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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dejan Kovacevic: Hello to all, and thanks for putting up with the hour-later-than-usual start. Wanted to get over to at least one day of Pitt's spring football practice, and this was that day. Had a terrific time over there, as well. Have a feeling you're going to really like Paul Chryst. Comes across as one of us -- in the good sense! -- almost immediately.

Away we go ...

Longtimesufferer: Can you fill in any of the "logic" Huntington applied when "guaranteeing" Pedro a spot on the big club• He seems to be in over his head at the moment

Dejan Kovacevic: Those quotes are yours, obviously, just to avoid confusion. Neal Huntington did state that Alvarez will make the team, barring injury, but that -- mercifully -- wasn't his choice of words.

Illuminate the logic?

Wow, that's a tough one when I'm barely getting started on the caffeine intake for the day. Let's see if maybe more specific Qs on the topic don't come up.

pgherinfl - Carl: Good Afternoon Dejan! Who do you think Duquesne should try to get for the new BB coach• As far as assistant to a big time program or an up and comer from a lesser conference• Depending on who they get, can they save their recruits or is that a done deal?

Dejan Kovacevic: You mean besides Ron Everhart, Carl?

By all accounts, AD Greg Amodio was hoping Dino Gaudio would take the job. That no longer sounds like a slam dunk. Other assistants, notably Orlando Antigua and someone else who's currently at Pitt, have been mentioned, too.

Best scenario for the Dukes is the same for any A-10 school. Real stability. That's what's negative about any moving-on-up assistants like what Robert Morris usually gets. First whiff of success, and they're gone.

Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, and I neglected to mention: It's not looking very good for Duquesne's recruiting class at all. The longer Amodio waits, the worse that will get.

Sam: Dejan, What is the argument for keeping the replay reviews in the hands of the head ref on the field?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm very much in favor. Anytime there's too much of an eye-in-the-sky factor to officiating, the officials on the field or the ice are going to get lax in their rulings.

Remember how for a while NFL referees wouldn't even signal whether or not a touchdown had been scored?

The reason for their hesitancy was that they knew their call didn't matter much, anyway. This way, they're more involved all the way through.

homeequity: Hi DK. When will you and the rest of the scribes admit that Paul Martin is still playing terrible(although he has been more aggressive lately). He commits at least 2 or 3 gaffes per game but until recently it hasn't hurt the team as MAF and company have bailed him out. I don't like to badmouth players but lets call a spade a spade. If he continues to play at this level, he will eventually cost them in the playoffs. Your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: Me and "the rest of the scribes?"

I've been cloned?

Next ...

Mr. Mustard: What aspect of the Pens game needs the most improvement heading into the playoffs?

Dejan Kovacevic: Top priority I can see -- and I know this differs from Dan Bylsma's after the Islanders loss -- is some cohesiveness with lines 2-4. It's been neat at times to see the impact on opponents when Sidney Crosby and others have been mixed and matched, but it's about time to find him some linemates and stick by it.

You want to shake things around?

Do it on the power play where, for example, Crosby and Steve Sullivan are both capable of bouncing all over the attacking zone. Malkin gets half wall, Neal or Staal in the slot at various times, but move the other two.

Five on five, it's time for some continuity.

And let me say it for the millionth time: Crosby, Staal and Dupuis, please.

Large Marge: Is Dupuis the Pens unsung hero this yr, or is Cooke• Or both?

Dejan Kovacevic: Everybody's been singing about those guys for a month, so I'd think that disqualifies them from unsung status.

My choice: Matt Niskanen.

Looked like a spare part when acquired. No more.

Ian: Hi Dejan. Having read your spring training coverage for the past few years, it seems to me your reporting is slightly more optimistic than in years past. Am I reading into things too much, or have you seen tangible signs of improvement?

Dejan Kovacevic: You can't compare the writing I'm doing now to what I've done in the past because my role changed last summer -- along with my employer -- from beat writer to columnist. For those who don't know, the latter gives opinion. I mix in reporting with that opinion, as they can go together, but it's a very different process.

More optimistic?

Not sure where you're getting that. I wrote five columns from Bradenton, and the only one I'd place in that category of being literally optimistic -- seeing something bright in the Pirates' future -- was the one about the big three arms in the minors. The analysis that ran in Sunday's paper provided a broader look at how I see the 2012 team shaping up, good and bad.

Chakri: How often do you do the chat• I was hoping it is every Monday, but, it does not look like it

Dejan Kovacevic: Every Thursday at noon. Except when it's not, like today being an hour late.

