| Sports

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

Pirates/MLB Videos

By Pittsburgh The Tribune-Review
Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dejan Kovacevic: Hi, all! Apologies for slight delay. Getting settled up here for opener. Away we go ...

Gillen4: Were you surprised to see Mr. Nutting make the top-10 richest owners in baseball•

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, particularly since it isn't close to true. They operated off a false report from five years ago and never did any double-checking. Good stuff.

Slooperman: Are you surprised NBC Sports didn't fire or at least suspend Milbury• For that matter, there was no on-air acknowledgment of that mess during the Tuesday night broadcast.

Dejan Kovacevic: Surprised• No. That's the NHL's mentality, so you can bet the league wasn't going to pressure its rights-holder to do anything about it.

But the fact that there was no on-air acknowledgment -- and I wouldn't expect one Saturday, either -- that's on the network. That's lousy.

For those who missed it, I blogged on this in a rather animated way the other day.

Bruce: If the Steelers do not sign Wallace to a long term contract this year what will they do next year when Antonio Brown's contract runs out?

Dejan Kovacevic: If you mean choosing between the two for a tender/franchise tag, it would be crazy to keep Wallace over Brown. But I keep saying this: I really don't think it will come to that. If you saw KDKA-TV's interview with Ben Roethlisberger this week, that info didn't come across as any sort of sign that Wallace is leaving.

The Steelers want to get something done, and so does the player. That atmosphere tends to lend itself to getting something done.

Big Dave: D.K. What did you think of the lime green at the new Marlin Park• I was wondering about the change in background for the hitter and umpire (I'm one, myself) from the dark area above the centerfield wall to the lime green outfield wall.

Dejan Kovacevic: Really strange. Looked like that "slime" they use in the Kids Choice Awards. Overall, though, I like the approach the Marlins have taken, from adopting Miami to a really interesting color scheme on the uniforms to the Brazilian dancers ... look, they've clearly got to try a little harder.

Jason: How long do you think Alvarez will get, if he struggles, before he gets benched or sent to the minors. And at some point do they consider trading him?

Dejan Kovacevic: Trading• At lowest possible value• Why?

The impression I get, Jason, is that the hook will be a long, long one. The Pirates are going to throw him out there and try to right him at the major-league level. I think that could be better achieved -- for Alvarez -- in the minors. The team clearly doesn't see it that way.

Hockeymn25: Dejan, Do you think the Pens can flip a switch and play D like they did last season when they were without the Two-Headed Monster. I would like to see something like that and then capitalize on the turnovers created which they couldn't do last season.

Dejan Kovacevic: Oddly, I do still think that's possible to an extent. The system is the same, and the personnel aren't that different. It's just going to take a teamwide commitment to making better decisions with the puck ... at ALL parts of the rink.

And this, too: You mention the Monster, and that reminds me that a lot of people seem to be tying this defensive fallback to the return of Sidney Crosby. That's nuts, and the numbers will support it, as will visual evidence. The Penguins have given up too many quality chances all season.

chollister: Hey Dejan - do you think in general, things like the end of the Flyers game, Millburys comments and the Boston victory have taken the focus off of the fact the Pens still havent figured out their defensive issues. Even in the Boston game the amount of odd man breaks, how often and what they were (like a 2 on 0) are baffling to me. Teams are getting 10 times the amount of odd man breaks, i just have never seen anything like it.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm pretty confident they haven't taken away the focus of Dan Bylsma and his staff, which is the only place that counts.

WyattBurp: Masters. Women aren't allowed to be members of the Augusta Golf Club. Isn't that policy archaic in this day and age?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's funny, but just an hour ago, I was reading the AP story about how Saudi Arabia is about to take back its plan to send female athletes to the Olympics for the first time. We turn up our noses at stuff like that, but our slate is hardly clean.

Money for Nutting: DK, any chance you can feed your Twitter account into Facebook for those of us without Twitter?

Dejan Kovacevic: Would you really want that• That would be a LOT of stuff going onto Facebook. I'll listen to what others have to say on this, too.

Jeff King: What do you see as the biggest overall stumbling block in the success of the Bucs this year - a weak offense or the starting pitching staff?

