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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: June 27, 2013

| Thursday, June 27, 2013, 1:07 p.m.

Comment From Brian G: I think this might be one of my most anticipated Chats to date! Penguin news, Pirates news, Steelers getting closer to training camp, Adams and Pitt in the draft ...if I wasn't at work, this would be the perfect day!

Dejan Kovacevic: Can't think of a better way to start, Brian. Away we go ...

Comment From Bigperm: Hi Dejan, I think its a no-brainer to resign Letang if he agrees to something like 5yr 35Mill? What are your thoughts? If you trade what do you we get?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's easy to concoct scenarios like that and say it's a no-brainer. But when the player is looking at a salary that's among the NHL elite — not to mention when the agent is the same wizard who thought it was brilliant to have his client sign in Russia a couple days before the lockout ended — it's not practical.

Letang's going to want — and get — something over $6 million in annual salary, probably closer to $7 million. He'll get it here, or he'll get it elsewhere.

Comment From Ryan: What would you do with Gerrit Cole and what do you think the Pirates will do with him?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Pirates need to leave Cole alone. He's out of the minors, so the silly mental games can stop now.

The dumbest part of this whole Cole controversy is that management felt compelled for some unknown reason to make it public in the first place. Really, think about that: What was the gain? Why throw out to the fan base that, hey, he might have to go back down? To minimize the later backlash? What level of insecurity is involved in a thought process like that?

Cole can and should be a valuable part of the drive to finish in first place. If he isn't, then talk about the possibility of sending him back then.

Otherwise, zip it and let the kid pitch.

Comment From Bernard: Would the Steelers have been better served by resigning James Harrison and drafting Tyler Eifert rather than drafting Jarvis Jones?

Dejan Kovacevic: Obviously, Bernard, we won't know that until we see how Eifert and Jones both pan out as NFL contributors. But if you're looking strictly by positional need, absolutely not. Eifert would be welcome at the start of the 2013 season if Heath Miller isn't ready, sure. But that's not how you invest first-round picks. Miller's not an old man. He can still play. There's time to shore up tight end.

But OLB? Sorry, that needed to be addressed right now. I love the Jones pick, everything about it. And, for what it's worth, I love what I've heard and seen of Jones so far on the South Side.

The Steelers are about rushing the QB. If they don't or can't do it, they aren't the Steelers anymore.

Comment From Ace McTasty: Fair to say Hurdle's sufficiently eased off the workloads of Grilli and Melancon lately? Grilli's thrown the 28th-most pitches among MLB relievers, Melancon 56th. Not a light workload as a whole but not exactly abusive either.

Dejan Kovacevic: It's absolutely fair to say they haven't been abused. But I'll add that total number of pitches isn't as accurate a barometer of usage for a reliever than appearances or, more precisely, the number of times they get up in the pen. Teams do track that latter figure, and I know the Pirates do. Plain and simple, if you “get up” that day, you've been used. Your arm doesn't have the day off.

Found it a little telling, by the way, that when I asked Melancon on my radio show the other day about this topic, he didn't come back with the predictable response. Check the video for yourself.

Comment From Guest: DK, I find the Chris Kunitz extension to be curious. Ray Shero has been loathe to give the over-30 set more than two years. Yet with Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke staring at UFA status, Kunitz gets extended until he's 37. Any possibility that (presuming there's not a “no movement” clause in the extension) that Shero is trying to make Kunitz an attractive (read cost certainty) trade asset? Or is he intent on allowing the team to get considerably older? If that's the case, perhaps he, and not Bylsma, is the stubborn one.

Dejan Kovacevic: You know, I keep reading about what Shero will or won't do with over-30 players, but I'm not sure the evidence supports it. Might be worth a closer look.

As far as Kunitz, maybe Shero is bracing for the fall if he feels Dupuis can't be signed and, this way, can assure that Sidney Crosby keeps at least one of his wingers for a while. Or maybe that's got nothing to do with it.

I don't have a problem with extending Kunitz this way. It's not an exorbitant salary, and he's certainly been a productive player, not to mention currently coming off maybe his best season. Sure, he's fast, and you worry about speed guys getting older, but his game is built much more on smarts.