Happy and sad: Dejan, do they penguins have dirt on all the reporters in the area• I am happy to be lucky enough to afford Tim and go to games, but their price increases of 40-50% since consol and a whopping 30% jump just in our playoff packages this season is insane. If the new arena put them on better financial ground with all new deals and they were making money in Mellon this seems like a gross cash grab. Maybe that is why they had to open up additional packages to us season ticket holders• Too many people could not afford to buy them.

Dejan Kovacevic: "Reporters?"

More cloning!

Money for Nutting: DK, it seems to me that sports media, and the media in general, relies more and more on Facebook postings and Tweets as a source of quotes for articles and columns. In the past, it seemed like journalists had to approach or call up a source or subject for a comment, but now when read articles I'm constantly seeing quotes sourced from Twitter or Facebook - something I could go see myself, not an inside scoop. Obviously times are changing and social media is a step forward, but I think journalism has taken a step backwards in this regard. Thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: My first preference -- that's reporter in the singular -- is to contact the source of any information, preferably face to face. That's not just because it's more reliable. It's also because nothing can replace it. The information I got this morning on Pitt football never would have been the same even over the phone, let alone social media.

That said, some people -- mostly NFL players -- have decided to make social media their own megaphones. When they won't take your calls or do other interviews but post something on Twitter or Facebook, you'll take what's there. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are really good examples here. They offer, to varying degrees, good insight on a lot of topics.

I'd still rather talk to them, and I do. But I'll also take time to read what they write.

Jeff King: Pedro..Should he start at AAA or go North• Also, what is your forecast on the type of year he will have?

Dejan Kovacevic: If he were some established major-league player, I'd be inclined -- as the Pirates are at least purporting to be -- to ignore his current spring. I really would. I'm not a believer in spring stats or even broader spring performance.

But Alvarez is different. He's coming off a .191 year that he followed by blowing off management's request to play winter ball. So what I saw in Bradenton this month wasn't an anomaly or a player getting himself ready. It was a continuation.

If it keeps up, as I wrote in last Monday's column , he absolutely should be sent to the minors.

But it's clear now that he won't be. Unconditionally. Which I still find amazing, if only because of the potentially adverse effect on the player's development.

Peter Hook: I check the blog every morning for tediously long and slightly meandering, but every morning the same thing - "brief and to the point". What gives?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ha! Maybe I'll mix it up for tomorrow and retype the phone book! Or a Jim Tracy transcript.

Torrey: Who will be the primary starter at 3rd base on June 1?

Dejan Kovacevic: It SHOULD be Alvarez based on talent level. And it SHOULD be Casey McGehee if Alvarez stumbles. But there's a part of me that sees Josh Harrison as being something of an off-the-wall possibility should Alvarez not make it. The Pirates need to get offense from somewhere, and their best hope for that isn't a dramatic rise in on-base percentage or power but in simple contact.

Jeff: With William Gay finally gone, do you think Cortez Allen has the talent to surpass Lewis for reps at corner?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Steelers don't see any great talent gap there, but, as you note, Lewis had far more time on the field last season as the nickel back. Even if Allen or Curtis Brown step up and take starting reps from Lewis, you could still see Lewis out there in the nickel. But I don't think so. Being on the field counts for so much, and the Steelers pretty much advertised in this way which player they prefer.

Battleship Kelly: Dejan, why is it you and your meadia brethern go from annointing the Penguins SC Champs, to a team going nowhere in a span of three days. You should know better having covered hockey for so may years, a game like Tuesday happens, happens to every team.

Dejan Kovacevic: My "media brethren?"

Does anyone have a general address for the Pittsburgh media to whom these people can send their broad, unanswerable complaints?

Or should I just point out that my column the morning after the Islanders game was about how we just might be seeing the Penguins' greatest team ever?

All this cloning is making my head hurt.

Jjvt: What was your view of what is happening at the Pitt football practices?

Dejan Kovacevic: Me and all of my pals in the Pittsburgh media are going to get together and write a column on this for Friday's Trib. One column, 250 bylines.

No, seriously, I came away very impressed with the tone, with a lot of what I saw and heard on the field, and I really am going to write about it for tomorrow, with a little video of Paul Chryst online. And I'll do it with no co-conspirators.

Guest: After seeing the Pirates up close, name a couple of off-the-radar players (position or pitchers) whose talent surprised you• Similarly, anybody disappointing (aside from Alvarez)?

Dejan Kovacevic: If Yamaico Navarro is really 24 -- and I'm not saying he isn't! -- the Pirates might have done well for themselves with that minor December trade. He makes regular, solid contact, and he has some pop. Not great in the field, but you'll take it.

