Share This Page

Kovacevic: Some extra pepper for PirateFest

| Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, 10:08 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Bob Nutting Chairman of the Board and principal owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates speaks to the media on the North Side at PNC Park Nov. 6, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates president Frank Coonelly talks with manager Clint Hurdle during the team's first full squad workout Friday, Feb. 24, 2012, Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

Ever wanted to be a baseball beat reporter?

Well, come one, come all, pay the requisite $12 admission plus Convention Center parking, and spend your Friday night at PirateFest peppering Frank Coonelly, Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle in the annual — and almost always animated — fans-and-management Q&A session, 7 p.m. sharp.

Covering a team like the Pirates, one rarely runs out of pointed questions. But in the unlikely event you go blank when stepping up to that microphone, I'll humbly offer a cheat sheet …

For Coonelly: Baseball's local TV contracts are becoming wildly lucrative, and not just for the Dodgers. The Padres, in a market smaller than ours and with lower TV ratings, earlier this year signed a deal that will pay them $50 million annually, plus a $200 million bonus and a 20 percent equity share in that network.

By comparison, the Pirates' deal with Root Sports, which you signed just two years ago, will pay in the range of $16 million to $20 million annually for the next decade. No big bonus, no equity.

Was this deal, in fact, more damaging to the Pirates than any on-field decision this management team has made?

If so, who's accountable?

For Huntington: First off, Neal, thanks for keeping Jason Grilli. Good pitcher, nice price, great move. He just might be your first non-total-bust of a free agent.

Anyway, with only two starters who could be considered locks after you released Jeff Karstens, why make catcher the top priority this offseason — your words — and commit $17 million over two years to .211-hitting Russell Martin?

Do your internal metrics call for A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez to go a combined 50-0?

For Hurdle: The Pirates said at the Winter Meetings that Travis Snider will be the starting right fielder. After Snider came in the July trade, he had one home run and seven extra-base hits in 128 at-bats, and he's a career .248 hitter who's spent time in the minors each of his first seven pro seasons.

Did we blink while Snider earned that job?

For Coonelly: Now that Bob Nutting has ordered a halt to your year-round military practices in the minors, saying he wants this to be a baseball team and not a “boot camp,” do you now — at least publicly — support his stance?

Or will you continue to say, as you did in an interview last month with an Altoona radio station — after Nutting's order — that the criticism of your training methods was “overblown?”

Was the franchise owner's criticism overblown?

For Huntington: We've seen a few blockbuster trades this month, some involving top prospects.

Given Nutting's recent review of all baseball operations and his expressed “disappointment” with the area of talent acquisition, is there now a greater chance of an asteroid striking down PNC Park's Pirates Charities sign than of the boss ever allowing you to trade Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon?

For Hurdle: It's got to be tough for a manager or head coach in any sport to win back a clubhouse after one epic collapse, let alone two in a row.

Why should we think you haven't lost your voice with this group of players?

For Coonelly: In that same Altoona interview, you backed your top development people, saying, “Kyle Stark and Larry Broadway, in my opinion, do a terrific job of developing our young players and work extraordinarily hard on developing their baseball skills.”

You know a lot about other front offices in the majors, so can you please cite one other team that has its system run by two men “developing their baseball skills” who have never taught baseball at any meaningful level?

For Huntington: We're season-ticket holders for a team that's had the worst 20-season run in pro sports history. We've put up with a lot. But we also know a lot. The franchise has been here 127 years, and we've had baseball passed on from generation to generation.

Please explain what you meant by this quote in September: “There are a lot of really good baseball people in the industry who feel very differently than our fans do about what we're accomplishing.”

Oh, and please answer in really small words! Thanks!

For Hurdle: You're a well-read, well-rounded kind of guy, so this is a bit off baseball.

How amazingly symmetrical is it that the franchise of “Hoka Hey!” — which means “It's a good day to die!” in Sioux — is holding PirateFest on the same week the Mayans predicted the apocalypse?

For Coonelly: You told a group of fans in Blair County a month ago, “In 2013, we are going to play meaningful baseball not only in September, but next year we plan to do it in October.”

What happens if you don't?

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.