Kovacevic: Mistakes ... I've made a few

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (left) and catcher Russell Martin shake hands beating the Angels, 6-1, on Saturday, June 22, 2013, in Anaheim, Calif.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (left) and catcher Russell Martin shake hands beating the Angels, 6-1, on Saturday, June 22, 2013, in Anaheim, Calif.
Photo by Getty Images
| Sunday, June 23, 2013, 10:36 p.m.

Hey, no one's perfect.

I mean, if Jason Grilli could serve up that gopher ball the other night in Cincinnati, if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin could be blanked by the Bruins, if Mike Tomlin once opened up his weekly news conference with two words other than “Good afternoon,” that pretty much excuses all of us for every misfire, mistake and miscalculation, right?


Sports columnists can't ever mess up?

Every pick, every piece of punditry has to play out precisely to the letter?

OK, then, in that spirit, here's a collection of my own opinions gone awry in this past year, something I can only hope will not become a recurring feature ...

On Nov. 29, I wrote of the Pirates signing Russell Martin for two years and $17 million: “Let's not pretend this transaction was anything other than an overpriced desperation move that's going to hurt the Pirates in more ways than one.”

Oh, baby. Even tossed in a Dave Littlefield/Matt Morris reference there, though only to compare the imperiled management situations.

Martin is swinging well — .257 average, .356 on-base, eight home runs, including two huge hits in the astounding comeback Sunday in Anaheim — but his handling of baseball's most surprising pitching staff and of the opponents' running game has been nothing shy of masterful.

To date, he's been worth every penny.

On Dec. 30, covering the Steelers' finale, I singled out a certain outside linebacker for having contributed “a grand total of four sacks, none in his final 204 snaps,” and added, “No one, not any player or coach or executive, let down these 2012 Steelers more than one LaMarr Dewayne Woodley.”

I'll stand by that, actually. But I'll happily revisit the premise if what Woodley told me at minicamp pans out. He aims a full return to being one of the NFL's preeminent pass rushers and to put himself in the best shape possible to make that happen.

“You'll see,” he said.

Would love to.

On April 27, a couple days before the Stanley Cup playoffs, I penned a column entitled: “Heat on Bylsma? Uh, no.” It described a strongly held view by the Penguins' front office that Dan Bylsma's job would be safe even in the event of another early exit.

That obviously proved accurate, given the extension granted Bylsma right after a Boston series in which Claude Julien badly outdueled him.

But let's not hide behind a correct outcome: The Penguins' higher-ups, meaning higher than Ray Shero, were upset and did weigh Bylsma's future before backing Shero's call.

Bylsma had better not press his luck.

On April 21, in expressing concern about the Pirates' pitching depth, I shared the following bit of brilliance: “Jeff Locke has big-league smarts but still hasn't shown the big-league stuff to match.”

Now he just might be showing that stuff in the All-Star Game.

Mercy, please.

On June 2, I was dismissive of Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask, who I saw as having a lot less to do with the Penguins' lack of scoring than their own unwillingness to skate within a hemisphere of his crease: “Rask isn't nearly as good as they've made him look.”

That, of course, wasn't fair. Rask's been very good.

At the same time, it takes no more than a cursory video review to count that a whopping nine of the Blackhawks' 14 goals in the final have come via traffic, deflections and/or rebounds.

Compared to zero of the Penguins' two goals vs. Boston.

Last one's my favorite ...

On April 23, three days before the Steelers drafted Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell, I wrote: “Is there any No. 1 running back in the house? Not if you've heard how Tomlin has outwardly dumped on Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman this offseason.”

It's true that the coach has been tough on his backs. But Dwyer in particular doesn't think he's out, judging by a rather spirited exchange of texts we had this weekend.

“The only thing I'm thinking about is being the starting running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Dwyer said. “This is my job. This is how I take care of my wife and son. They're going to have to drag me off the field for me to give up my job. I'm ready, physically and mentally, to be one of the best in the league.”

Good for him. I like Dwyer, both as a hit-the-hole back and as one whale of a determined individual.

And he's right: He will be the Steelers' starting back Sept. 8 vs. Tennessee.

I'm sure you'll let us both know how that turns out.

Dejan Kovacevic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dkovacevic@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic.

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