Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: Oct. 25, 2012
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Dejan Kovacevic: Hoka Hey, my brothers and sisters. Plenty to discuss, so off we go ...
Shawn McFadden: Dejan, I was wondering if anyone has talked to Bob Nutting since the Hoke Hey III piece ? Also, when do you think Nutting will have his research done in evaluating the front office?
Dejan Kovacevic: He isn't available right now. Not in town. I'd be surprised if there wasn't word in the next couple of weeks of the kind that you -- and I and a lot of people -- are seeking from the owner.
Scottie R: How much would Polamulu help against a versatile quarterback like RGIII? Who could play a similar role?
Dejan Kovacevic: Troy Polamalu would help any defense on any team against any opponent, obviously, but the guy I think you'd most want to peg for the coming week is Lawrence Timmons. Remember, Timmons is the one Dick LeBeau had tailing Michael Vick -- a similarly mobile QB -- just a couple weeks ago, and to great effect.
Tory: In light of recent developments--or perhaps I should say no developments--are you still optimistic that the NHL season will get underway by mid November?
Dejan Kovacevic: If you'd ask me last week if these guys could possiby set a Thursday deadline, then not conduct a single round of negotiations, I'd have said you were nuts. Even with what we've seen to date. The lone hope I have now -- and it's hardly huge -- is that someone would break through with a moving of the needle with that main percentage number, and it would be enough to at least get players into camps while the rest gets worked out. Every tick of the clock today diminishes that a little. How ridiculously stupid this all is, by the way. If you look at what's already been agreed upon, someone with a rational, ego-free approach could get this done in about 15 minutes.
SterlingCooperDraperPrice: Pitt is picked to finish in the top third of the Big East in basketball this year, what do you see as their ceiling?
Dejan Kovacevic: Because of the nature of this year's roster, which some of the best talent being the youngest -- notably Steven Adams -- I'd say those are two different questions. Jamie Dixon's stressing defense and pushing the ball up court in the early going. Easy to see why. He'll need to spend the entire exhibition schedule and probably a good chunk of the Big East slate addressing issues related to inexperience. But once the Panthers get it all figured out? Man, this could be a fun team.
ron zihar: Ive got one question....Ryan Vogelsong ? How does he go to the Giants and become an ACE after the Pirates release him. This just makes me sick.
Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, come on, really? Honestly, the Pirates have plenty enough legitimate areas for criticism that revisiting a guy leaving here a half-decade ago under different management, then having to go to Japan to sustain his career, then coming out of nowhere to return with the Giants ... not even Kevin Bacon could make that connection. Ask yourself, instead, what the Pirates got for Javier Lopez of the Giants. Answer: John Bowker and Joe Martinez, who combined for something like 20 games in Pittsburgh.
Hoka Hey: How does Kyle Stark still have a job, and why on earth are we continuing to hire development people with no background whatsoever?
Dejan Kovacevic: Two distinct questions. Stark has a job at this moment, for the same reason the rest of management does. Nutting hasn't fired anyone yet. I don't know that he will, but I'll repeat here that I know he's legitimately talking to people and seeking answers. Let me put it another way: If you think it's coincidence that none of these folks has been quoted since the end of the season, you're not paying attention. As for why people with zero experience are being hired, that's your clear reference, I'll assume, to Larry Broadway. He's mentioned in Hoka Hey III, but I was really surprised at how little reaction that received compared to other parts of the column. Broadway was a minor-league player in the Pirates' system until 2009. He was hired as an area scout, a job he did in 2010 and 2011. At the end of 2011, he was promoted -- without a sliver of coaching, teaching or instructional background -- IN CHARGE OF THE ENTIRE SYSTEM FOR TEACHING BASEBALL. (Sorry, caps lock went wild on me there.) You could read the above and think it's a joke, except that Stark himself had exactly two seasons as a pitching coach at St. Bonaventure to his name in the instructional background before he took his current post in 2007. Believe me when I tell you that, when people around baseball look at the Pirates' development staff as a joke, they do it more because of stuff like this than Hoka Hey. The latter is just whipped cream on the sundae.
Matt: Hi, Dejan. What are your thoughts about the Steelers finally breaking out the dime defense and putting Curtis Brown in for Larry Foote? Seemed to work pretty good to me it looks like it would have worked better against Tennessee and Oakland, especially in the fourth quarter.
Dejan Kovacevic: There was more dime in the Cincinnati game than the rest of the season combined, but I'd have to presume that was aimed much more at eliminating Andy Dalton's options than it would be something you could apply to every opponent. (The fact the Bengals had an awful offensive plan, including virtually ignoring shots downfield to A.J. Green, is a separate but at least related issue.) LeBeau tried a lot of dime, and the main effect appeared to be bolstering the confidence of Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis, both of whom were outstanding. As a result of that alone, I think you'll see more of Brown, who's a terrific athlete. But as I cited above, your priority this week has to be Timmons. And Timmons' best work comes at the line when his rush is disguised. That's a lot easier to do with Foote on the field, obviously.