Dejan Kovacevic: They're hard to separate, but I generally see the starting pitching as better than the offense. Still, the Pirates would suffer far more greatly if the starting pitching went south rather than the offense.

Does that make any sense?

To a large extent, this season hinges on Charlie Morton and James McDonald becoming fully viable major-league starters as much as anything.

Tom: Will the Steelers lack of free agent acquisitions for the second year begin to affect their draft strategy• Would they really be able to select an offensive tackle, if available, knowing that he will ride the pine this year when a nose tackle or ILB could get significant playing time. Is losing players to FA but not getting any return beginning to change our draft from selecting best available to need based?

Dejan Kovacevic: The second year• More like the 80th year!

Kevin Colbert has spelled it out in virtual sky-writing: The Steelers are going to look to solve their problems internally. Even when Willie Gay was lost as a starting corner, the immediate answer was to give chances to Keenan Lewis, Curtis Brown or Cortez Allen. That's how this is going to go.

You might see a bargain type get signed. They are still talking to some linemen. But let's not get overly surprised in any year the Steelers pass on free agency. It's just not how they do things.

Will: How important do you think it is for the Steelers to re-sign Cotchery

Dejan Kovacevic: Not supremely, but very. I wouldn't want to go into a season counting on Emmanuel Sanders to stay healthy all season, let's put it that way.

Tim in KY: DK - how "hurt" do you really think Chris Leroux is• Do other clubs play their DL placements this way, or are the Pirates unusual in this way?

Dejan Kovacevic: You mean playing the DL placements in a way where a guy who has a rather severe tear of a pectoral muscle is shut down from 3-4 weeks of throwing before he can even begin rehab?

Come on, guys. Not everything is some conspiracy.

You'll read much more about Leroux in our coverage from Rob Biertempfel.

FreeTankCarter: What's a better day than Opening Day?

Dejan Kovacevic: I really like Light-Up Night, but I'm weird like that.

This day really is special, though. You can just feel it when you wake up. Readers of the blog know that I was out driving around after midnight last night, partly to blast some Vapors in the vehicle but also to check out PNC Park and what was going on.

It's a good day. And just beautiful out here right now.

Most surprising so far: Not many Philly fans at all.

RPK: Dejan, Paul Martin continues to be beaten badly on a regular basis. Does the coaching staff not see this or do they they have to keep giving him quality ice time because he is so grossly overpaid. Guaranteed, he will cost this team dearly in the playoffs.

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, he will. Martin's play is getting past the point of reasonable analysis. He did have a nice stretch for two or three weeks there, but he's right back to turnstile mode right now. I know there are more subtle things that he does well, but defensemen aren't judged by subtle things. They're judged by goals allowed for which they're responsible.

It's too late now, but I'll repeat what I wrote a month ago: I would have loved to see Simon Despres get a full month of big games under his belt to have been a real option for the playoffs. The Penguins' coaches will say he's not ready defensively, but that's a striking statement in the broader context of who's out there now.

Frank: The Neal lower body seemed to come out of the blue. Any word on what the injury is• Will it be nagging throughout the playoffs or just in need of a short break?

Dejan Kovacevic: Remember that the guy is playing on a broken foot. And, even though everyone else has forgotten about it, it seems, it actually does cause Neal discomfort.

If it's the foot, I'm 1,000 percent in favor of the Penguins shutting him down. This is the time. Home ice doesn't matter at all in this matchup.

Tim in KY: Go Pirates?!• sheesh...LETS GO BUCS!!!!!!

Dejan Kovacevic: Honestly.

For those who don't know what Tim's talking about, I tweeted this morning that someone in the City of Pittsburgh's office tweeted fans to encourage them to say "Go Pirates!"

Who says that?

mattlock: Is Matt Hague going to get enough playing time to warrant him being on the big league squad?

Dejan Kovacevic: Sounds like a lot of folks need to take a deep breath as it relates to Hague. He had a wonderful spring. That's nice. He also took until he was 26 to reach the majors, hit only 12 home runs in 534 Class AAA at-bats last season and has never even been big on doubles.

I'm not ripping him. Glad he's here. But let's not blow this into something else.

Paul: Taking out our own hometown bias from Millbury's rant this week, what is you view on how it affects him as a "neutral" and "objective" commentator for primetime games• Doesn't it seriously hinder his analysis of any game now that the Penguins are playing?

