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Dejan Kovacevic chat: Dec. 13, 2012

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Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 4:59 p.m.
 

Dejan Kovacevic: Greetings to one and all on this remarkable week where Duquesne comes back from 15 down to beat West Virginia and the Mayans predict imminent doom.

Coincidence?

Comment From David D.: Mike Tomlin was young and had never been a head coach when he was hired. We new there would be growing pains, but six seasons later his game management still hasn't improved. Shouldn't ownership be concerned?

Dejan Kovacevic: About Tomlin?

Oh, wow, no. Look, I've written a couple of critical columns this week about Tomlin, but that shouldn't be taken in any way, shape or form as some broader view of his job status. I've heard from readers who have and, bluntly, I don't understand or agree with it. Seems silly to even bring it up.

Tomlin had a lousy week. And in ways, he's had a strange year. But taking it beyond that is to ignore far, far too much good.

Comment From Guest: sumpin' just has to be goin' on between you and tomlin.

Dejan Kovacevic: (Groan.)

Seriously, guys, critical columns, even those that are bitingly critical invariably lead an unfortunate few to think there's something personal. There isn't anything there, not with the Steelers in this case, not with the Pirates, not with the Penguins, not with anyone.

The job is to write commentary about sports. That won't always be cuddly kittens. Nothing else to it.

Comment From BT: On a scale of 1-10 (fractions allowed) how angry did Duquesne's win over WVU earlier this week make you, given your inexplicable disdain for the Dukes?

Dejan Kovacevic: Good Lord, now I hate the place where I went to school?

Check the blog entry for that night for my immediate reaction to Jim Ferry's first signature win on the Bluff.

Comment From Sam: Hello Dejan, how many votes would it take to remove an NHL commissioner under contract? Would that number be eight owners as well?

Dejan Kovacevic: Other way around, Sam. The eight are all that Bettman would need. (And remember, the NHL owns the Coyotes, too.)

Doesn't matter. There's zero sentiment for that.

Comment From jay bell. help!: Dejan, will it be another season of enduring Clint Barmes at shortstop this year? Did the Pirates address the position at all in last year's draft?

Dejan Kovacevic: Taking the second part of that first, if the Pirates had addressed it in the draft, a) it would take years to matter and b) you're trusting their evaluation of shortstops?

Every word from anyone associated with the team about Barmes includes this passionate statistical defense of his glovework. Doesn't sound like there's any movement whatsoever to replace him.

If Russell Martin doesn't improve over his .211/.311/.403 line from last year, could be more of those forfeit-feel innings with the 7-8-9 of the order.

Comment From Guest: Dejan: Wow, the 2008 draft was an epic FAIL for the Steelers: RB Rashard Mendenhall (first round), WR Limas Sweed (second), LB Bruce Davis (third), OT Tony Hills (fourth), QB Dennis Dixon (fifth), LB Mike Humpal (sixth), S Ryan Mundy (sixth).

Dejan Kovacevic: It's a lousy draft, no question, but I've heard a lot of people reduce Mendenhall's contribution from that draft to zero. That's ignoring seasons of (reaches for Steelers guide and flips to Mendenhall page) 1,108, 1,273 and 928 yards. Running backs have a short lifespan, so that's essentially half his career.

Not suggesting that makes it an acceptable draft, just reminding that Mendenhall brought at least some value.

More than the rest, for sure.

Comment From znc1: I've never been a Bob Nutting basher or hater, but shouldn't the Pirates be able to afford Joel Hanrahan and sign one more guy like Edwin Jackson or Shaun Marcum to actually help the rotation? That would push the payroll into the $75-80 million range, but it doesn't seem like he wants to push it past $70 million from reports.

Dejan Kovacevic: Every GM in baseball, including Brian Cashman with the Yankees, operates within a budget. (Well, not sure about the Dodgers anymore.)

If Neal Huntington and the Pirates thought bolstering the starting pitching or keeping their All-Star closer was a priority, they wouldn't have committed $17 million to Russell Martin and $2 million to a rehabbing (!) Charlie Morton. For 2013 alone, that's $10.5 million.

Budgets matter. Again, every team has them.

Comment From algiff: Wow, how quickly people forget Tomlin has been to two Super Bowls and won one.

Dejan Kovacevic: Indeed.

Comment From yovan: Frank Coonelly, from a MLB chat in 2009: “While we certainly have been and will continue to acquire young talent, we are not targeting 2010 — or 2012, for that matter — as the year in which we think we will win. Six of the eight players we acquired in the deadline trades last year are (or shortly will be) ready for the Major Leagues. We expect to win in 2009 and would not find it acceptable to attempt to build a team that will not win until 2010 or 2012.”

Dejan Kovacevic: There's a seat with your name on it at the PirateFest management Q&A session tomorrow night.

