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Chat with Dejan Kovacevic: Aug. 2, 2013

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By Dejan Kovacevic
Friday, Aug. 2, 2013, 1:09 p.m.
 

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, hi. Welcome to the chat. All topics on the table, as always, and away we go ...

Comment From UP31: Morton STINKS!

Dejan Kovacevic: A rousing start!

Comment From Charlie Mortons Dog: Rough start for my owner last night. Should wandy come back, is charlie's spot in the rotation as solid as presumed?

Dejan Kovacevic: We've clearly got an early theme going. Morton's got to be in trouble before that. No one can say with certainty when Wandy Rodriguez will be back. It's an elbow. Those are highly uncertain even after all seems well. I'd be surprised — and disappointed — if the Pirates allowed Morton to stick in the rotation after two more lousy starts. This isn't 2010 anymore. It's not time to prop up anyone.

If Morton were out that soon, assuming Rodriguez isn't back that quickly, the guy I'd look to is Brandon Cumpton.

(I'll take sentences you never could have dreamed you'd type back in March for $100, Alex.)

Comment From Derek: Dejan, who do you think starts at TE for the Steelers? I read that Paulson has been very good at blocking assignments and has a stronger grasp of the offense over Spaeth.

Dejan Kovacevic: It would be a wonderful problem for Mike Tomlin to have, considering how huge the loss of Heath Miller still looms over the first quarter or half of the upcoming regular season.

David Paulson's a second-year guy, so he's not going to be that much more/less aware of the offense than Matt Spaeth. As Ben Roethlisberger and others say all the time, the offense isn't all that different under Todd Haley. The terminology has been the thing. Moreover, however well Paulson fares at blocking, he probably won't match the fact that Spaeth was ranked through advanced film study as one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL last season while with the Bears.

Again, it would be a nice problem to have. And don't forget that Todd Haley's original goal with this offense was to try two tight ends in various situations, not just the run.

Comment From PQ: Been hearing zero on the Penguins, anything happening behind the scenes, or is everyone laying half naked on the beaches around the globe?

Dejan Kovacevic: There's zero emanating right now, but don't forget there's still at least one significant move that needs to be made to get under the cap. To me, that's blaring-neon-sign obvious a trade of Matt Niskanen, who no longer has a spot in the top four with the addition of Rob Scuderi and wouldn't work well — at all — with Simon Despres.

Beyond that, though, sure looks like the team you've got is the team you've got.

Comment From Turner Ward: DK — whom are we to believe in the Pirates-trading-for-Stanton reporting? Some outlets (including the Trib's Rob B) said the Pirates were very aggressive. Some places are saying other teams made offers, but not the Pirates. And others say the Marlins never even answered calls on Stanton. Just curious if you have any insider info. I'd love to know how serious Neal Huntington actually got about acquiring a big-time power bat at a position of need.

Dejan Kovacevic: I've seen all sides, but I prefer to go only with what I know, and that's this: Neal Huntington never answered a question about Giancarlo Stanton.

I was in that room. He got one question on Stanton, did nothing with it. He was asked another question about whether he offered two top-50 prospects for a player, and he answered yes, and a lot of folks took that to mean it was Stanton. Not sure why. Stanton is hardly the only player in baseball for whom you'd offer two top-50 prospects, nor even the only outfielder.

And another point here: Who cares one way or the other?

Nothing got done. Not with Florida, not with any team. People get so amped up about the trade deadline in all sports anymore that even once it passes — with almost nothing happening anywhere — everyone is trying to figure out what the offers were.

It was an important deadline for the Pirates. Not downplaying that at all. Wrote the whole Thursday column about that. And I think it was important that the Pirates didn't get a right fielder even in the Nate Schierholtz mold. That's meaningful. Finding out if/why they did all they could to get that player from the Cubs has some weight.

But this Stanton stuff is thoroughly hollow by comparison, whether an offer was made or not. Not like there's praise or blame to found in there, no matter what happened. Longest of long shots.

