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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: Oct. 4, 2012

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 11:29 a.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Hoka Hey, my brothers and sisters! Welcome to another chat and another -- one last -- chance to revisit the Pirates' 2012 collapse, as well as looking ahead to big games this weekend for the Steelers, Pitt and Penn State.Off we go ...

John: On your next interview ask Bob Nutting the following - Who is accountable? Why do you keep a GM who has a worst record than both of his fired predeccessors? How do you keep a Manager with 9 losing seasons out of 10? Why do you never face the Pittsburgh writers? Only talk with Dejan- why? Do you go to ML owners meetings? '

Dejan Kovacevic: Yikes.Well, John, I'd take you up on your suggested question except that, um, well, look for yourself at the headline on last Friday's column .As for Nutting only ever speaking with me, it would take you only a cursory Google search to see that's patently false. Just last night, he was on KDKA-TV being interviewed by John Shumway.We're off to a sizzling start.

Studabaker: What exactly would u like to be done with the front office this offseason?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's all right here . Been writing about it for days now.

Jwolf2186: Dejan, I really enjoyed the piece you wrote on the defensive line and the lack of snaps Heyward and McLendon are seeing - has there been any indication from Coach Tomlin or Coach LeBeau as to why they aren't rotating the D-line more regularly? Is it a lack of confidence in Heyward and McClendon? Overconfidence in Hampton, Keisel, and Hood? I know those three are good, but any bog man seeing that many snaps a game is bound to get tired. It seems a more even rotation would help.

Dejan Kovacevic: First, thanks regarding the Wednesday column .

I really don't think we're seeing anything more than Tomlin and LeBeau WISHING that these guys were all still performing at a 2009 level. I saw Aaron Smith show up to catch practice the other day and was half-assuming they'd ask him to suit up.

Not being glib here. I really can't understand it otherwise. As I wrote in the column, I don't think Hampton's been all bad. But the 3 in the 3-4 just aren't making any plays, bottom line. And they look tired, especially against the run. Not using Cam Heyward and/or Steve McLendon AT ALL strikes me as an egregious error.

I'll bet that changes Sunday, though.

MightyGuins: At this point it seems like ego is more cause for the lockout than any economic issues. Why not bring a mediator in now to work towards a resolution?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, even acknowledging the need for a mediator can bruise some egos, right?

I really don't see it at the ego stage yet. It looks like the NHL is going to take the insane step of canceling its first wave of games today, and the league will have done so without engaging the players in talks the past two days.

Don't know how much more transparent it can be that the owners wanted this lockout all along.

Much, much more on this in Friday's column.

Guest: With the possibility of Jeff Karstens not being resigned, who gets the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation in 2013 (assuming the top 3 are A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and JMac)? Someone from within? Another Erik Bedard type signing?

Dejan Kovacevic: Depends on who's running the team.

Another front office might look at Karstens' 17-20 solid starts and see that as an asset rather than lamenting that he can't give them 32. When Karstens is healthy, he's a pretty good pitcher.

PZ: While considering Nutting's investigation into the team's operations, do you think that he HAS to make a change in order for the investigation to be considered thorough and successful? If Bob comes out and says that after a lengthy and rigorous investigation no changes are necessary, would you be satisfied? Should we believe that he really dug deep into his inquiry if no change occurs?

Dejan Kovacevic: Those questions will be incumbent on Nutting to answer. Let him be the one to explain/defend bringing back a baseball operations triumvirate that has failed in the areas of evaluating, acquiring, developing and instructing talent. That's on him as the owner/caretaker/steward of the Pirates, especially in light of the second collapse.

And I'll say it again: The collapse is a symptom. Other things are the cause. You're starting to hear some with the Pirates refer to figuring out what went wrong "in September." No, sorry. It wasn't September. It was August, too. It was at the first sign that real depth was needed and exposed as not being there.

This isn't complicated. Baseball's a 162-game season. Depth is PART OF THE GAME. It's about attrition. You can't live in a fantasy world where you think all 25 guys will stay healthy all year. It's not about what went wrong with those 25, even JMac. It's about why, after five years, this management team had NOTHING behind them.

JoeBucco: Since this team has collapsed two years in a row immediately following 19 inning games, is there any chance that next year we just forfeit any game once it hits the 12th inning? :)

Dejan Kovacevic: There's no turning point. It wasn't the 19-inning game (which was a win!), it wasn't the players not charging the mound in Cincinnati after Cutch was hit, it wasn't anything of the kind.

They had ZERO depth, period. They had nowhere to turn once things started going badly. Not just because of the internal failings but also because of the timid approach at the trading deadline.

Ryan: Geno Smith, is he as good of an NFL prospect as RG3 or Luck was this past April if he keeps this absurd pace of play up?

Dejan Kovacevic: Geno really isn't the same type of player. RG3 has a power component to his game that isn't there for Smith. But Smith is -- in stunningly impressive fashion -- establishing himself as a sharp pocket passer, in addition to the other dynamic facets he brings with his mobility.