Comment From grandpagreg: I'm not enjoying this season as much as previous Buc good seasons because I keep waiting for Lucy to pull the ball away as I attempt to kick it. Any advice to sooth my black and gold soul?

Dejan Kovacevic: Laid it all out there on this topic in the Wednesday column . Hope you enjoy.

Comment From SteelByDesign: Everyone seems to think Dwyer and Worilds aren't going to put up much of a fight in camp. I would think it's pretty likely both those guys start vs. Tennessee. Your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, I went into detail on Jonathan Dwyer in the Monday column , where you'll also find his rather strong thoughts. But Jason Worilds is a separate matter.

Everything I've heard on the South Side, including even from fellow linebackers like LaMarr Woodley and Larry Foote, is that Worilds will be the man and that Jones would have to pry it away from him. Keith Butler, the no-B.S. linebackers coach, worded it even more strongly.

I don't buy it. To me, you don't label Jones one of the ‘special' talents in the draft, then tell him to go nuts on ‘special' teams. Kid's got to play. Kid's got to be able to go after the QB. And I think he will. If that means limiting Jones to pure and obvious pass-rushing situations, so be it.

I'm not a big Worilds guy, as longtime readers might know. He can find his way to the backfield, but he can't stop the run, which is a deadly thing on that side of the football given that Brett Keisel really isn't great at it, either.

I don't know how Jones can stop the run. We'll see. But I'll venture to guess if he can show some of that at Latrobe, it will count even more than his sacks or hurries.

Comment From Triathaloon: Dejan, i know you get a ton of criticism for some of your work (i myself want to give you a ton some times), does this ever affect your writing? ever cause you to stay up late thinking about the negativity? I assume as a professional it's your job to shrug it off, but in todays age of social media i imagine it's hard to ignore all of complaints/criticism and maintain a level of composure.

Dejan Kovacevic: The worst reaction that I have to any reaction to anything I write is when there's no reaction at all. Means I didn't make anyone think about anything. Means I failed, basically.

Now, that shouldn't be interpreted as you've got to set the building on fire with every column. Do that often enough, and people will tune out. I've written pieces in the past year alone on soccer, curling, even badminton. (No, really, look it up.) When I wrote those, I knew full well, I'd get no more than a handful of emails. Sometimes you still write about topics that you feel are timely and important, even if they don't spark strong emotions.

We won't always agree. That isn't human. I know that and actually don't invest much energy at all in trying to change it.

But if I can get you to think about a certain topic, maybe even discuss it further here in the chat or on the blog, I feel pretty good about it no matter how vitriolic some segment of the readership will get.

Remember, no one calls City Hall to praise the guys who picked up the trash that morning. Only when they fail to do it. You're way, way more likely in this line of work — or any other — to hear from people who are unhappy with what you did than those who liked it.

Dejan Kovacevic: That said, I'm always here, always accountable. I'm on five different social media platforms in addition to all the various ways to reach me through the Trib. If anyone has an issue, I'm available.

Comment From Brian G: Good afternoon Dejan! I am cautiously optimistic that this is the year the Pirates make it to the postseason. With all the talk this week on the Stanton possibility and knowing you will probably have to give up both Polanco and Taillon to get him. Would you make that trade? I wouldn't due to about 12 years of MLB control combined for both of those guys vs 3 years of Stanton.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm going to be blunt here, Brian: I hate this stuff. And the Stanton garbage over the past week is precisely why I hate it.

Nothing was reported. Nothing. One guy at ESPN threw out a hypothetical, and it swelled to the point that people actually took it seriously.

When there's an actual report of something, let's talk again.

Comment From VT_Bob: In your opinion, have the Pirates *finally* been able to develop a major-league caliber shortstop with Jordy Mercer? I know the sample size is small.

Dejan Kovacevic: Wow, you sure would like to think so, James. Mercer has shown a decent glove and a better arm in the early going, and he's occasionally looked good at the plate with a little pop. If Mercer is merely adequate — and you're right that he hasn't played nearly enough to know — that would be a big boon to the Pirates for 2013 and beyond.

And the reason I single out 2013 is that it might keep them from needing to upgrade the position through trade, as had appeared mandatory even just three weeks ago.

Comment From Philly Poke: DK, I just finished my first graphic novel: Watchmen. What should I pick up next? Is it all down hill from here?

