|Monday, June 11
Bonifay fired as Pirates GM
PITTSBURGH -- With the league's worst record and headed toward a ninth straight losing season, the Pittsburgh Pirates fired general manager Cam Bonifay on Monday.
The Pirates are in last place in the National League Central, 18 games behind Chicago, and their 19-41 record is better only than the American League's Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
The GM since 1993, Bonifay, 49, had come under increased pressure this year as the pitching staff was decimated by injuries and the Pirates moved into a new ballpark.
Pirates CEO and managing partner Kevin McClatchy announced that Bonifay had been relieved of his duties as general manager and senior vice president a day after the Pirates beat the Minnesota Twins 11-8. Pittsburgh is 2-8 in its last 10 games.
"I've taken a broad picture of our organization, where we sit right now not only at the major league level but at the minor league level," McClatchy said.
McClatchy said he asked Bonifay to resign but the general manager declined. McClatchy said he informed Bonifay of his firing Sunday and said it was the most difficult decision he has had to make with the team.
At a news conference Monday afternoon, Bonifay -- who has been criticized for overpaying players past their primes -- said that if the Pirates starting rotation hadn't been hit by injuries, he likely wouldn't have been fired.
"I really thought we could be a winning club again," Bonifay said. "We've been devastated. ... There is no club in major league baseball that could have undergone the injuries that we've suffered this year."
Bonifay said that, in recent weeks, he had outlined trades and other moves within the organization he believed would change the Pirates' fortunes.
"I was disappointed because I don't think it's time for me to leave this post," he added, saying he hopes to be a general manager again.
Assistant general manager Roy Smith will assume Bonifay's duties on an interim basis.
McClatchy said catcher Jason Kendall, outfielder Brian Giles and third baseman Aramis Ramirez form a good nucleus for the team but suggested the farm system -- which Bonifay was once credited for making one of the best -- is in need of vast improvement.
The team was off Monday and plays Tuesday in Detroit.
McClatchy put no timetable on finding a permanent general manager and mentioned no prospective candidates. He said he remains supportive of manager Lloyd McClendon, who replaced Gene Lamont after last season.
Bonifay joined the Pirates' organization as a national scout in September 1988 and later was named assistant general manager. He took over as general manager in June 1993, replacing Ted Simmons.
Among NL general managers, Bonifay ranked fourth in continuous tenure with the same club.
The Pirates entered spring training this season with high hopes. During the off-season, Kendall was re-signed to a long-term deal worth $60 million over six years, and the team prepared to move into PNC Park, a $262 million single-sport replacement for Three Rivers Stadium.
The Pirates also had hired McClendon as manager, hoping he could spark a team that went 69-93 for a fifth-place finish in the NL Central last season under Lamont.
But injuries beset Pittsburgh's pitching staff. Kris Benson was sidelined with reconstructive elbow surgery, and Jason Schmidt couldn't pitch for months with a rotator cuff problem. Francisco Cordova hasn't pitched for nearly a year and left-hander Terry Mulholland is on the disabled list.
"We all expected better," Bonifay said. He refused to call himself a scapegoat.
Bonifay has been criticized for several moves in recent years, including paying $7 million for Wil Cordero's services last year, before sending him back to Cleveland. This year, the Pirates paid $9 million for Derek Bell, who has been completing a rehabilitation assignment with Nashville.
McClatchy, who once promised to turn the team around in five years, said Monday there is precedent to believe the team could improve dramatically in a short space of time -- pointing to the Chicago Cubs, the Minnesota Twins and Philadelphia Phillies as examples.
Smith, 39, has been assistant general manager of player personnel for the Pirates since October 1998.