Man, can anyone remember the last time someone was being called even a semi-lock for the Heisman a month into the season?

Now, if only he could play a little DB, too, the Mountaineers would have something TRULY special going on.

Dom: If the NHL players get what they want, could the NHL end up like MLB, where the Yankees payroll is around twice the gross revenue of the Pirates?

Dejan Kovacevic: Wow, Dom, no. The players haven't even sought the elimination of the cap. They've asked for teams to share more revenues so that the lower-revenue teams have an easier time spending up to the minimum.

That's nowhere near what you're describing.

The players have been very reasonable, in my view, and serious about getting back to playing.

NYJohn: In your interview with Neil Walker, he alluded to the fact that the camaraderie in the clubhouse had decreased after the trading deadline. Do you think the either the players removed or the players added impacted the tightness in the clubhouse?

Dejan Kovacevic: Possibly. Casey McGehee was popular in there, as most know. But Walker also said that there was a feeling the front office didn't do enough at the deadline. That's no excuse for the players to be terrible after that, obviously, but it can have a deflating effect.

If the front office doesn't believe the team is good enough, why should the team?

Here's where to hear the full interview.

James_Indiana: Dejan, will this off-season reveal the true colors of the Nutting ownership?

Dejan Kovacevic: I believe it will make a powerful statement, much more so than anything related to payroll. People talk endlessly about payroll, but the larger issue right now is why any sane individual -- never mind a sane AND prudent individual -- would cough up another $15.4 million to throw away on free agents or another few million on the draft when the results are negligible.If you pay someone $15 to wash your car and they scratch it all up, are you paying $25 the next time?

Evil BillOBrien: Is it too early to consider Bill O'Brien the greatest coach of all time?? Personally, I think it's close.

Dejan Kovacevic: In all seriousness, O'Brien's been fantastic. Not just in handling the scandal and -- righly -- distancing himself and his players from it, but even more impressive in my mind how he got the team to bounce back after the devastation of Ohio and the kicking fiasco in Virginia.If this program ever truly bounces back -- and that's a ways off, obviously -- these last 2-3 weeks should be remembered with reverence by Penn State fans.Right man, right time.

tim m: why do you think that the pirate management minus Nutting put those statements out only days after Nutting said he was going to do a full investigation into why the team collapse again?

Dejan Kovacevic: I can declare myself president of Uzbekistan. Doesn't mean that I am the president of Uzbekistan.As soon as Nutting stops his guys from making declarations of support for those under them, he might as well fire them on the spot. He's clearly not ready to do that yet, so he let them continue doing their jobs.

Rob (far far away): After three games what are your thoughts on the Steelers cornerbacks not named Taylor?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, you're obiously referring to Keenan Lewis, who has not looked good for the most part. It's his first sustained starting action in the NFL, so there's part of me that wants to give him the benefit of the doubt, but the Steelers are in a weird spot.On one hand, you'd think they'd want to make a switch as soon as possible if it keeps up. On the other, Curtis Brown is your likely guy if you do that. And you're starting the cycle anew, given his own inexperience. (Cortez Allen's a nickel guy, and they like him there.)

Matt: Aside from Crosby and Malkin, who is the least expendable Penguin? Not necessarily the best player, but the player the team could least afford to part ways with?

Dejan Kovacevic: Easy. Kris Letang. He has Norris Trophy talent, a remarkable work ethic and ... wow, it's fun to even TALK hockey, isn't it?Come on, people. Sit down at a table, lock the door and figure it out!

PirateApologist: Have you ever met or interviewed Gary Bettman? Thoughts? It seems like he has a approval rating of 4%, yet holds the highest position in hockey with no threat to his job.

Dejan Kovacevic: I've interviewed Bettman several times, including one-on-one, but I'm not sure what that would have to do with his approval rating. He doesn't come across as affable, and he's now engaged in -- no, ORCHESTRATING -- his third work stoppage. That's a pretty good formula for being unpopular, with or without how anyone in the media would describe him.

David: Which NHL owners are most responsible for pushing the league's lockout agenda? How hard are Mario and Burkle pushing for it?

Dejan Kovacevic: You can point the finger squarely at Boston's perpetual cheapskate Jeremy Jacobs. More on this in the column tomorrow. You guys are forcing out all my material!

James_Indiana: The A's are really something. They finished first playing the likes of Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson, Seth Smith, and Stephen Drew. They picked up marginal major league players like the Pirates often do and won. The only difference was that they made good trades for guys like Jarrod Parker.

Dejan Kovacevic: The A's won with a lot of rookies, too.The difference you cite between Oakland and the Pirates was far from the "only" one. They have next to nothing in common.Systems and processes are important. Evaluating the talent is No. 1. When the latter isn't happening, the former isn't working.

cosmo: If you were voting for the MVP, in what order would you place these players. Posey, Braun, Cutch, Dickey.