On the down side, aside from Alvarez, I didn't see much from Daniel McCutchen or Chris Leroux to push for spots in the bullpen that realistically were -- and still might be -- within their grasps.

Jjvt: Of the underclass players on the Pitt BB team, who do you think are the most likely not to return for the next season?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'd be looking at guards in particular, someone like Isaiah Epps. That's not to suggest any knowledge of Epps' specific future, but the players who most commonly leave are those who learn they won't play. Tray Woodall and incoming James Robinson will give Pitt all the guard play they need, and there are a good bunch of others, as well.

hockey71: Is Clint Hurdle at all worried about how poor the pirates spring training record is - or is it really really true that the record means absolutely nothing.

Dejan Kovacevic: Spring record?

Worry about any manager who even knows what his team's spring record is.

steelergrl: Do you think Todd Haley is really getting rid of the old play book or just tweaking here and there where needed• and.. What's the status on Supulveda• Do you think his injury will hamper his perfomance and do the Steelers keep him?

Dejan Kovacevic: No reason to doubt what Mike Tomlin said, that the playbook will change but that some blocking schemes and other elements would remain in place. That's fair to any new offensive coordinator, especially one coming from the outside. It's different than when, say, Bruce Arians was simply promoted within an existing system.

Can't imagine how many chances the Steelers would give to Daniel Sepulveda when Jeremy Kapinos has done a fine job right under their noses.

hockey71: Tim Tebow - Mistake or Marketing Genius for the Jets.

Dejan Kovacevic: He's in Winnipeg now?

JoePa: As a Pens/hockey fan, which first round matchup would get your juices flowing more: Flyers or Caps?

Dejan Kovacevic: I can't imagine any hockey fan, especially in these parts, who wouldn't get excited about either. But the Flyers have to top it this time, with Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot over there and with ... well, they're the Flyers.

Guest: Best under-the-radar prospect in the Pirates system (either your opinion or consensus of those around/within the organization)?

Dejan Kovacevic: Easy. Outfielder Harold Ramirez. Heard great things about him down there.

Chris: Hey Dejan, any timetable on the return of Ray Graham for Pitt• Would love to see him and Rushel Shell as Pitt's tailback tandem.

Dejan Kovacevic: Does it matter that Graham wasn't limping at all as we just shook hands over there?


He's still on a healthy pace to recover and be part of the offense. Chryst mentioned Graham unsolicited in our talk today about the running game. But there obviously are no sure things.

If you missed it, columnist Joe Starkey had a wonderful piece about Graham's rehab last weekend.

Devin: DK, I've always thought you had a strong arguement for Staal and Sid to be paired on a line together. But I'm worried the the cost-benefit of that isn't worth it. The 3-center model we have now is almost impossible to replicate and makes matchup nightmares for opponents. Your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: Where has this term "three-center model" come from?

Who created this?

I've been borderline obsessed with hockey since childhood, and it's all of a sudden become a completely accepted terminology, particularly in arguing why Crosby and Staal should not skate together.

Hockey teams have four lines. Thus, most follow the "four-center model." The fact that the Penguins don't have a true third-line center in the traditional, Eastern Conference, Bobby Holik sense doesn't mean that they need to follow the newly concocted term "three-center model" to right the ship. Load up two lines, and no one remembers or cares who your third center is.

BK: Dejan, what are your thoughts on Gorky's Hernadez• How is he progressing and how does he look moving forward

Dejan Kovacevic: He can't hit at all. I mean at all. Outstanding fielder. No bat.

Mike: Clearly the Pens can win the cup if healthy. Why are you so dead set on breaking up a key strength of the team by making us weaker down the middle and make us top heavy with 2 good lines and 2 checking lines?

Dejan Kovacevic: Because they wouldn't be two good lines. They'd be two outrageous lines.

Also, when people hear this, some assume that Bylsma would rotate four lines. That would be nuts. The third and fourth lines are where you buy your extra ice for Crosby, Malkin and Staal, any of whom is capable of covering a defensive shift.

And thus is born the three-centers-as-six-centers model.

Brian: Will Pitt cut down the nets if they win the CBI• I hope not. I'm thinking they should personally thank each fan in attendance.

Dejan Kovacevic: Basketball• Future tense• They're still playing?

Someone find a wooden stake!

Dejan Kovacevic: It's the Tampa Bay Lightning round, quick Qs, quick As for the last 10 minutes ...

Ulf Samuelson: Do you think that rallying the yinzers to bash Pedro will help the franchise in the long run?

