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Pirates fire team president Frank Coonelly

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The Pittsburgh Pirates, in what they are calling a “leadership transition,” have fired team president Frank Coonelly. It is being cast as a mutual parting, with both the team and Coonelly issuing statements about how it’s all good, it’s just time for a change, etc. etc.

Coonelly, who used to serve as Major League Baseball’s chief labor lawyer, had been with the Pirates since 2007, and the Pirates experienced a brief run of success during his tenure, making the post season in 2013, 2014, and 2015. On either side of that run, however, came some bad baseball from a team with a reputation for not wanting to spend money on talent and which always stood willing to make trades that seemed more geared toward shedding payroll — or even potential future payroll — than it was in acquiring talent.

There is a strong sense of alienation in the Pirates fan base as a result. This postseason, which has featured numerous former Pirates players such as Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton, Austin Meadows, Daniel Hudson, Russell Martin, Francisco Cervelli and David Freese, has only served to rub salt in the wounds.

The Pirates say they will be announcing Coonelly’s replacement within the week. Whoever it is will first be tasked with finding a new manager to replace the departed Clint Hurdle. His second task will be determining whether longtime general manager Neal Huntington, who is under contract for two more years, is the man to steer the Pirates’ ship into the future.

Oh, and developing and/or acquiring some good baseball players and convincing the fans to care again would be good too.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: