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Kovacevic: Some extra pepper for PirateFest

Christopher Horner - Pirates general manager Neal Huntington (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner</em></div>Pirates general manager Neal Huntington (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Chaz Palla | 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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Chaz Palla | Tribune Review</em></div>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.
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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.

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By Dejan Kovacevic
Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, 9:56 p.m.

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.”

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