Monday, June 21, 2010

The Pirate PR Machine

Hey, with an off day, we thought we'd visit one of the Pirate backroom operations, its PR tub-thumping.

Frank Coonelly would have you think that keeping mum is the way business is run in MLB, and some in the blogosphere agree with him. But a successful team needs a connected fan base, one that passionately cares about what's happening on and off the field. There's no bond between the team and its followers now, just an arms-length business relationship.

Listen, they do a pretty decent job of getting people into the stands, with bobbleheads, fireworks, doggie nights, bands, give-aways, yada yada, considering the product; a few wins will make it an easier sale. But when it comes to personnel matters, they are alternately as secretive or as blunt as the KGB in its heyday.

Let's start with the intro of the Indy guys. It wouldn't have hurt to announce Pedro's debut 24 hours earlier; selling a few ducats is the name of the game, right?

Be aggressive and tie it in with Brad Lincoln starting, Jose Tabata leading off, Walker and McCutch... Maybe they could have generated a little buzz, perhaps even planned a mid-season campaign around the transition. To us, it's not about protocol and creating undue expectations, but feeding a little hope to the City.

Not announcing the extensions of the manager and GM, and then "no commenting" the local writers about it? Beaucoup stupid, especially when the national media gets wind of it and makes the local beat guys look like slackers. The front page article about the fired perogi is, in our mind, a shot across the bow because of that slight, and it generated an ocean of national bad ink.

And for what reason? The suits thought that the media and fans would just forget that JR and Neal Huntington were lame ducks? It had to come out, and it did, in the worst possible way.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to push the guys that are performing, either. With their unquestioned top gun, Andrew McCutchen, lagging so far behind on the All-Star ballot that he's part of the "also getting votes" list, you'd think they'd crank up a campaign to get him some love, even if in a losing cause, given the sad-sack team record. Lift his profile, and you lift the team's profile.

Could be that they're convinced that he'll be Pittsburgh's All-Star pity selection in 2010, so why add to the workload? And you wonder why players that come here don't do cartwheels?

And they like McCutchen - what about Matt Capps, Ian Snell, and Gorzo? They managed to wash their hands of that trio so thoroughly that they devalued them on the market, a mortal sin for a team that's trying desperately to restock its talent base. That blue-nosed train of thought goes way back to their first deal, involving Salomon Torres.

They couldn't move Capps because of a non-tender leak? Please; they had an entire off season to trade him instead of just letting him go for nothing. Bad mouth Snell and Gorzo before sending them down? Hey, why don't you just slap a blue light special tag on them? Love 'em or hate 'em, players are your only asset and the coin of the realm.

That's without dwelling on the spitting match they had in 2008 with Scott Boras, the one guy that any team generally will have to deal with to get over the top.

We're not asking that PT Barnum or Bill Veecks' ghosts get channeled. But the team needs to be more open regarding the everyday business aspects of the game, quit being thin skinned with guys that don't toe their line, and treat the fans and media like part of the gang. They really don't have to circle the wagons...yet.

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