Tim: Dejan -- please give me a reason to be optimistic about hockey. Lie if you have to.
Dejan Kovacevic: Ha! Well, let me try it without going the hey-let's-just-tell-him-whatever-we-want-about-Gregory-Polanco route. When games get canceled, and I mean really canceled as in there's no time to make them up, that's money that neither side ever gets back. No matter what deal gets struck, if the NHL loses an eighth of its season, then everyone from Sidney Crosby to Craig Adams will lose an eighth of their salaries. It's non-negotiable, even after a settlement. Owners, too, lose an eighth of their gates in that setting, never to return. Also ... um, that's all I got for you. Sorry. Would it count to you that my already purchased plane ticket to Winnipeg for mid-December is non-refundable?
Sam: Hoka Hey, Dejan! I tried to submit a question at 5AM while being hosed down with spray nozzle from the kitchen but.... anyway... I agreed years ago with the Pirates not bringing back Jim Leyland as a manager. But seeing Detroit have success under his tenure, do you think he would have been successful here again?
Dejan Kovacevic: When the Tigers accepted their American League trophy on that stage the other night, Dave Dombrowski, the team's GM, called Leyland the "best manager in baseball." There's a strong case to be made for that, just as there's reason to believe he could have been more successful than the men employed here in the same time. But man, Leyland's a guy who thrives off and believes in his veterans. Always has been. And that's not a fault. Between that and some of the wacky decisions and lower payroll and everything else involved in managing the Pirates, I'd think it requires quite a leap to try and transpose Leyland's success to this situation.
Sam: Dejan, we can't raise our hopes yet that the Steelers O-line has found its groove... but assuming this tenacity from the Bengals game continues, does David DeCastro go from IR to backup or still a starter?
Dejan Kovacevic: Remember that DeCastro would go into the spot currently held by Ramon Foster. There's plenty of snaps for both to get time. If Foster keeps playing like he did Sunday -- and I assume this is what you're getting at -- no way do you take him off the field. He wasn't quite at Willie Colon's level, but he was good.
Guest: Are their any grievances available to minor league players when it comes to how they are treated at the lower level? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe they are covered under the players association. Any other means of recourse?
Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. They can get on with their life's work. And that's why all these people are so careful about being critical, including those who have contacted me.
Braxon: With all the attention that has come out with the Hoka Hey, why hasn't Bob Nutting sent out any kind of press release or had any type of communication with the media to address it?
Dejan Kovacevic: Honestly here, and take this from the guy who wrote the column, I'm not all that sure what you'd want him to say other than that everyone's fired. I'm sure that the next time you hear from the owner, he'll address all topics, including having to defend why he would continue to employ any of these people. Hoka Hey will have to be part of that.
As close as you'll come to a non-lockout hockey reference all day: It's the Tampa Bay Lightning round, with quick Qs, quick As and large dose of caffeine waiting at the end ...
Bladen: With the offseason kicking off after the World Series, do the Pirates have enough time to fire Neal Huntington and still have a productive offseason under a new regime?
Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. Any GM candidate worth his salt MUST be knowledgeable about all aspects of the business, including current teams, players, free agents, etc. It takes anyone about a week to shake hands, smile and start poring over the free-agent lists. The rest can come in time.
Brock: Tony LaCava as the next Pirates GM? He runs the Blue Jays farm system which is one of the best in baseball and is a Pittsburgh native. Would seen to have some extra motivation to win here
Dejan Kovacevic: You left out that he's bright, bold and universally respected throughout baseball. And that he's not only a Pittsburgh native but also still has a home here. I haven't communicated with Tony in any capacity since sharing a flight to Nashville five years ago, but I know he applied for other jobs, including being a finalist in Seattle. Look up his resume. Highly promising. He'll be a GM somewhere.
NYJohn: So is it a foregone conclusion Nutting won't be making a chance this off-season, or are you still holding off hope?
Dejan Kovacevic: Hope? If you saw my blog item Wednesday morning, I've openly endorsed that Nutting extends this entire front office for life, if only to continue providing me column material like this.
NYJohn: What are the chances Dwyer will be inactive this week?
Dejan Kovacevic: Zero. Especially since Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman both continue to be less than 100 percent. Besides, what message would Mike Tomlin be sending to the team? If you saw Alan Robinson's piece the other day about Tomlin writing Dwyer's name on the chalkboard in a clear attempt to embarrass him, then how could he bury the kid after running for 122 yards and tell the rest of the team that performance matters? Won't happen.
Ryan B: With all the negative publicity the pirates front office is receiving, do you see any way possible that Nutting stands pat and doesn't make any changes? this could be the final straw for most fans??
