The first of what will be a nice series of blogs coming to you live from 80-degree Winter Meetings in the beautiful Swan and Dolphin hotels inside Walt Disney World. First up for the Day 1 blog will be our GM Rob Egan breaking down last night’s Pirates’ affiliate dinner. I’ll be back a little later today with a video and more form Day 1 around the Winter Meetings.
Pirates’ Brass Happy But Not Satisfied at Affiliate Dinner
Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Each December, the first full day of the Baseball Winter Meetings for the Altoona Curve is highlighted by a stop at the Pirates’ minor league affiliate reception. On the heels of Pittsburgh’s first winning season and playoff berth in 21 years, you’d expect the two-hour event to have a different vibe. It did, but not quite in the way I expected.
There was definitely a more-upbeat-than-usual feel, but still a sense of unfinished business for the Bucs. Happy with the accomplishments of 2013? Yes. Satisfied with where they are at this point? No.
While the Pirates’ executives including Frank Coonelly, Neal Huntington, and Kyle Stark were clearly pleased with the direction of the club, they aren’t celebrating. Huntington, who narrowly missed selection as Major League Baseball’s General Manager of the Year, continues to peruse both the trade and free agent markets to see if he can address the club’s needs. However, much like last summer, he’s not going to grossly overpay in either dollars or prospects just to make a deal. Huntington knows he’s got a really good core Major League roster, potential help in the high minors, and the ability to make under-the-radar steals like last year’s Francisco Liriano and Mark Melancon
Coonelly, who says other teams’ executives have raved about the electricity of the crowd at PNC Park for the Wild Card Game against Cincinnati, agrees but then quips that he wishes Pirates’ fans didn’t have to wait 21 years to get that excited. I think that’s a telling sentiment. Coonelly is glad for the accomplishment of reaching the playoffs, but clearly wants his club to remain focused on the goal of winning a championship.
A few years ago in this space after a similar affiliate reception, I remember writing that, despite what some fans and media may have thought, the resolve of Coonelly and Huntington to improve their club and win was palpable. After seeing the product of that determination and their mood on Monday night, I don’t doubt that it continues to be their mission with the goal of a championship as close as it’s been since 1992. Are there any doubters left about that?
WHO’S THE NEW GUY?
Curve Assistant General Manager of Communications Mike Passanisi has joined the club’s contingent at the Winter Meetings. After earning a promotion to Assistant GM in October, “Paso” is here at Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort and spent Monday participating in the Bob Freitas Business Seminar sessions, the affiliate reception, and Opening Night at the Baseball Trade Show. You can follow his experiences on Twitter under the @AltoonaCurve handle and through the CurveBall Blog on our website, altoonacurve.com.
PLANES, TRAINS, AND BUSES?
After weather in the Northeast canceled the Curve crew’s flights from State College and Washington, D.C., the team scrambled to get to Orlando ahead of the ice storm on Sunday. Two itinerary changes, an unexpected flight revision, and some temporarily missing luggage later, we all arrived in Florida by early that afternoon. Special thanks to airline agents, quick shuttle trains at the airports, and the luxury bus transportation from the Orlando airport to the hotel by our business partners at Brandiose. We’re nothing if not resilient!
More on the way tomorrow from the shadows of the Magic Kingdom.