Dejan Kovacevic: Go ‘Dark Knight,' then ‘Killing Joke.' That's the general order of things, and then you'll know if the superhero genre is really for you, or if you just appreciated ‘Watchmen' for all its literary brilliance.

Comment From cosmo: Will Steven Adams be a top 15 pick in the NBA draft?

Dejan Kovacevic: Seems possible, from what I've read. Very, very few outlets have him creeping into the top 10, even with the late surge he's enjoyed, but all it takes is for one team to need a big man and to have the time to spare to let him develop. The team I've seen linked to Adams most often is Oklahoma City, which would be a blessing for him in more ways than one.

I'd be curious to hear from readers how you feel about seeing a Pitt guy go one-and-done but still make it big like this. It's something everyone around here has wanted from Jamie Dixon's program for a long time, but it's got to be a little weird.

Comment From strakagirl: Kind Sir — It's nice to have you back! Just wanted you to know that husband has (somewhat) recovered from the Penguins sweep by the Bruins, and I have accepted the Bruins loss to the Blackhawks. As sad as I am that the Bruins did not win, Jeremy Jacobs was one of the main reasons for the lockout and bad lockout karma/the hockey gods got the best of him.

Dejan Kovacevic: Glad to hear the family has mended! The Blackhawks were, indeed, deserving champions. That's what stands out for me above all in this shortened season. They grabbed all the headlines with that amazing unbeaten streak to start it out, they faced major adversity in the playoffs, and they still got it done. Terrific team.

Comment From John from Hollidaysburg: Where in the world has Jose Tabata gone?

Dejan Kovacevic: Who?

Comment From DMFH: Once everyone is healthy, who would you put in as the Pirates' starting 5?

Dejan Kovacevic: Right field bat, back-end bullpen guy to take pressure off Grilli, Melancon. Not sure I would go much further than that, assuming the health of the starting rotation.

Comment From Biz: Dejan, what is your take on the Ruschel Shell stuff?

Dejan Kovacevic: Don't mess with Paul Chryst.

He showed in his debut game that he'd rather lose the game than lose the program. There are going to be times when that irritates Pitt fans, which makes sense. Fans want to win that Saturday's game and tend not to think much beyond it. But Chryst has shown a startlingly quick hand at addressing problems, and that's going to pay off far more than it's going to hurt.

As for Shell, it takes no more than a cursory glance at his Twitter account — and yeah, I follow him, as I do all of our significant local athletes — to see he's got a ton of maturing to do. And I'm being generous here.

Comment From Bernard: Thanks for the insight re your observations of Jones at the offseason workouts. I had read some articles citing Tomlin's disappointment with Jones performance thus far, which lead to my earlier question re the draft.

Dejan Kovacevic: Mike Tomlin was upset with Jones, from what I'd heard over there, because his hamstring wasn't 100 percent. That's Football 101. Football coaches hate hamstring injuries. They see them all — not without merit — as preventable.

Don't read more into that. The Steelers love the kid.

Comment From Noel Gallagher: Is this the first year you attended a Riverhounds game?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's the first year, in all candor, out of the past five or six that I knew they still existed, Noel. But you're seeing now regularly crowds topping 3,000 at Highmark Stadium, which only holds 3,800. And maybe that will start filling up now that the team is playing far, far better than its lousy start, particularly Jose Angulo with those 10 goals. (And the really pretty chip shot over the keeper's head Saturday.)

Comment From Jimmy: Dejan the pace of your chat is putting me to sleep.

Dejan Kovacevic: OK, I'll pick it up, tough guy!

Comment From Mitch: What do you expect from the Pens at the draft? And do you think Letang could be part of a draft day blockbuster trade?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not a lot of folks seem to realize that the Penguins don't have a pick until the third round Sunday. Funny how that works, but it isn't until the draft that anyone has a reaction to sending out the first-rounder for Jarome Iginla and the second-rounder for Douglas Murray.

I could try to offer some insight as to who Jay Heinbuck should/might take, but you know and I know it'll be the best Western Canadian defenseman available in nearly every round, so why bother?

Comment From Burgh Steel: Loved the curling column btw.

Dejan Kovacevic: So you were the one. Tx.

