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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: June 24, 2012

| Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 12:52 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Greetings, all. We'll get started in a moment, but I first want to ask everyone to keep down the noise. The Pirates' management is sleeping.

Away we go ... davido: Do you believe there is a chance Huntingdon will lose his job because of this atrocious offense?? The pitchers can't keep this up all season and I see another 90+ loss season on the way... Dejan Kovacevic: Until someone at any level of the Pirates' front office shows some urgency on any front, I'm not inclined to believe anyone will take action of any kind.

Amos Otis: Is there every any discussion around the PBC to call up a AAA player just to try to get a spark. I recall last year, that the simple infusion of Harrison and D'Arnud into the offense gave us a lift - simply through aggressive and fearless baserunning. In lieu of a needed power bat, maybe just some new blood would help? Mayber Mercer? Dejan Kovacevic: If the Pirates were looking to take a flyer on someone in Class AAA who might be able to help right away, they could have called up infielder Drew Sutton when they acquired him Sunday from the Braves. Check today's blog to see how that played out. NorthPriateFan: IMO, not buying Neal Huntington's claim he tried and can't make a deal to improve the offense. Big trade for big name, perhaps, no trade at all, seems implausible. Be that as it may, the longer this goes on does it simply emphasize what poor job he did in the off season in preparing, if not the last few? Can he possibly expect this continue and still have a job at the end of the season? Back to back seasons of stellar pitching and zero offense, something has to change eventually, but when and what? Dejan Kovacevic: In order:

1. I'm buying that he's trying, but not that he can't.

2. Yes, the offseason was poor. That's glaringly obvious.

3. See above. I'll believe front-office action when I see it. Devin: Which one offensive and defensive Steeler (excluding the regular star players) needs to have a great year for the team to have a strong shot at the Lombardi? I think whoever fills William Gays role at CB and Emmanuel Sanders to open up the field for Brown/Wallace Dejan Kovacevic: Assuming you mean off the board, let's go way off the reservation with both.

If the Steelers really do go ahead with rookie Mike Adams at left tackle and he can give the Steelers the level of stability the Ravens got there from Bryant McKinnie last year, that would be enormous.

On defense, I'll take Curtis Brown. Yeah, I realize Keenan Lewis is heir apparent to Gay's spot, but Brown has some breathtaking athleticism. It's only OTAs right now, but I saw Brown do some tremendous things in the first two days. Including coming down with the football. Would love to see him get a real chance, and then keep using Lewis as nickel back. SteelersfanSLC: Whats youre predicition on the Mike Wallace situation? Personally I see him just playing on the 1 year tender and becoming an UFA next offseason, If Antonio Brown has another big year then it makes more sense to pay the more complete reciever. Dejan Kovacevic: The revelation from Emmanuel Sanders a couple days ago that Wallace had stopped by the South Side to pick up a playbook told me a lot. Noticed he's getting a little edgy on Twitter, too, over being criticized for it.

Players can overrule agents sometimes. He'll be in. Bruce: I think you are very objective in the people and teams you cover. That said, I also think you and others are making way too much about Ben and his feelings and relationship with Todd Haley. How about you let the season play out. Fair?

Dejan Kovacevic: My Wednesday column , I feel, was eminently fair to Roethlisberger and the entire situation. Look, if Ben wanted this to not be an issue, he could put it to rest emphatically. He's been given many, many opportunities to do so, and he never does. Look again at that answer he gave WDVE.

Like I wrote, he needs to get over it. He's done so in deed -- working his tail off -- and now he needs to do it in word. Greg: Do you think the Penguins "success" in the last three regular seasons has been a misnomer? It seems to me that the team is really good at shoot-outs and, therefore, accumulates more points that they should. This masks their deficiencies that are then exposed in the play-offs. Dejan Kovacevic: That's crazy, Greg, with all due respect. Look at the current three teams still skating: The Penguins handled the Rangers all year, and they eventually figured out the Devils. They also beat the Kings and, really, look very similar to them in style except that the Penguins -- with apologies to the awesomely entertaining Anze Kopitar -- have the two best players in the world.