Comment From Buck: What point in the season did you realize this team was for real? We know they are now, but still cant put a finger on a particular series.

Dejan Kovacevic: That Sunday in Anaheim. No doubt for me. All the bells rung for me right after Jason Grilli struck out Mike Trout.

Comment From cosmo: While you are at Steeler camp, is there anyone particular player that you are going to be watching closely or do you just try to follow as much as you can?

Dejan Kovacevic: What I'll do is almost always specific to whatever I'm writing about that day. I wrote about the wide receivers last week, so I watched them (at least before the rain chased everyone off). I'm probably looking at a piece on the running backs for Sunday, so I'll focus on Le'Veon Bell more than anyone, considering I've already seen a ton of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman.

If you're coming to Saint Vincent to watch, either the free practice tonight or any time, I'd strongly recommend doing something similar. Otherwise, the whole thing kind of looks like a meaningless blur beyond the players you already know very well. Makes it a ton more fun and informative.

Comment From Jpbucco: Does Tabata have to do what he does best (pull a hamstring) for Lambo to get a look?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't think so. Mentioned this in print the other day, but Huntington very strongly suggested to me the other day Andrew Lambo will be up sooner rather than later. And he should be. I know of all Lambo's faults and the fact he spent a lifetime in Double-A, but I see 28 home runs — 14 of them since being promoted to Indy — and I don't care.

Lambo is worth a shot now, especially when you consider postseason rosters have to be set at month's end.

Comment From PirateApologist: You mentioned the Pens-Rangers game that they just aired as the best you have ever seen. What are your top Steeler and Pirate games?

Dejan Kovacevic: Top Steelers game for me is the same as I suspect it'll be for most, that being the Indianapolis playoff game when Jerome Bettis fumbled at the goal line and Ben tackled the guy who got stabbed that weekend. Just can't top that for suspense and narratives.

Top Pirates game ... eh, if I tell you that, you'll laugh. Ask again later.

Comment From Techrat77: Excellent Friday column DK! Pirate-mania is transforming western PA!

Dejan Kovacevic: Glad you liked it! Felt like it was a good time to get down into the seats and pay homage to those who appreciate this more than anyone.

Comment From markv: SAM says: August 2, 2013 at 7:40 am Dejan, Thanks for the chat. Regarding the trade deadline you recently said something to the effect that the Bucs should “get what they need and not a thing more or you risk messing with something good”. In retrospect, do you think the Pens could have benefited by following this advice? Did they do too much unnecessarily and mess things up?

Dejan Kovacevic: I hear more of this by the day, and I can't say I'm there. It presumes, doesn't it, that Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow could have had their places taken by superior wingers?

OK, who were those wingers?

Dustin Jeffrey, Tanner Glass and Joe Vitale?

You can argue that Beau Bennett should have had a more prominent role — and I did then and still do now — but Jeffrey, Glass and Vitale were the guys getting scratched most of the postseason. That's who Iginla and Morrow supplanted.

I think this is another one of those things that sounds poignant in narrative form but doesn't really have any meat to it.

The Penguins lost because they played dumb against an opponent and a goaltender they should have beaten. That's the story.

Comment From TK: The MLS just announce it was expanding by 4 teams but did not say what cities. Could Pittsburgh be one of them?

Dejan Kovacevic: No chance. The MLS target date is 2020. I've had many discussions with the Riverhounds about this, and they don't see a candidacy as being realistic for another decade.

As an example, where the Hounds are playing tonight — vs. Orlando at the Citrus Bowl — that club is drawing 8,000 per match. That's double what Highmark Stadium holds, and that's the kind of thing MLS wants to see first. In Pittsburgh, obviously, that would mean expanding Highmark.

It'll take time, but the people running this operation are first-class, and so is how they're doing things. I have confidence.

Comment From Ben: Do you think that the Pirates' success this season is more attributed to the job of this FO, or is it more due to Nutting's offseason review and the changes it brought?