Dejan Kovacevic: I have a Cy Young vote this year, not MVP. If I had MVP, it would be Posey at the top, and I haven't really thought about or researched the rest to give an answer.

PirateApologist: Would you rather see Pitt play Penn State or West Virginia every year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Penn State. Not even close. West Virginia strikes me as kind of drifting off from Pennsylvania, including with Dana Holgorsen's recruiting.In hoops, I'd give a different answer.

Maddamma: Dejan, with Ritchie's voluntary departure, how many other coaches do you anticipate being shown the door if Hurdle is retained?

Dejan Kovacevic: Depends on who the GM is.Not being glib here. I'd rather just wait out Nutting's process and see what he produces in acknowleding he's bringing back this group before going into even more hypotheticals.

Steve: Dejan....I'm just curious about the inside scoop on Philip Samuelson. Does he play the same game as his dad? (BTW...I hope so!)

Dejan Kovacevic: They have very little in common, unfortunately.

Tim in KY: If you are arguing for Huntington, how do you rationalize letting Maholm go and replacing him with Erik Bedard? Those related transactions look like a snapshot of one of management's problems.

Dejan Kovacevic: Eh, that one's not so cut-and-dried, Tim. To keep Maholm from free agency, the Pirates would have had to exercise a $9 million option. I believe Maholm would have negotiated down from there to stay, but they never approached.Also, management wanted to get more Ks out of the staff, which made Bedard look more attractive at the time.Not saying they made the right call. Just that more went into it.

We're at Tampa Bay Lightning time, even in the lockout conditions. Short Qs, short As, rapid fire ...

NYJohn: So.. how many questions do you get on an average week?

Dejan Kovacevic: Several hundred. Don't recall ever counting them.

Mj: I liked Walker's candor on your show. Something very telling to me was his remark on " a catcher playing every 3rd game, getting 12 hr." I think the players knew he should have been playing more when he was on his hot streak.

Dejan Kovacevic: The reference was to Michael McKenry. I'll agree on both counts.

Wayward Eer: Is there any particular "baseball" men outside the organization that you think Nutting trusts to discuss the organization with?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes.

Pretty in Pink: Better look, fluorescent pink or throwbacks?

Dejan Kovacevic: I have ZERO problem with the Steelers' throwbacks, if only because they're real, historical, they-once-actually-wore-those-things throwbacks.Give me that over the Penguins' blue "faux-backs" any day of the week.

Brian G: Cabrera's triple crown. Where do you rank it in terms of historical importance? Is it greater than other single season records from other sports?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's a phenomenal feat, but apparently not even phenomenal enough to get him MVP over Mike Trout. We'll see.To answer the direct question: Yes, it's greater than other single-season achievements if only because it's so rare.

James_Indiana: I understand that players have to execute, but the fact that Nate McLouth and Brandon Moss were able to turn it around with other organizations seems to indicate that the Pirates coaching isn't doing a good job of working with struggling players.

Dejan Kovacevic: There are more examples than those two. I had no issues with those players' release at the time, but then, I'm not a trained baseball person to have been able to pick out whatever might have been fixable in their swings. That's a COLOSSAL part of the "process."Two words: Jose Bautista.That's a franchise-changing mistake.

Pittfan: Any chance Pitt goes back to the old colors and the script logo when they go to the ACC?

Dejan Kovacevic: Why would they do that? Hasn't that ship sailed?

tim m: sabermetrics or traditionalist? where o you fall ?

Dejan Kovacevic: Whichever applies best to the given situation. It's what the sabermetrics calls being "objective," except that it involves actual objectivity in terms of keeping an open mind.

Rob (far far away): This years O-line is better or worse than last year?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'd love to wait for David DeCastro to return before giving that answer. Would be nice to see how the Steelers' offense looks with a real push from the interior line.

Todd: Did Burnett groove that pitch to Chipper becasue it was his last AB?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'd have a hard time believing that. Did you see what A.J. looked like coming off the mound that inning? Didn't exactly look like a guy willing to give up a big inning.Couple more ...

Todd: Why didn't Burnett go to 3rd base with chipper running from second? becasue it was chipper and his last game?

Dejan Kovacevic: Bobbled the ball. Watch the replay.

SR: Why haven't we seen Alameda Ta'amu? I know he's a rookie but I still thought he would have been given SOME playing time.

Dejan Kovacevic: Had a terrible camp.

cosmo: Hockey before Christmas

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. There WILL be hockey before Dec. 15. Look it up.

SR: Are the Steelers on the decline?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ask me Sunday at about 4 p.m. Enormous game.

Matt in Chicago: Will Steven Adams be Pitt's MVP this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: LaMar Patterson will give him a fight. No, really.

Pat: Bryce Harper born October 16, 1992...will be starting in the playoffs Sunday....think about that.

Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, we could do that stuff all day.Thanks to all for participating. The column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The radio show is Tuesday, the chat Thursday. And the blog is like Jim Lehrer. It's moderating everything without you even knowing it's there.

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