The Penguins ran into a lousy matchup with a lousy strategy and a lousy couple of defensemen. Let's not reach for reasoning here. Mike A.: If you were back as a beat writer, would your job be easier (writing the same story day after day), or harder (having to come up with a new angle on the watching the same ineptitude day after day)?

Dejan Kovacevic: They're very different jobs, Mike, each with its own challenges. At this point in time with the Pirates, I can say that being a columnist is highly preferable. No need to hold anything back when they're being this inexplicably stubborn. SmokyB: What is Greg Ritchie's mantra as a hitting coach? Do you see the offensive struggles wearing on him? Since Ritchie's hiring, it's hard to see many positive offensive growth from many of the Pirates players. Knowing at the end of the day it comes down to player execution and talent, which is out of a coaches hands for the most part, do you feel a message must be sent to this team in some fashion? Dejan Kovacevic: Ritchie was wound a bit lightly when I interviewed him for a column a couple weeks ago. That's to be expected. He hasn't gotten results out of the Pirates this year or last, and this was the chance of a lifetime for him in terms of getting to the major leagues after years in the minors.

I hate the message-sending concept. You fire someone if they're bad at their job, not to send a message. Ritchie, to date, has been bad at his job. Tom: Dejan - This has been a fun debate with guys I work with and wanted your thoughts. In your mind, who has the more difficult position over the course of a season: A goalie in hockey or a catcher in baseball? Thanks and always enjoy your columns and blog material. Dejan Kovacevic: Wow, that's a tough one. I'm going to go with catcher, largely because they wear far less protection and get hit by some vicious foul tips in some terrible places. That's something you very rarely see in the NHL, a goaltender felled by a shot of any kind

Did you see the other night when Mike Smith of the Coyotes played part of a shift after his catching glove had come off?

It was seriously dangerous stuff had one of those 100-mph blasts of vulcanized rubber come his way, and I was cringing right up until the whistle finally blew.

Catchers take 100-mph projectiles off their bare hands -- and other sensitive body parts -- all the time. Zach: DK--You speak a lot about the Bucs adding external help on offense, but give me an idea what you think they should be willing to give up? Obviously, guys like Tailon/Cole/Heredia/Bell are pretty unlikely to go, but what about the next tier of guys? Robbie Grossman, Alex Dickerson, Matt Curry, or the pitching in Indy? Dejan Kovacevic: I've written several times, Zach, including the Monday column , that the Pirates' greatest -- maybe only -- asset is terrific pitching depth. That's especially true, oddly, in the majors, where they're seven starters deep once Jeff Karstens comes back, and they have a good number of back-end relievers in addition to Joel Hanrahan.

Draw up your own fake trades from there, but there's plenty to give without touching the minor-league system at all.

Free Tank Carter: There's empirical evidence that the Pirate chase more pitches out of the zone than any other team, but Clint Hurdle told your paper that "We're not going crazy, chasing outside."

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, he did. He was incorrect, especially as it accounts for Clint Barmes.

teddyballgame14: Why did PITT wait so long to file suit against the Big East to expedite their exit? Why didn't they partner with Syracuse and WVU to jointly file?

Dejan Kovacevic: The timing of Pitt's departure for the ACC isn't nearly as big a deal to me as their future in the ACC in light of the Big 12-SEC joint bowl venture and all this noise that the big four conferences will dominate the new four-team football playoff.This will be the topic of the Friday column, as the topic relates to both Pitt and West Virginia. Hope to hear from you about it.

Money for Nutting: Is this where the pitchforks and torches are being handed out?

Dejan Kovacevic: You've come to the right place, my friend. Stand in line.

Free Tank Carter: Are Burkle and Lemieux still interested in buying the Pirates?

Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, come on ...

Keyser Soze: Good afternoon Dejan. Thank you for providing the best sports coverage in the Burgh. Have you heard anything about PITT's progress in recruiting some of the area's top prospects, Robert Foster, etc. ?

Dejan Kovacevic: Best thing I can advise on this front is to follow the coverage of our Kevin Gorman, who's all over this stuff daily for the Trib.

Andy: I believe that the type of fans that go to PNC Park are much different than those that participate on these blogs and show so much emotion for the Pirates to improve. The fans that go the games for the most part are not interested in stats or wins and losses. They want entertainment and will have almost the same "experience" at the ballpark win or lose.