Dejan Kovacevic: There really isn't much of a way to separate that, right?

I mean, the front office works in conjunction with the owner — he's around, and he's involved — so the changes he prescribed last fall were simply part of that.

If you want to give credit to a non-player, it should be for Clint Hurdle. Honestly, the way some fans complain about him after losses, I'd swear the Pirates were 0-43 when he makes any kind of strategic move, 65-0 when he just looks up at the lights.

The man's been a godsend for the franchise. Nothing less.

Comment From Jason F: Every day that goes by, Pedro gets more expensive (especially with Boros as his agent). What are the chances the Pirates can sign him to an extension to buy out some of his free agency years? Have there been any negotiations?

Dejan Kovacevic: There are no negotiations in-season. And no, I don't think Pedro will stay. That has less to do with Alvarez or Scott Boras or the Pirates than it does with exploding local TV contracts around the game. Boras knows the market is on the verge of dramatically tilting back toward the bigger markets. He's smart enough to wait.

Comment From Napper: Yes it is only training camp, but should I be happy that the Steeler receivers are able to somewhat stretch the field, or concerned that maybe the secondary has lost a step and they are going to be a weak spot in a pass happy league?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ugh. That's a hard one to tell. I do the same thing as you: When I see a receiver catch a deep ball, I'm 50-50 on whether the receiver created good separation or the DB was stuck in mud.

Too early to tell, but let's at least acknowledge that Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown should get credit for good timing with Ben if deep routes result in bombs.

Comment From Delaware Ed: Will the Bucs pick up a bat over the waiver wire in August?

Dejan Kovacevic: Almost impossible. If you check the waiver rules, teams can grab a player just to prevent the Pirates or other contenders from getting them. Happens all the time.

Comment From John: Rank the Pittsburgh sports venues... Heinz Field, PNC Park, Consol Energy Center, and Highmark Stadium

Dejan Kovacevic: I'd rather have actual criteria for it. But if you want to go pure aesthetics — exterior and interior appearance and design — I'll go PNC (above any sports facility anywhere), Highmark, Consol and Heinz, the latter being one of the least ambitious/attractive designs in the NFL.

I'm also really reluctant to include Highmark on there for an obvious reason: It's a lot easier to build a 4,000-seat place.

Know what I'd do with Heinz?

Take all that silly silver metal and coat it with the same oxidized (rusty-looking) steel that gives our signature U.S. Steel Tower such tough character. That would embolden the frame of the entire place, including containing all that yellow.

Then, just for the heck of it, I'd take off those god-awful cocktail umbrellas from the two rotundas and have giant smokestacks emerging from the center.

That's not an original idea. Came up at the time, and the Steelers took the cheap route.

I'm not even going to get into all those white tents that irresponsibly ring the place year-round.

Cheap, cheap, cheap.

And it's a shame because it wasn't that far from being a really fun football stadium.

Dejan Kovacevic: Even in August, we do still have Tampa Bay Lightning time. That's now ...

Comment From UP#1: Bring back Jose Bautista. Has to be Huntington's biggest BLUNDER as GM right Dejan?

Dejan Kovacevic: Dude ... still? Really?

Enjoy today a little bit!

Comment From Daquido Bazznini: In recent weeks I've seen Gregory Polanco called a five tool player, and a Dave Parker clone. You've seen him. Can you give your assessment? And...Is he potentially worth throwing away a trip to the World Series?

Dejan Kovacevic: He's a skinny, lanky kid who has a lot of filling in to do. If you took one look at him in a batting practice — just his frame — you wouldn't even think about this.

Comment From Guest: Could you ever imagine the NHL and KHL forming a World Hockey League or am I just dreaming? Afterall, the NFL is trying to force football in Europe. Seems like the NHL has a huge leg up in this respect

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, both the NHL and NBA would have a leg up over the NFL or Major League Baseball, and I'm surprised neither has really pushed considering all the money involved.