Comment From Stan Terlecki: So let me get this straight, The NHL wants a 10-year labor deal with an opt-out clause after eight years, while the union has offered an eight-year contract with the ability to re-open after six years. As for player contracts, the NHL wants to limit them to five years — seven if a club re-signs its own player.

Dejan Kovacevic: Amazing, huh?

And almost all of the money stuff itself has been settled.

The one area where I'd back the owners staunchly is that of a longer-term deal. The NHL has reduced itself to a sadly untrustworthy business, and nothing brighter could possibly emerge from this new labor agreement than knowing it won't be an issue again for at least a decade.

This was Ron Burkle's proposal last week in New York, you'll recall, and there's a reason his fellow owners embraced it so quickly.

It's stunning to me that the players won't, as well. If they want to leave a truly positive legacy for the next generation of players — as Fehr is feigning concern over — nothing would be better than knowing they wouldn't have to deal with one of these.

Just put the thing to a vote already. You'll have pucks by next week if Fehr allows that.

Comment From dan: Why are the Coyotes putting down ice? do owners believe this is almost over, despite a take it — or leave it offer?

Dejan Kovacevic: I didn't realize they were doing that. In Arizona, of course, that's a bigger venture than in other places.

You know, I'm tempted to say don't pay too much attention to things like this or the sudden gathering of about a dozen Penguins at Southpointe, but the fact is, when people are moving like this — even if they know absolutely nothing — there's a feel of momentum. From there, it's all the more disappointing when it fails.

Felt that last week in New York. You could genuinely tell all concerned thought this was going somewhere ... until Fehr decided to play everyone like a fiddle.

Comment From ZEB: Seems like the Reds are serious about upgrading their baseball team this year.

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, it does. And even if you're offering that statement snark-free as it relates to the Pirates, I'll add that it's no small deal. Look up and down the Central and tell me which teams the Pirates should be beating out for playoff positioning.

And I'll remind: Astros are in the American League now.

Comment From Dave in Ross: A lot of negatives surrounded Steelers game last Sunday. As a longtime season-tix holder & avid fan, I can tell you EVERYONE had a feeling the Steelers were gonna overlook the Chargers. That's one of many reasons the crowd booed so vociferously. If the masses of fans can know & feel it, why can't the coaches and players? And by the way, we were booing based upon the fact the Steelers have proven time & again to play down to a lesser team. That needs to be changed.

Dejan Kovacevic: It really was a striking scene, one that some of you might have noticed I snapped for Instagram, where the Steelers scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter in front of a nearly empty Heinz Field.

I don't blame anyone for reacting as they did. Overlooking the opponent at hand has become the season's trademark.

Comment From NYJohn: Do you feel that Ben and Brett are strong team captains?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's never that simple, John. But I will say — and this is hardly a newly raised topic — that the presence of James Farrior, Aaron Smith and Hines Ward — are missed in this regard. Even the vets who were left behind, those guys used to lean on those three to handle leadership.

Comment From dan: “until Fehr decided to play everyone like a fiddle.” please explain — 87's anger and coverage seemed like owners ruined deal.

Dejan Kovacevic: Not my coverage. Go back to the Friday column. It focused on Bettman's tenure as a whole, but it clearly pointed to Fehr for this specific collapse of the process.

Plain and simple, Fehr woke up last Thursday morning and moved the goal posts. All over creation, too. Started bringing up pension and all kinds of other stuff that had never been raised. Even when pension was quickly settled, he moved on to other stuff.

Fehr wanted to make everyone squirm, show everyone who was in charge.

Comment From Guest: From reading your soccer/Highmark Stadium column, it seemed that Riverhounds CEO Jason Kutney gave you the impression that it would be soccer-only. Was the Passion situation discussed at all? Has Kutney commented at all on the situation since then?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, I noted in accompaniment with the Highmark Stadium column that the football goal posts — which were right there in the photo and video — were temporary and would only seldom be seen. I believe the Passion — a semipro women's football team in the city — would only use the place four times. So the posts and the painted lines would both be very temporary.

That said, yes, I'm very much in favor of having the stadium's playing surface be soccer-only. There are hundreds of football stadiums in the region, obviously, and this would be the only one fully dedicated to soccer. Given the participants and those passionate about it, having one stadium for the sport seems right.

I've communicated with Jason since then, yes, and I'll let you know if anything about the situation changes.

Dejan Kovacevic: I do believe it's Tampa Bay Lightning time ...

Comment From andrew long island: Will the Pirates get a pitcher?

Dejan Kovacevic: Absolutely. Impossible to think that they won't, with only A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez as locks for the rotation right now.

But will they get one or two or three who's an upgrade over what they had last year?

Look at those free-agent rates right now. Won't happen there. And I wouldn't count on it through trades, either.

Comment From algiff: chances mendy is active any more this year

Dejan Kovacevic: That'll depend almost entirely on Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman staying healthy. Mendenhall blew off showing up for a game. Be sure the only reason he's still on the roster at all is as injury insurance.