Dejan Kovacevic: Why do people say stuff like this?No offense, Andy, but I've been at PNC Park for the dominant majority of the games played inside that facility since it opened, and I know where the season-ticket holders are and how invested they are in the franchise. Yeah, you're right that there are always going to be those who come for the Kennywood effect. But you'll have that in a place that holds 38,000 and needs to sell a lot of tickets.There are real, passionate, diehard fans attending Pirates games. That's not a guess on my part. I know a lot of them.

BP: Any word on the health of Baron Batch? Do you expect to see him carry the ball for the Steelers this season?

Dejan Kovacevic: Batch has been out there in OTAs and is expected to be fully healthy. Now, whether or not he has an impact will depend on how the Steelers go in choosing a third-down back. I'm not sure Chris Rainey will fit that profile because of his size, but man, this kid can FLY.I have a feeling a lot of people are going to be buzzing about him at Latrobe and into the preseason.

BP: If you are buying the ticket, where are you sitting at PNC Park?

Dejan Kovacevic: Absolutely anywhere. Best stadium in the world for many reasons.But if I had to pick one, it's lower level third base side, just up behind the first railing (above the heads of the people annoyingly walking by you during the action).

PirateApologist: Would Cutch ever speak up to the rest of the team and say "C'mon guys, get it together!!"

Dejan Kovacevic: If you think motivation is going to solve what ails this lineup ...

Milo Hamilton: Since the Pirates appear unwilling to part with any of their pitching, should we expect to see a 7 man rotation at some point this season ?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, they'll go with a 10-man and bring up Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke and Justin Wilson. Can't have too much pitching.

Mark: Saw your question before about firing Ritchie to send a message. Also have heard on local radio shows they should get rid of McClouth Navrarro, ect. I think if you really want to send a message, eat the $10 Million and get rid of the albatross that is Clint barmes, admit a mistake, and move on. That would send a real message! Thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't care about sending messages. Why do people love sending messages?Look, implied in the concept of sending messages here is that others with the Pirates will see the action and respond, "Hm. Player X just got canned. I'd better start hitting now."What if they just flat-out CAN'T HIT?

Soupless: McLouth, Navarro, G. Jones, Barajas, and Barmes for Ryan Braun. That is 5 players for one!!! What do you think?

Dejan Kovacevic: Soupless, indeed.

Matt in Chicago: Will Staal and Crosby have new contracts with the Penguins when the 1st puck drops in Oct..or Nov..or Jan?

Dejan Kovacevic: Nothing at all to ruminate on that front, I believe, until there's a new CBA. And we're a long way off from that.Crosby's not going anywhere. Staal, we'll see.

pattonbb: Does anyone make a muzzle large enough to put over James Harrison's mouth?

Dejan Kovacevic: I was with Harrison for his entire media session yesterday and didn't hear anything that would warrant that kind of comment. Man speaks his mind and, in this case, did so in direct response to our questions.I asked, for example, how he felt about the NFL now mandating that all players wear thigh and knee pads. (Actually, he hadn't heard about it until then.) He gave a good, thoughtful answer, then added that he wished the league would pay more attention to high-low blocks to assure players' safety.

OK, it's Tampa Bay Lightning round time ... short Qs, short As ...

Matt in Chicago: The ESPN 'experts' picked the Steelers to finish 3rd in the AFC North. Crazy or Correct?

Dejan Kovacevic: Doesn't sound to me like the ESPN experts have been paying enough attention to the goings-on in Owings Mills, Md. The Ravens haven't exactly taken a leap forward.

WyattBurp: Sidney Crosby. I think it's terrible that such a great talent is always a game-day decision. Has the NHL done all it can to prevent concussions?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not until all head shots are punished. Black-and-white rule.

WyattBurp: Reds. They're in the hunt, chasing the world champs. What has to happen for the Reds to win their division, in your opinion?

Dejan Kovacevic: They just need to wake up, more than anything. And Dusty Baker needs to quit messing around with Aroldis Chapman. Give the kid a role, and let him throw 103 mph.

Joe from Reading: Can Alvarez ever bend his knees when he swings against left handers? The ball always goes below his bat!

