Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: April 18, 2013
By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013, 1:13 p.m.
Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon, all! And away we go ...
Comment From MAdesso: Hey DK, dou see Crosby, Malkin and Neal being ready by game 1 of the playoffs?
Dejan Kovacevic: I'd be stunned if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin weren't, but I'm not prepared to hazard even a guess regarding James Neal because a concussion falls into a different category. The fact Neal's out on the ice and skating is a great sign, but he'll have to pass tests to get cleared for contact. We'll see.
Team looks pretty decent even without all three, though, huh?
And don't forget Paul Martin.
Comment From PirateApologist: The black eye that you were sporting in your Twitter avatar from last week...was that from a puck, and elbow or (gasp!) a fist?
Dejan Kovacevic: Puck. Long time ago, galaxy far, far away.
Comment From Brian G: How much will a deep run in the playoffs by the Pens hurt the gates for the Pirates? I noticed last night there wasn't a lot of folks at the game.
Dejan Kovacevic: I say this all the time again and again, even if it never gains much traction: People do not make up their minds about going to see a game the day of the game. Most decisions, studies show, are made more than two weeks in advance. What you'll see of the Pirates' attendance this summer, for better or worse, will be based far more on season tickets and group sales and advance sales than whatever might or might not be happening across town.
So, to answer your question, the Penguins will have very, very little impact.
And no one will believe that.
Comment From Jandy: Winnipeg isn't THAT far away...
Dejan Kovacevic: Far away? Tied for the eighth seed as I type. The dream of a third trip to Manitoba in the same calendar year lives on.
Comment From MAdesso: DK, why not offer Steve McLendon a long-term contract. You and I both know he is a great player. Why doesn't the Steelers front office?
Dejan Kovacevic: No one would call McLendon a great player, including McLendon himself. We've had candid conversations about how he needs to improve as a run-stopper, how he can't get shoved 2-3 yards downfield and fit with a 3-4 defense.
At the same time, there is no doubt Mike Tomlin and Dick LeBeau underappreciated his ability to slice into the backfield and make splash plays. And that's a trait they need from the line a lot more than they're willing to acknowledge.
Comment From Biz: Dejan, heading into the playoffs, everyone seems concerned how the forward line combinations will look like. How do you see the D-line combinations will look with Martin in or out of the lineup? Who sits, or does it depend on the opponent?
Dejan Kovacevic: Shhhhh ... that's tomorrow's column.
Comment From MAdesso: Amazing how much more grit and “sand paper Pens play with now. Just what the DR ordered (or Shero)!
Dejan Kovacevic: The exceptional play of Brenden Morrow over the past week should underscore why Ray Shero placed such a high value on Morrow — and let's not forget he gave up the Penguins' No. 1 prospect to get him — as well as how much he felt they were lacking in that area beforehand.
You look at Morrow, and you just think playoffs.
Comment From CJ: Ray Shero must do whatever is necessary to re-sign Iginla, Morrow and Murray after the season. Agree or disagree?
Dejan Kovacevic: Can't even entertain those notions until Malkin and Letang are signed. All else comes afterward.
Dejan Kovacevic: And you didn't even mention Dupuis!
Comment From Brian G: The Marte Partay has just begun but are we wasting him at the leadoff spot or is this really where he belongs?
Dejan Kovacevic: My ideal lineup I wrote out in a column from Bradenton this spring had Marte at No. 2 behind a more OBP-heavy leadoff man, and I'll stand by that. Advanced metrics will plainly illustrate that your best hitter should be at No. 2, no matter the persisting myth over the Jay Bell bunting type there. I'd be fine with Marte at 2, Andrew McCutchen at 3 for ... oh, the next century or so.
But in general, yeah, I share your view. Thing is, the Pirates really don't have that OBP type unless someone such as Jose Tabata were to ever have some breakout.
Comment From Vince: How does Pittsburgh security stack up with that at other places?
Dejan Kovacevic: Check the Wednesday column, Vince. Explored in detail!