Comment From andrew long island: Do you think Starling Marte is ready to play everyday at the major league level?

Dejan Kovacevic: This is the right time, yes. He had almost nothing left to prove in Class AAA.

Comment From Fritters: What is your gut feeling about what will shake out of the Big East Cathoilc 7 and their possible dissolution/defection?

Dejan Kovacevic: This is just vultures picking through the ruins at this point.

The larger issue, certainly as it applies locally, will be preserving the ACC. And that means bending over backward to keep Florida State.

Comment From Fritters: More likely: Duquesne finishes 16th out of 16 in the A-10, or the Dukes finish top 12 and qualify for the tournament in Brooklyn?

Dejan Kovacevic: Hang on. Let me overcome my seething hatred for the place where I went to school before I answer.

Ah, there. Yeah, I think you'll certainly see Duquesne fare better than the A-10 coaches' preseason prediction of 16th, given the West Virginia game and, really, how hard they battled Georgetown earlier in the season. Still think it will be a challenge to make the tournament, but I know that's Ferry's stated goal.

Comment From Mike H: What will it take, record wise in the upcoming season, for the pirates front office to deserve to keep their jobs in your opinion?

Dejan Kovacevic: My opinion on this doesn't matter an iota compared to that of Bob Nutting, who clearly wants them in the playoffs or at least realistically competing for that.

Comment From Bill Bethel Park: Any Netflix recomendations for me for the winter to replace my NHL viewing?

Dejan Kovacevic: Couple oldies?

Drama: “And Justice for All,” Al Pacino

Comedy: “Seems like Old Times,” Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn

All-time-greatest-flick-ever-any-category-anytime: “Office Space.”

Put simply, if you haven't seen the latter, your life is as hollow as that of a Frank Coonelly preseason prediction.

Comment From PirateApologist: Can we have a teaser of your Pirates column tomorrow?

Dejan Kovacevic: My first Pirates column in about six weeks will be a handy user's guide to PirateFest.

No, for real.

Either that, or for those squeamish about any stuff they don't like to hear or read about the Pirates, I will simply post a picture of kittens.

Comment From RW from FL.: Hey DK,with Woodley startin and Harrison gettin better do u see alot more Blitzin in order to help out the corners,gettin to the QB will be the difference for the Steelmen to win Sunday what u think,thanks.

Dejan Kovacevic: Against a team like Dallas, I'd want to have as many options in the secondary as possible to a) take advantage of Tony Romo doing what he does and b) help Curtis Brown survive at least one third down.

Comment From NYJohn: You seem to have issues with cuddly kittens, do you want to talk about it?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, the kittens went to Duquesne.

Comment From Rob: Suisham MVP?

Dejan Kovacevic: Nope. I'm still in the Ryan Clark fold for that one.

Comment From PirateApologist: Weren't there any “Embrace the Suck” questions in today's chat?

Dejan Kovacevic: There were a couple. But I'm going through about 900 entries here, and they just really didn't jump out.

Honestly, what else can be said about some of the stupidity in how the Pirates conduct their minor-league system?

Never mind “Embrace the Suck” on that poster. How about six items on a poster admonishing prospects to focus on one thing? Or how about using “Thing 1” of Dr. Seuss fame to try to connect with, uh, teenagers?

If you don't know what I'm talking about, here was the “Embrace” blog entry.

Comment From Jon D.: I'd offer one theory on why Pirates fans react squeamishly to bad news about their team: it makes it harder and harder to call yourself a Pirates fan. And I say this as a “die-hard.”

Dejan Kovacevic: To me, the institution is always bigger than the people currently attached to it.

To me, the Pittsburgh Pirates right now are men like Steve Blass, Manny Sanguillen and so many others who have poured their hearts into it, not just as players but also as passionate alumni. Many of them are sickened, even embarrassed, by what's become of the franchise, but they stand by the institution.

Couple more today ...

Comment From Tom: The 2008 draft was bad, but we haven't had too many superior ones receently as well. Can the Steelers continue their refusal to participate in free agency and stay competitive much longer?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not if they don't get back to getting impact talent out of drafts. Funny, but we all got quite comfortable in seeing players like LaMarr Woodley out of the second round, as if this is how it's supposed to work. Not much of that in the pipeline right now.

Comment From Guest23: Best scene in Office Space? Mine is when Milton is denied the cake.

Dejan Kovacevic: Better than smashing the copier out in the meadow?

Heresy!

Comment From Rob: A this point do you think the Steelers can win out?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, given the pattern in play, I could see them spanking the Cowboys and Bengals, then falling asleep against the Browns at home in the finale.

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks to all for participating.

The columns run Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The radio show is Tuesday. This here chat is Thursday. And the blog is like the New York Jets' chances at making the playoffs: Alive against all odds.

See you at PirateFest!

 

 
 


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