Dejan Kovacevic: You know Pedro's back to struggling -- 6 for his last 50 -- when the unsolicited hitting advice start pouring back in.

T: Who returns punts for the Steelers this year: A. Brown, E. Sanders, or Rainey?

Dejan Kovacevic: Emmanuel Sanders.

Jandy: Regarding John Tortorella, do you think the league will put any new rules in place, in light of the way he has been handing his "press conferences"? As in...answer questions with at least a show of civility?

Dejan Kovacevic: Judging from Tortorella's last two news conferences, looked to me like someone from the league's already gotten to him. About time.

Matt in New Castle: So, you fully deserve to gloat (to a degree) if Sutton becomes the next Joey Bats, but in two to three weeks if he continues to have the major league numbers that his ~120 major league plate appearances have shown (and uninspiring AAA numbers suggested), will you call the transaction as it is - a minor league transaction and not a major blunder?

Dejan Kovacevic: You might want to check that blog item again, Matt. I wrote nothing of the kind. In fact, I spent the dominant portion of the item downplaying the significance of the entire thing.Take another look.

Gordo: Pittsburgh player you most admire in sports today?

Dejan Kovacevic: Can I say Heberto Andrade? He's the Pirates' bullpen catcher, takes more than 250 pitches to his mitt every day out there, a beating that just goes on and on.And I'll bet Herbie could play goal, too.

Gordo: Best baseball stadium other than PNC?

Dejan Kovacevic: AT&T Park, San Francisco.

tk: Who's the first bucco pitcher to be traded for a bat?

Dejan Kovacevic: Shhhhhh! I asked you nicely to keep it down!

Wild Bill: Hello Dejan, the Steelers' return to an offense with a fullback - does it mean one less tight end on the field, or a wide receiver less, or either?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's another one I'll believe when I see. Just because David Johnson's position switch was made formal doesn't mean he'll be some integral part of the offense. There's just too many receivers in the mix -- plus Heath Miller -- to keep them off the field.

Devin: Do you see Goodell releasing the evidence against the Saints? Although on one hand I think he should, he owes it to the whistleblowers to protect their identities.

Dejan Kovacevic: Goodell isn't going to have a choice, and he strongly suggested as much just this week. A court of law isn't interested in off-the-record evidence. That will be fascinating when it comes out.

SmokyB: Do you ever interview the PNC Park grounds crew? They're good, maybe they can hit?

Dejan Kovacevic: I talk to them fairly regularly. Good guys. (And a couple read the chat, as well, so you just talked to them yourself!)As for hitting, I'll take one of them with a rake over Barmes right now.

Matt in New Castle: When are you going to do a podcast? I know you have a busy schedule, but your radio appearances are great, and I particularly like when you join Mark Madden on WXDX. Any chance you guys try to do a podcast?

Dejan Kovacevic: If I do something like that, it will be for the Trib, Matt. And really, I think we've had some of my Monday appearances up as podcasts in the recent past. Maybe we can find a permanent home.

WyattBurp: Jonathan Vilma. Railroaded or misunderstood?

Dejan Kovacevic: Busted.

Scott: Kings winning the Cup?

Dejan Kovacevic: They're just too fresh not to think so, Scott. Wouldn't you agree?I mean, this is a team that's now lost a total of two games. That's amazing. And it's a lot of down time to heal from the bruises, bumps and pulls. A colossal difference between how either Eastern team will arrive, especially the Rangers with all that shot-blocking.Last one today ...

LARRY: Who picks the guys on the KDKA Sunday Sports Showdown?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's longtime KDKA producer Mike Vukovcan. I'll be on again this week, by the way.OK, that doesn't count. One more ...

Nate: Until the Pirates find some outside help, think it's time for Starling Marte/Matt Hauge? Over/Under for how long until they get a legitimate shot?

Dejan Kovacevic: Hague is ready for more, and I remain at least mildly surprised that he's down. Marte is an elite prospect. I share the Pirates' view that you don't promote those guys based on major-league need, and I commend them for not doing so.But there are lots of other hitters out there, and it's well past time they find some.The columns run Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The chats are Thursday. And the blog is like Neil Young's "Rust" in that it never sleeps.Thanks to all for participating!

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