Dejan Kovacevic: If you think that reporting or even offering commentary on how an extremely important player is faring in spring training is some kind of rallying cry to anyone about anything, I'm guessing you haven't been reading me -- or my coverage of Alvarez, specifically -- for very long.

Mikey: Hey Dejan. If Mike Wallace receives an offer sheet from a team, and the Steelers opt to unlikely as it may be, would he be eligible to receive a second offer sheet from another team?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, it's in the Steelers' control. And Kevin Colbert certainly made that clear again this past week.

Chakri: Shouldn't we be looking for more youth at safety with Troy and Ryan both on the wrong side of 30• Remember 2009, when Troy was hurt, we just could not put the teams away in the closing minutes and lost probably 5 games that cost us the playoffs that year.

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, and it's something not many mention. Ryan Mundy isn't young, either.

dillonerd: Are you posting all of these questions/comments about ALL the media on purpose to tell us how annoying some of us are?

Dejan Kovacevic: Only those who do it. Don't misunderstand: I very much AM part of the Pittsburgh media. But I'm only one very small part, just one person. I'm always here or on the blog or on Twitter to answer for my own work. I won't do it for others.

SeanE: Were you surprised that Letang was permitted to return to the game against the Devils recently• He took a good shot to the head and appeared shaken up. Considering his recent history was this wise• Also, are you buying this lower body injury• I am not

Dejan Kovacevic: NHL teams aren't required to disclose specifics of an injury, but neither are they permitted to outright lie about it. What you're charging is that the Penguins are either lying or magnifying something to hide a concussion. That would be pretty serious either way.

But yes, I was surprised Letang popped back out there so quickly. Bylsma insisted all protocol was followed.

PirateApologist: I've been meaning to ask you this ever since the Red Sox had their beer and chicken scandal. Is there alcohol in the Pirates, Penguins, and Steelers post game spreads?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not in locker rooms or clubhouses that I've seen. The Pirates' eating area at PNC is out of our view, but I recently asked about alcohol there, and they said there is none.

Hypocycloid: For your lightning round: who's your Mt. Rushmore of Penguins hockey• I've got Mario, Jagr, Sid and Barrasso.... Too early for Sid• Then we'll put Badger Bob in there...

Dejan Kovacevic: The Penguins had several Hall of Famers you left off in favor of a goaltender who isn't one. It will end up being Malkin instead. It's not ready for carving yet.

Clone Wars: Are you under the impression that Wallace is here for 1 more yr only, but A. Brown will be signed long term?

Dejan Kovacevic: Wallace could still be franchised. Why not two more from him?

But yeah, if you're asking if Brown is a better bet for the long-term deal, it's hard to see that going to Wallace if any small part of him is delusional enough to think he's in Larry Fitzgerald's solar system.

Derek Smith: Pedro Alvarez Update: K number 19, swinging, off Minnesota Twins LHP Matt Maloney - 2011, Maloney went 0-3 with a 9.16 ERA. In 18.2 IP, allowing 36 hits, he had a WHIP of 2.14. Source -

Dejan Kovacevic: NEGATIVE! Stop riling up the yinzers with all your cold, hard, indisputable numbers that come complete with a link!

PirateApologist: Dejan, do you and your media cult...just joking... how many nights off should Fleury get before the playoffs?

Dejan Kovacevic: Honestly, I don't get why he's playing tonight on the Island. Really don't. And I felt the same way Tuesday even before Michael Grabner's 60-foot knuckler.

Fleury has 63 games already and could be needed for two months of killer hockey. The rest of the regular season has a tight schedule. I'm not saying don't use him at all, but let him sit once in a while.

Last one ...

DK: For Steelers, what your position draft order of importance• I would say ILB, NG, OT, RB (which I've believe is the fan consensus)...that said, any chance Steelers surprise all & take a TE in Rd 2?

Dejan Kovacevic: That would be crazy, don't you think• You don't like Weslye Saunders there?

I'll still go with the inside linebacker. Not wild about a high pick on a nose tackle in the 3-4. And I'll talk guard over offensive tackle.

dillonerd: LIGHTENING ROUND!!!! Pitt Football starting QB will be...???

Dejan Kovacevic: Tino Sunseri, probably. No one else is standing out this spring.

tk: What happened to the Winnipeg Jets making the playoffs?

Dejan Kovacevic: It was never an especially talented team, and it really fell apart here the past two weeks. Too bad for my travel agent and that potentially glorious 1-8 matchup.

Thanks to all for participating. Live participant count is 418, so 418 thanks, actually.

Columns run Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the blog is like Jamie Moyer's fastball. Really old, really slow, but you still can't hit it.

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