Comment From Sam: Good Afternoon Dejan, Jarvis Jones has some people questioning his spinal condition, uncertainty looms about C. Patterson being a one year wonder at Tennessee, perhaps Tavon Austin is too small to last long in the NFL... what has to happen for the Steelers to take the (seemingly sure bet) TE from Notre Dame, Eifert?
Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not sure that anything has to happen, if only because the Steelers have set up targets previously and just watched a player drop to them they'd never have imagined. David DeCastro was the greatest example in recent years. Guard wasn't a priority, but there he was.
Eifert is getting a lot of mention in mock drafts, but I just can't get past the idea of Austin adding a playmaking/wild card element to an offense that could really use one.
Plus, I feel like I'm in the minority, but I can't envision that, with Heath Miller's history of durability, he's going to miss much time at all.
Comment From Sam: Welcome back, Dejan. Only Ziggy Hood remains from the ‘09 draft class and none from ‘08. Not that everyone could become starters and play for 10 years, but is this void mostly due to 1} scouting, 2} coaching, or 3} typical nature unscientific drafting?
Dejan Kovacevic: Given the Steelers' broader successes in the draft, I'm inclined to give benefit as to the luck of the draw. But that shouldn't diminish in the slightest the significance of next week's draft. Bottom line: If you're going to be an organization that builds itself — financially, too — that wins from within, you've got to draft not well but tremendously.
Comment From Rick: Do you see Grilli leaving at the end of the year and Melancon taking over as closer?
Dejan Kovacevic: Grilli's got a two-year deal. And at the risk of sounding glib, Melancon's arm will fall off its hinge by June if he keeps pitching this often. Clint Hurdle is either going to have to trust someone else in the late innings soon, or the decision will be made for him on the disabled list.
Comment From Guest: What do you make of teams having interest I the Steelers RFA's?
Dejan Kovacevic: The Steelers undervalued them, underpaid them in their tenders. Simple as that. McLendon is actually a much better example of that than Emmanuel Sanders, though he surely won't draw as much attention even if Green Bay offers.
Comment From Keith: This Pirates offense isn't horrible and some bats are still waiting to wake up. There is solid depth everywhere except SS and C. Karstens, Morton, Liriano, and Cole should all be up to help the starters. So is this team really as bad as they are often made it out to be?
Dejan Kovacevic: Depth? Where is there depth?
Not knocking your broader overall point, but take one look at that bench or what's at Triple-A Indianapolis, and show me the depth. Maybe right field. Maybe.
Comment From JamesinNYC: Can we get a vote for Rene Gayo for GM or at least head of ALL scouting? It is pretty obvious that he is the best the Pirates have.
Dejan Kovacevic: I've never, ever heard Gayo once describe an aspiration to be at any position higher than Latin American scouting director. He has a specific — and spectacular — tool set for exactly that job with his knowledge of the region, the culture and his scouting network across Central and South America.
Comment From MAdesso: Is there a possibility Pedro could get benched, or even sent down to Indy? Guy just can't make contact right now..
Dejan Kovacevic: Agreed. But to be fair, he had an RBI single last night and another that was washed out Tuesday by the rainout. Going opposite field is the first solid sign that he's about to wake up a little. But we'll see ...
Going to the minors?
Wow, no. Not going to happen.
Comment From Brian G: The Jets have a seemingly difficult task ahead of them in terms of their remaining schedule compared to the Rangers. I am rooting for the Jets though because they are a better matchup for the Pens than the Rangers.
Dejan Kovacevic: Winnipeg would offer — by far — the Penguins' most attractive matchup of the first round. The Jets, for some reason, are totally spooked by Consol.
My travel agent also looks forward to the matchup! Comment From Mitch: Sutter has more goals than Staal this season and if Pouliot or Dumoulin turn into anything, I think that trade is as good as any Shero has made.
Dejan Kovacevic: Brandon Sutter currently has an 11-9 edge in goals over Jordan Staal, Pouliot is now considered internally one of the Penguins' top two prospects, and Brian Dumoulin has been, by most accounts, their steadiest performer on the blue line in Wilkes-Barre.
But forget all that. Remember the circumstances of the trade. Shero shouldn't have had any leverage. Staal only wanted to go to Carolina.
