Follow me on Twitter @jim_krug (Opening image credit usatoday)
The website was up and gone so quickly that if you weren’t talking Pirates’ baseball today, you probably missed it. Luckily, at first gazing upon the sheer idiocy of the concept myself, I immediately preserved a screen shot, like an astronomer wtinessing the sudden, unexpected beauty of a collapsing star. BEHOLD! Piratesfanadvisor.com!
Here was the basic concept, as far as appalled Pirates’ fans can tell:
1. This website was not run directly by the Pirates, but rather a self-proclaimed “Entrepreneurial Leader” known as Mike Lasday. However, it carried the endorsement of the Pirates, with a “special message” from club President Frank Coonelly greeting optimistic visitors to the site.
2. The idea was that fans could pay the website anywhere from $9.95/month up to $600.00/year (!!!) to offer the website their opinions and feedback on the Pirates on a monthly basis. …If that seems odd, it is. Generally, survey-gathering companies pay correspondants for feedback, not the other way around. (Interestingly, the highest-level $600.00/year club was marketed as “very exclusive”, yet no membership cap was given- essentially meaning that the website would accept as many fans foolish enough to pay $600.00/year as it could.)
3. The website compared member fans to “shareholders” in a publicly-traded company…overlooking the fact that shareholders really do “own” a portion of the company, whereas these unfortunate fans would own nothing but a monthly recurring credit card charge at the website’s expense.
4. Piratesfanadvisor further insulted Pirates’ followers by claiming that it “rewarded the loyalty” of fans that joined, offering them opportunities unavailable to regular fans. This essentially implied that money = loyalty, at least in the eyes of Coonelly and the website’s creator, overlooking the fact that hundreds of thousands of Pirates’ fans continued to support the team and attend Pirates’ games over 19 straight losing seasons of underfunded, inferior on-the-field products.
5. And so what was this magical “feedback” opportunity for “loyal” fans willing to pay up to $600.00 a year? This came directly from the website, before it imploded:
“Each week, Pirate Fan Advisors provide their feedback in the form of a single question survey via the unique Fan Advisor Network Consulting System.”
So essentially, members would answer…a single survey-type question each week. That was the feedback. If that sounds familiar to you, it’s because the Pirates’ mlb.com website has done this for years. Free of charge.
6. While the Pirates themselves may not have directly created the website, their fingerprints were all over it. A litany of instant classic, pro-ownership lines from the website made it apparent:
“Typically, these fans are frustrated by the banality of traditional ‘fan forums’ as the majority on those sites are simply not as knowledgeable.”
Translation: We don’t like how some websites say negative things about the way we’ve been running the team. We proclaim all of those sites uninformed, despite the fact that our team has lost for 19 straight seasons.
“The very nature of the Fan Advisor Network means that only those with the deepest knowledge of the Pirates choose to participate creating a unique community for elevated discussion and debate.”
Translation: We say “deepest knowledge”, but what we actually mean is “deepest pockets.” Profitability has been our foremost concern since assuming controlling interest of the team.
“I am committed to answering the weekly advisory question on a regular basis and understand that my status as a Pirate Fan Advisor can be revoked as a result of me not providing feedback at a minimal level.”
Translation: If you find a way to give negative responses to the advisory question, you will be removed from the website. But we will keep your $600.00.
“I feel that I understand baseball more than the average fan.”
Translation: Money = knowledge…as long as your knowledge is positive regarding the manner in which we run the team.
7. By late afternoon, after news of the website hit message boards and Twitter, and a full-fledged fan backlash was kindling, the website and the Pirates entered operation shutdown. The website as it was has been removed, Coonelly’s associated YouTube video became private, and Mike Lasday’s own YouTube offering was privatized as well. Bummed you didn’t have a ticket to the online train wreck? All is not lost! A shoddily-made 30-second promo video for the website can still be seen at the bottom of an apt critique over at Bucs Dugout.
8. One of the funnier aspects of this mess was that fans immediately began following Entrepreneurial Leader/website CFO Mike Lasday. The first Tweet many of them saw?
Mike Lasday @teleader Don’t let “sausage making” suck the life out of you.
Sage words to live by, sir. And don’t worry- we won’t.
(Coming in a close 2nd in the “humorous screwup department” was the fact that the website chose to use X’s and O’s to somehow represent baseball strategy, even though such imagery is reserved for football and basketball, and has never been used in baseball in any way.)
9. Finally, let’s re-examine Frank Coonelly’s role in all of this. Around 3:30PM, the Pirates requested that Coonelly’s endorsement video be removed, bringing an abrupt end to another well-publicized gaffe from the Pirates’ President. Since replacing the much-maligned Kevin McClatchey in September of 2007, Coonelly has embarrassed the franchise on multiple occasions:
In 2008, Coonelly influenced the nearly-cataclysmic Pedro Alvarez signing with agent Scott Boras. After the Pirates attempted to stonewall Alvarez and Boras in the weeks leading up to the then-mid-August signing deadline for draft picks, Boras retaliated by reporting to Major League Baseball that the Pirates did not sign Alvarez until after the deadline passed. Had MLB not taken it easy on the Pirates, Pittsburgh could have lost their cornerstone thirdbaseman prior to him ever playing a professional game.
In 2009, Coonelly played a large role in the botched Miguel Sano negotiations, in which the highly-touted Dominican Republic prospect eventually signed with the Minnesota Twins over the Pirates, after the Pirates attempted to cuckold his agent and deal directly with the family, all to save a few thousand dollars.
In 2010, Coonelly was guilty of his most publicized mistake to date, finally admitting to fans that he secretly extended the contracts GM Neal Huntington and then-manager John Russell months earlier. He added fuel to the fire by telling fans that such moves shouldn’t be of their concern.
In 2011, the Pirates’ President randomly led a crusade against a local Pittsburgh tavern that ran a tongue-in-cheek beer discount promotion every time that the Pirates lost a game. Fans were confused why Coonelly- assumed to have vastly more important duties- would waste time attempting to blackball a small, local business, especially in light of the Pirates’ record-setting losing for a North American sports franchise.
In February of this year, news broke that Coonelly was charged with a DUI…in December of 2011. Like the secret contract extensions, what was originally a questionable decision was made far worse by the Pirates’ and Coonelly’s attempts to originally cover up the incident.
Now today, we have Coonelly fronting a poorly-conceived website concept designed to extort Pirates’ fans of their money, and alienate those who don’t join, all in the middle of the best Pirates’ season in twenty years! As one online fan sardonically remarked today, “Only the Pirates could do something to piss off their fans in the middle of a pennant race.”
And these are just Coonelly’s most well-documented missteps. One wonders when the accountability the Pirates’ President so often preaches will extend to himself as well. Thanks for reading.