With hockey, I'd propose a Borje Salming Division that includes Moscow, Prague, Bratislava, Stockholm, Helsinki, Frankfurt, Vienna and Geneva.

And if it means keeping Anze Kopitar in the fold, I'll add Ljubljana. (Look it up.)

Comment From Techrat77: DK, what's the rub against having Presley in RF full time? No power, but he can hit and has plenty of speed.

Dejan Kovacevic: Zero OBP, not consistent enough. If he has what you say, let's see it.

Comment From Jpbucco: Gomez should start before Cumpton...

Dejan Kovacevic: The Pirates apparently disagree, judging by Tuesday's choice.

Comment From J_C_Steel: Are the Steelers far enough under the cap to consider signing free agent TE Dallas Clark?

Dejan Kovacevic: Anyone who's still out there is affordable, but it's getting dark outside. Playbooks needed to be learned well before this.

Comment From Johnny: This thing is flying

Dejan Kovacevic: It's what we do. When we say Tampa Bay Lightning, we really mean Marty St. Louis in his prime.

Comment From Charlie W: ok, its later now. Top Pirates game?

Dejan Kovacevic: At the moment, I'm partial to Wednesday night. Not kidding.

I wasn't old enough to fully appreciate the stuff in the early 1990s. And besides, that didn't come with the backdrop of 20 losing seasons.

I really thought Wednesday was special.

And I will now go crawl under a table or something.

Comment From Bernard: Any insight into the progress of Cameron Heyward and Ziggy Hood in camp? Thanks.

Dejan Kovacevic: Ziggy will have the edge because of how he works with LaMarr Woodley when both are going well. (Meaning not at all last season.) Heyward ... I don't know, I'm going to hold off on this one. He really needs to shove Brett Keisel off the field, or it's getting dark outside for him, too.

Comment From Drew: NO Pirates (or any other Pittsburgh game of any team) will top Game Seven, Nineteen Sixty. But then. I'm cheating. Since I doubt either of us were there to see it.

Dejan Kovacevic: I certainly wasn't. But if you want to go back through all time, the game I'd advise reading up on if you're a baseball fan is Game 7 of the 1925 World Series between the Pirates and Senators. (Washington, not Ottawa.) Absolutely riveting stuff. Better than 1960 in a lot of ways, if you can believe that.

Comment From matt: presuming Andrew Lambo does come up, how much do you see him being a part of the everyday lineup? Does he start right away or is he more of a bench player?

Dejan Kovacevic: If he comes up, he has to play. It would only make sense.

Comment From Guest: Is there any indication that the Pens ownership is willing to absorb Bylsma's contract in the event of another embarassing playoff series?

Dejan Kovacevic: I've never heard that money was an issue in this case regardless.

Comment From James: College football season is almost here. Time for the attention to be removed from the Joebots, and it be back on the football team. Finally!

Dejan Kovacevic: Amen. On many levels. Pitt's first practice is Tuesday, as well.

Comment From Charlie W: who gets the ball: AJ or Liriano?

Dejan Kovacevic: Been saying Liriano for a while in print, don't expect that to change.

One more today ...

Comment From jefft: No question, Dejan...just a quick Thanks...you answered a whole boatload of questions today. Great job!

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks, Jeff.

That doesn't count. I'll await one more ...

Comment From Napper: Do the Steelers of Sanders an extension during camp?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'd be kind of surprised, in that Brown already has the mega-deal and I'm not sure how much you'd want to tie up at wide receiver. Also, look, if they really believed in the guy to that extent, we wouldn't have seen that whole circus with New England play out. They took a legit risk on just letting him walk.

Dejan Kovacevic: That's all for this week. Reminder yet again that this chat will be on Fridays from now until the time Mark Melancon pitches badly. Meaning forever.

The columns run Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Friday, and the TribLIVE Radio show is Wednesday 2-3 p.m., and WPXI-TV's The Final Word is Sunday at 11:35 p.m. I'll be on the latter this week along with our Rob Biertempfel.

Thanks to all for participating!

 

 
 


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