timeframe receives the most attention from the media, our performance all season was unacceptable. As a result, we needed to take further bold steps to turn the organization around as quickly as possible. While the trades executed as we approached the trade deadline left the Major League Club shorthanded in some areas, these trades make us a much stronger organization for many years to come. As difficult as it has been to go through these growing pains this season, doing nothing to reverse the cycle of losing was simply not an acceptable option.

As we have said from the beginning, we are not interested in being just an average Major League Club. Our unwillingness to accept mediocrity has caused you additional aggravation over the short term. We regret that this was necessary but you deserve much more than a mediocre team. In the fine tradition of this city, you deserve a team that competes for championships. The bold steps taken this year, I hope, have demonstrated that our only interest is in giving you that type of team again. After supporting this great franchise through far too many lean years, you deserve nothing less.

The blueprint for our return to winning baseball was drafted two years ago, and it details the significant progress that has been made in building that winning organization. We all knew that it would not be easy to completely overhaul our system but the necessary groundwork has now been laid. We have worked very hard over the last two years to rebuild this proud franchise by focusing our energy and resources on the following core priorities:

* Extremely aggressive drafts to acquire as much high-level talent as possible by investing more resources in the draft than nearly any other team over the past two years and securing top draft classes as a result.
* Increased focus in our international operations to ensure we are in the best position to find talent in every part of the world where baseball is played by doubling the number of our international scouts, covering countries that had previously been ignored, tripling our international signing budget and building one of the very best Latin American training complexes in the Dominican Republic.
* Aggressively adding talent at all levels of our system by trading veteran players who were approaching free agency for multiple young players over whom we have multiple years of control. Although we traded players who were popular, we know that what you really want is a winning team. We are very excited that several players seized an opportunity to demonstrate that they can be important parts of a winning team. The fact that other players have not seized that opportunity will play a role in our off-season decision-making.
* Rebuilding our player development systems, including the way we instruct, train and mold our prospects. It is a cohesive approach at all levels that will allow our farm system to become the engine that constantly feeds our success. The fruits of this two-year effort were evident throughout the minor league system this year, but perhaps most apparent in Lynchburg where the Hillcats won the Carolina League championship based on a spectacular first-half fueled by Pedro Alvarez, Jordy Mercer and others and stellar pitching in the playoffs by five 21- and 22-year old starters (Rudy Owens, Bryan Morris, Jeff Locke, Justin Wilson and Nate Adcock).
* Significant investment in our core operations which has greatly improved our scouting and development systems, as well as our baseball facilities and top-of-the-industry analytical systems.

The investment of money, time and energy in these priority areas over the past two seasons has made us a much stronger organization. The talent we now have throughout the entire system means that exciting players will arrive in Pittsburgh beginning in 2010 to join the group of young, talented players that includes Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Ross Ohlendorf, Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, Lastings Milledge, Ryan Doumit and others.

I cannot emphasize enough the appreciation we have for your continued support of the Pittsburgh Pirates. We understand that we have tested your patience but hope you understand that we have done so in order to make the blueprint for success in Pittsburgh a reality and to do so as quickly as possible. I also hope that, after reviewing the attached progress report, you will share our confidence that your patience will soon be rewarded.

Frank Coonelly
President, Pittsburgh Pirates


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