Dejan Kovacevic: It's very much a possibility that nothing changes. And bear in mind, if all you hear coming out of this is that all personnel are still intact but the policies are changing ... that'll be the SECOND lie you'll have heard from the Pirates on this. The mentality of this front office from day one has been that they're right and everyone else is wrong. If anyone thinks that's conducive to hey-let's-all-revisit-everything-we've-done-here mentality, they're crazy.
dillonerd: Dejan - Sorry if you answered this question before, but who would be your NL and AL MVP?
Dejan Kovacevic: My ballot this year was for Cy Young, and I'll reveal that in full at the time of the actual award. I haven't done nearly as much research to just blurt out MVPs here.
Mike: Do you think the lack of higher education from a large chunk of people involved in the NHL is a key reason they are still at a stalemate? Just seems nothing to be gained for either side to not get back on the ice November 2nd.
Dejan Kovacevic: Lack of higher education? What's that have to with the all-lawyer groups walking in and out of these meetings?
James_Indiana: What is the Steelers plan for replacing James Harrison? The Steelers are no longer getting much pressure and need to upgrade the linebacking core.
Dejan Kovacevic: Well, Jason Worilds has a team-best three sacks, but I don't think you'll hear as many people speak about him or Chris Carter as potential replacements as freely as they once did. Replacing Harrison won't be easy for anyone. He's been a special player in his NFL career. But even in that context, I don't know that a full-time starter is at hand.
NYJohn: Dejan - please give me a reason to be optimistic about the Pirates Front Office. Lie if you have to.
Dejan Kovacevic: It could change.
Rubertoeclement: Dejan, Do you feel that Nutting is talking with people outside the organization that are telling him the Pirate organization is a joke?
Dejan Kovacevic: That is entirely possible. Likely, even.
Scrap Iron Garner: Who do the Pirates hire for a batting coach? Inside or outside the organization?
Dejan Kovacevic: Hearing Don Baylor's name pop up. Not sure if anyone else has mentioned that, but that obviously would be outside.
Dave: Dejan, where does this Hoka Hey thing rank in terms of biggest stories with Pittsburgh sports that you've covered?
Dejan Kovacevic: Not anywhere close. And that's even if you just limit the list to stories I've broken myself. I understand it's gotten a lot of attention, but I presume you're asking about actual gravity to the story itself.
NYJohn: Does the Front Office get why we think they are crazy?
Dejan Kovacevic: No. Absolutely, unequivocally not. And that was best encapsulated when Neal Huntington blurted out late in the season about how people around baseball appreciate what the Pirates are doing more than what their fans do. This is VERY much the mentality at 115 Federal. Couple more today ...
Fox: Your article about the military training of Pittsburgh's prospects was my favorite of all you have written. How the heck can the management or players take this? If I were a potential free agent (at least a decent one), I would never come to the Pirates. I thought the fact AJ Burnett had a decent season could help lure some free agents to Pittsburgh, but now we'll be lucky to get anyone to come here. It's a crying shame...Never thought it could get any worse.
Dejan Kovacevic: ESPN's Keith Law wrote yesterday that the more people are aware of what the Pirates are doing, the more potential draft picks, agents, even major-leaguers won't want to come to Pittsburgh under the current management team. You're right: That is a shame.
pattonbb: How long will Big Ben's subtle jabs at Haley continue?
Dejan Kovacevic: It's just about every answer, isn't it? I know people love to point at us evil, conspiratorial media types on this topic, but man, all you've got to do is listen or look at his transcripts, and it's just about every single answer as it relates to the playbook, playcalling or Haley. That doesn't mean they're choking each other behind closed doors, but it very much means something. One more ...
James_Indiana: If Tony LaCava is as smart as you say, he wouldn't accept the job as Pirates GM.
Dejan Kovacevic: He'd take it in a heartbeat, I'm guessing. But I also know he wouldn't want a non-baseball team president hovering over him on baseball decisions. Neither would any quality GM candidate.
MarkX2: How about Kim Ng as the next Bucco GM? She has be assistant GM for the Yankees and Dodgers. Currently she is currently "Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations" for MLB.
Dejan Kovacevic: What a move that would be, huh? I've heard nothing but raves about her, as well, and she's another one where the consensus is that it's just a matter of time.
Mike A.: Think the NHL has 60, 50 or 40-game contingency schedules already formulated?
Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, they do.
Art Rooney Jr: Are Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward busts?
Dejan Kovacevic: Seriously? No.
Jimbo: Prediction for PSU vs OSU ?
Dejan Kovacevic: Urban Meyer won't be a NASCAR fan. Lions by 10.
Hopeful fan: So what if Burkle and Mario were willing to write a big check. Think Nutcase would consider selling?
Dejan Kovacevic: No.
Thanks to all for participating. The column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I fill in the blanks with a Tuesday radio show and this here Thursday chat. All remaining hours are invested in the blog or in running through ice water in the dark while dumping sand into garbage cans.
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