Comment From Little Prexie: How instructive is the Blackhawks series against the Bruins in terms of evaluating the Penguins coaching staff? I know the decision has already been made to retain, but I would think that the Finals showed to some degree some deficiencies. If the Bruins plowed through the Blackhawks, maybe you say the Penguins series was in part the product of the Bruins hitting their stride. But this makes it look a little more like good team plus great coaching/game planning beat the Penguins.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not sure how much more damning the Stanley Cup Final could have been to the Penguins' coaching staff than it was.

Comment From Guest 23: Can Hollywood and DC stop making Superman movies now? Obviously, they can not get it right. Time to take a shot with Wonder Woman.

Dejan Kovacevic: Agreed re ‘Man of Steel.' Good luck casting the lead role for Wonder Woman.

Comment From Brian G: I know Adams left so he could help take care of his family but I would have rather seen him play one more year. All that being said, I hope he goes to a team that is decent. Systems and styles are what is going to make or break him. I still read the sports sites and the boxscores everyday to follow Sam Young and DeJuan Blair and Aaron Gray

Dejan Kovacevic: Sounds like a healthy approach. And that's pretty much where college basketball fans at a lot of places have had to go. You know you won't keep them forever, you accept that you can't just win with five Brad Wannamakers hanging around for four years, and you take it for what it is.

Comment From Ken F.: Keep up the great work Dejan.

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks, Ken! Not done yet. I can hang for a couple more Qs.

Comment From Chris from DC: Dejan, great stuff as always. Agree with your latest Pirates column 100%. Pens question (gasp): Letang...when do you think this gets resolved? Is there a deadline that Shero has in his head? Would he actually be comfortable riding Letang for one more year and then losing him/trading at the deadline?

Dejan Kovacevic: That begs the question of the draft representing some sort of deadline. Shero insists that isn't the case, but any GM would do that. If the Penguins want to make a deal in which they get a first-round pick as part of the return, there's no time like the present. You hate to ever have this big a hole in your draft class. Can really set things back.

Comment From mayhay22: From your Wednesday column, I was interested to read that Nutting confirmed making changes after some evaluations in the fall. But I really would have liked the follow-up question asking him to describe in detail what changed.

Dejan Kovacevic: Asked and not answered. And not surprising. That sort of thing would never be divulged in detail.

That said, I'll add here that what I've heard in general is that pretty much everything was covered, from free agency to trades to the draft to developing to instruction, even all that nonsense from last fall. It was addressed sternly and emphatically.

Comment From James_Ebensburg: I don't get the game of soccer. Just a bunch of guys running around in short shorts. I understand why the ladies like it, but it puts me to sleep!

Dejan Kovacevic: Your first sentence is painfully accurate, my friend.

Comment From Fanmman: Just read Shell's twitter comments. Pitt is lucky they no longer have this irresponsible, immature meathead!

Dejan Kovacevic: You're being just as kind.

Comment From Rob: The Pirates are tied for the best record in baseball! Just wanted to type that sentence. Thank you!

Dejan Kovacevic: Feels weird, huh?

I had to do it twice for a column I've written for tomorrow's paper.

Comment From Guest: I liked the badminton column, it was timely and entertaining

Dejan Kovacevic: That's one each!

Comment From James_Washington: Are there any curling teams in Pittsburgh? I wanted to take up the sport. It seems like an amazing sport.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm told there's a program on Neville Island. Call over there and ask.

Comment From Dejan Mustard: Maybe the Steelers can pick Hernandez when he gets out of prison?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's a little tough, if you're comparing to Plax. This is just a little more serious.

Comment From LumberCompany: Does the Pirates' hot start make it more likely that Huntington will be fired if they finish - say 83-79 - than if they pretty much hovered around .500 all year? Even if they are “competing” for the last wild card spot into the last 2 weeks?

Dejan Kovacevic: The owner has made it clear that he expects this team this year to contend for a playoff spot deep into the season. That's his criteria. We'll see. Obviously, so far, so fantastic.

Comment From James_Washington: When will the NFL allow the prison team to compete as the 33rd NFL franchise?

Dejan Kovacevic: When they agree to be based in London.

Dejan Kovacevic: That's all I've got for this week. There's a Pirates column tomorrow, probably another one Sunday, probably another one Monday. The radio show is Tuesday, this here chat every Thursday.

Thanks for participating!

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