Dejan Kovacevic: Really, Paul, I went into the guy in the blog and left nothing unturned. It's all there.

I'll just add this: The Penguins are angrier than they've let on. And trust me when I've tell you that runs all the way to the very top of the organization. The NHL knows this. NBC knows this. The ball's in their court right now.

But don't hold your breath.

WyattBurp: Gregg Williams. NFL is a violent game, but bounties cross the line into blood sport. Why is it that the apologists always come to the defense of authority figures that cross that line?

Dejan Kovacevic: Did you read the stuff from this morning from the audio that was uncovered of Williams talking to the Saints?

Anyone who's still on the fence on this issue needs to hear it.

The guy's just vicious. No place for it. Not in football, not in any sport.

If only the NFL hadn't taken so ridiculously long to take the subject seriously, it might never have gotten this bad.

LuckyNKentucky: C'mon DK. No conspiracy noise. How suspicious is a torn pec when the guy tears it the night before we might lose him• Seems like Pedro going out for rehab last season for 20 days and other select injuries. Seems fishy. We're not implying a conspiracy. We'll figure something else out for that!

Dejan Kovacevic: He's not even THROWING for 3-4 weeks before he can begin rehab. If you think there's a player out there willing to go along with a ploy like that, I don't really know what else to say.

AC: Is it unreasonable to say that the Pens would be better off without home ice against the Flyers• I don't have the numbers but they (particularly Sid) seem to thrive playing in Philly.

Dejan Kovacevic: Normally, I'd shrug off the history, but this is a little too stark. They teach you not to bet against streaks. If the Penguins go to Philly, as you point out, they've been eminently comfortable there, with or without Sid. Might work out best.

Ryan in Denmark: Regardless of this post-season, Paul Martin or Zbynek Michaelek, traded this post-season?

Dejan Kovacevic: I guess it's possible. I'm not sure I wholly believe it, but the Penguins talk like they could actually get something for Martin given the dearth of defensemen around the NHL.

Let's start the Lightning Round. My clock is ticking up here before first pitch ...

PensCup2012: Dejan, does it concern you that Berube has basically declared open warfare on Crosby• I mean, as a player he had a real nasty side, will that translate to the Flyers taking headshots at Sid if they meet in the playoffs?

Dejan Kovacevic: Maybe he should ask Gregg Williams for advice.

Burghman: Do the Penguins get past the 1st round?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. They're more talented than the Flyers and equally hungry. I'll take the talent in that equation 100 times out of 100.

Brian: When will we see Starling Marte in a Bucs uniform?

Dejan Kovacevic: September.

ESPN Research Department: Who do you think wins the Series this year: Yankees• Red Sox• Other?

Dejan Kovacevic: Angels.

George: Have we seen the last of the 5 forwards PP ?

Dejan Kovacevic: We can only hope! Things looked a little more fluid in Boston, didn't they?

Sid: Dejan, Would the Steelers benefit from trading DOWN in the draft to pick up Hightower and possibly another 2nd round pick• Or trade UP to grab DeCastro?• Thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not sure why they'd have to trade down to get Hightower. Seems a risk if that's the guy you want. The one who's stock has been falling is Poe, not Hightower.

RPK: Dejan, is someone impersonating Brooks Orpik in a Pens uniform• I can't remember the last time that guy threw a meaningful check, and he should get a backup alarm on his skates to let the goalie know he's backing up instead of stepping up.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll second the motion, but I'll also add that he's out there with a once-again unconfident Zybnek Michalek.

JayH: Why would MLB put an already struggling franchise in a deeper hole by giving them the worlds toughest schedule in April• 6 Cy Young candidates in the first ten games?

Dejan Kovacevic: The computer that does the schedule isn't exactly Deep Thought. It just works through travel arrangements and the like. Very little human involvement.

Tony: Optimism and opening day are synonymous. The prevailing question surrounding the Pirates is whether 2012 will bring 82 wins. We can only hope, but I worry whether 2012 will bring progress over 2011. The most important strength od

Dejan Kovacevic: Lost the rest of your entry there, Tony, but I'll repeat from the blog today that I'm picking 79-83 out of respect to the 1997 Freak Show. I don't see a 10-game improvement. Not with the bottom half of this order.

yinzer in va: Do you ever wonder "What if the Pirates won 2 more games in '97• What if they won 3 more games?" 14 years of losing is a whole lot better than 19, and we still wouldn't be the record holder for most consecutive losing seasons of the 4 major sports leagues.