The man's amazing, plain and simple.
Comment From Guest: Pirates front office realize that you are just doing your job or do you sense animosity?
Dejan Kovacevic: Couldn't care less. I answer to the Trib's editors and to you the readers. That doesn't just apply regarding the Pirates but to all topics I cover.
Comment From Patrick(ri): Would you agree if Cutch (spelled “en”)had a stronger arm, that an outfiled of Marte, Cutch and Tabata would be one of the best ever for the Pirates, defensively?
Dejan Kovacevic: I wouldn't compare it right now to having a Gold Glove-winning Barry Bonds in left, Andy Van Slyke in center and Who Cares — Bobby Bonilla, R.J. Reynolds, Cecil Espy, whatever — in right. You're talking about two of the great defensive outfielders in franchise history out there at the same time.
Let's not get ahead of things.
Comment From PirateApologist: Your love for our city is great. What are some of the things that bother you about Pittsburgh?
Dejan Kovacevic: Not in any order: Immense backlog of degraded housing stock ... Above-ground wiring ... The homeless “park” at the end of the Ninth Street Bridge ... Jaywalking ... Not having all of our Downtown bridges lit like the Clemente and Smithfield ... no 24-hour Starbucks ... I actually could keep going.
In total, though, no place like it.
Comment From Chris in DC: Do you like the current NFL draft format 1 on Thurs, 2-3 on Fri, 4-7 on Sat better than the old 1-3 on Sat, 4-7 on Sunday weekend extravaganza?
Dejan Kovacevic: I'm OK with the second and third parts, but fans shouldn't have to wait up until midnight Eastern time to see who their team picked. Look at the Steelers' actual selection times the past two years. It's ridiculous to start at 8:30 p.m.
Comment From Mike P: Who sits when 87, 71, and 18 come back? It gets really crowded (in a good way) especially when Guys like Bennett, Vitale, and Jokinen have value...
Dejan Kovacevic: I sit Glass, Vitale, Jeffrey and Kennedy, but that's me. Don't think it will happen.
Comment From cosmo: Do you see the Steelers trading down in the first round to aquire another pick?
Dejan Kovacevic: This franchise isn't in a position to trade down right now. Just isn't. They need talent. The higher they pick, the better their chances. That said, they obviously don't have a history of moving up much, either.
Comment From MAdesso: Do you think Crosby will win the Hart this year?
Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, but not the Art Ross. And please, spare me the Alexander Ovechkin surge. You can't go from virtual non-entity over half a shortened season into MVP.
Comment From Guest23: I gathered from your twitter feed that you thought the reaction to Tiger's ball drop was overblown. I agree. But don't you think the sport's greatest player engaging in a “it's not cheating if I don't get caught” moment marks a very significant moment in the history of a game that prides itself on sportsmanship and ethics?
Dejan Kovacevic: It's absolutely a large issue, a huge issue, in context. But the tone of the stuff I was seeing in some national media about this being some colossal morality play made little sense when applied to what we could actually see and the fact that Tiger himself openly acknowledged what happened and that Augusta issued a ruling that also was by the rules and that Tiger followed. The idea that something surreptitious was going on — CBS demanded it! — was silly.
Comment From Shrivz: What is your take on the “Mark Eaton Factor”? That being, we don't lose with him in the lineup.
Dejan Kovacevic: The Penguins are now 18-1 with Eaton, which is a pretty dramatic stat, but I saw a full breakdown of all their D-men while at Consol last night, and they all look like that except for poor Robert Bortuzzo, who's only a game over .500.
Comment From Guest: Steelers current/future cap situation - a) merely cost of doing business/long successful run, or b) unwillingness to cut ties with veterans and play younger guys sooner? Who do you blame more for the cap situation and not playing younger guys sooner - management or coaches?
Dejan Kovacevic: To me, it's a discussion that never even comes up if not for the poor couple of drafts. That's the variable here. Never forget that. If you keep getting guys like (the good version of) LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons after the first round, your cap situation is just fine. When you start investing dead money, that's when you get into trouble.
Comment From cosmo: Biggest surprise penguins player this year, biggest disappointing player?
Dejan Kovacevic: I don't know how anyone other than Martin could be the surprise and Kennedy the disappointment.
Comment From Mj: Dejan, Why so much hate for Travis Snider? I know he said he was “dripping with power”, oh wait....he didn't.Actually I hope I never read that phrase again, it's gotten old.
Dejan Kovacevic: Who “hates” Travis Snider? Why do people throw that term around so casually? Snider's a fine guy. Nobody hates him. What I've written is that he projects to be a fourth-outfielder type and maybe not even that because he doesn't play center. He also had done nothing last year to earn being anointed the right fielder this year. That's not hate. That's fact. Look up his numbers.
Moreover, who ever said that Snider described himself as “dripping with power?” That was a writer for FanGraphs.com right after the trade, and even that writer — with whom I've communicated, by the way — has put that comment into the proper context.
All kinds of fantasy going on in that question.
Comment From DMFH: Not a question, just a compliment on the Riverhounds coverage. It's a good read and it's good to see them getting some exposure.
Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks, but that was absolutely my pleasure. And based on the very strong feedback — and online hit counts — we got from readers, you can expect to be seeing more of Pittsburgh's soccer team in the Trib.
Comment From The Tool Man: Eastern Conference team who presents the worst match-up in the playoffs?
Dejan Kovacevic: Have the Flyers been formally eliminated yet?
Comment From Mark: Thoughts on the Riverhounds opening day and new stadium? Will they be able to draw fans?
Dejan Kovacevic: They sold every single ticket to the opener, including standing-room, at 4,000-seat Highmark Stadium, and my understanding is that they've sold pretty much 70 percent of the rest of the entire season.
If you want to go, don't think that you can waltz up to the box office a half-hour before kickoff. You might have to buy in advance.
Comment From PirateApologist: Does Tony Sanchez make it up this year?
Dejan Kovacevic: Sanchez needs to drive the ball, and he knows it. He's never going to be a high-average guy, so he'll need to make up for it with pop. He's off to an encouraging start in Indianapolis, though.
Comment From Guest: AJ Burnett - pitching for the Pirates in 2014?
Dejan Kovacevic: Looking too far into the future is tough with the Pirates because of the stated uncertainty of the front office, per Bob Nutting. Let's see who's running the team first.
Comment From Guest: Impressed with the Pirates lineup and the Bullpen - do you believe that 85+ wins is a possibility?
Dejan Kovacevic: My preseason prediction was 76-86. You don't win with two reliable starters.
Comment From Mark: Is Robert Morris causing more issues than they need to by investigating Mike Rice? Seems like the story has gone away yet they keep putting information out there.
Dejan Kovacevic: Causing issues to whom? Rice? Who cares what bothers him? And who cares about the “story?” Robert Morris had every right, even a responsibility, to look internally to see if they'd allowed behavior as egregious as what we saw at Rutgers. They should be applauded for that.
Comment From BostonsCommon: Now that spring practice is over, with Paul Chryst moving into his Sophomore year, are you expecting a step forward in the fall for the Pitt Panthers? I think they will be taking some lumps on the Heinz Field lawn.
Dejan Kovacevic: Tougher schedule, no question. And I could see a lot of people jumping off after just the Florida State opener, especially with the offense. But Tom Savage is going to be a better QB in his first season than Tino Sunseri was in his ... what was that, ninth season? I look for Devin Street to step up, too, and can't wait to see Tyler Boyd at the collegiate level. It'll take time.
Comment From theplanisworking: DK, If Malkin doesnt shake out of his season-long slump, how far do you see the Pens going in the Playoffs?
Dejan Kovacevic: This will be the last one today. Didn't even see we're way past time ...
The Penguins can still go far, as last night demonstrated at a microcosm level. They're deep, they can play D, and they'll score almost no matter who's out. But to win a Cup, you need to have all engines going. Evgeni Malkin needs to get back to being one of the world's best players — even if that's not the best, as he was last year — to win a championship.
And Saturday? All I do is sit around and think hate-filled thoughts about a fourth outfielder.
Until next week!
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