Dejan Kovacevic: That 1997 team already immensely overachieved, so no, I really don't think of them that way.

Tony: In order for the Pirates to improve on 2011, starting pitching must be superb as their batting lineup is not good enough to carry this team. Perhaps as large a question as their starting pitching (and this is a question mark) is how the Pirates deal with Alvarez. How long management sticks with an underperforming Alvarez will also have a major impact on their season and perhaps the fate of Mr. h

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, that's especially true in April, beginning in less than an hour. These opposing pitchers the Pirates are facing -- and the pitcher-friendly ballparks out West -- are going to ensure that a light-hitting offense won't produce much. The Pirates can't give up much, either.

Money for Nutting: Thoughts on Joe Flacco, best QB in the NFL• I've seen some respecting it as confidence, but isn't this just delusional• Confidence is thinking you will win the next game or the Super Bowl...saying you're the best when there is plenty of evidence you are not is a delusion.

Dejan Kovacevic: I went and found the full context of Flacco's remarks on Baltimore radio and didn't take nearly as much issue with them once I did. He answered that he feels he's the best QB because he has to feel that way to take a healthy level of confidence onto the field with him.

He's still better off shutting up about it, but it's not a bad thought to have.

Guest: Do you get the feeling that Pedro's struggles are all mechanical or is there a mental aspect to this• Also, I am wondering about Hague making the club. I wonder might he be better served starting in the minors• Will he get enough swings in the show?

Dejan Kovacevic: The mental leads to the mechanical. They're never separated. When you start doubting yourself as a hitter, coaches will tell you, you'll start changing stuff or forcing stuff. He's doing all that.

Wouldn't it be hysterical, by the way, if he ended up having some huge opener?

FreeTankCarter: Is Erik Bedard the greatest Pirates' Opening Day starter in the PNC Park era?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ask me at 4 p.m. Still would have liked to see Jeff Karstens out there.

Turner Ward: Do you remember when Tom Gorzelanny had a spring ERA in the 10 range, but still made the rotation and pitched really well for the season• Do you think Pedro Alvarez is in that category or is it really time to start worrying that he can't hit major league pitching?

Dejan Kovacevic: Exactly. Nice comparison. Gorzelanny was a total mess that spring, too. The numbers weren't fluky.

Jandy: Do you expect to see Bill from Blawnox at the game today?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, multiplied by many thousands.

BlitzburghBrian: Your pick to win the Stanley Cup?

Dejan Kovacevic: If I say Pittsburgh, I'll sound like a homer. So let me throw Nashville into the mix, too. It won't be easy getting past the Wings in the first round, but that kind of clears the road a bit, too.

Guest: Losing season in 2012 = Huntington jobless?

Dejan Kovacevic: It won't help. Real improvement is expected. But then, other talk of accountability has vaporized in recent years, too, so ...

One more today ...

FreeTankCarter: Ultimate Opening Day omen: Pedro Alvarez game-winning home run shatters the Pirates Charities sign.

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, that would require quite a right turn after the foul pole, but what they hey ... I won't resist on that one much.

Thanks to all for participating, and happy Opening Day to one and all.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Steelers

  1. Steelers offense learning to slam door
  2. Steelers-Bengals game to start at 8:30 p.m.
  3. Steelers notebook: Gay respects ‘anything’ referees call
  4. Rossi: Steelers rising fast in mediocre AFC
  5. Heyward, swarming defense get best of Chiefs in Steelers’ win
  6. Steelers defensive game changer: Fourth-down stop thwarts Chiefs
  7. Missed chances haunt Chiefs against Steelers
  8. Steelers clinch trip to postseason with big victory over Chiefs
  9. Chiefs notebook: Trip not intentional, Walker maintains
  10. Steelers, young and old, thirst for opportunity to reach the postseason
  11. Steelers notebook: Brown leads WRs in Pro Bowl voting, Bell 2nd at RB
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.