Predict the Eastern Conference final. Who's gonna win it?
Jerry Micco: Welcome to the weekly chat everyone. I'll be back in a few to officially open things up, in the meantime, please submit early questions and vote in our poll. See you in a bit!
The Chief: Jerry, hi hope you had a good week. Speaking of predictions who you got in tonight's original six game seven between the Blackhawks and Red Wings?
Jerry Micco: Hello Chief. I had a very good week, thank you. I like Chicago, even though Detroit is a very tough out. I think the Blackhawks depth and ability to score trump Detroit's goaltending and defensive strength. But, as everyone anticipates, it'll be very close.
barry: What abt James Mcdonald?? can't pitch, can't send down, fear of losing him, what to do with him??
Jerry Micco: You can always extend him on the DL if you think he's not ready. Certainly an enigmatic guy. First half of last season, he was lights out. But then collapsed and it followed him into this year. I don't think the Pirates can afford to give up on any starting pitching. You really don't know if guys like Locke, Liriano and Gomez are going to make it through an entire season. It's why a guy like Morton is so valuable and why you can't give up on JMac. The depth is needed as the season goes forward.
The Chief: I believe the Penguins will dispatch the Bruins in five if they stay disciplined and don't get into a physical game with Boston, your thoughts?
Jerry Micco: I think the Penguins are the better team. But I think it's going to take 6 or 7. And it's going to be very tough. Boston is going to force the physical issue, but the Pens cannot allow a drop off in special teams. For example, the Bruins have a very good PK. Pens can't allow a short-handed goal, and their PK has to be excellent. The Bruins are waves above who the Penguins have played thus far in the playoffs.
James: Jeanmar Gomez is having a great season. I am thinking about getting a Gomez shirt. I always love the underdogs.
Jerry Micco: Well, I hope that shirt is good for a few years. Gomez, like Locke has been a surprise as a starter. Better than anyone thought he'd be. Last night's game against a first-rate Tigers ballclub was as well-pitched a game as any I've seen from the Pirates this year. And Grilli in the 11th was electrifying.
James_Pittsburgh: It might be nice to keep James McDonald, but you can't keep a guy on the Major League roster if he loses you games.
Jerry Micco: Which may be why they keep him on the DL. I'd have argued harder they absolutely had to have him for the second half as a starter, but I'm not going to do that now. However, there are some question marks, and if JMac can turn it around in the next month, he'd be worth keeping in my opinion.
James_Pittsburgh: Other than the need to find a shortstop, I love this Pirates team. I hope Neil Huntington can work his magic at the trade deadline or in the offseason.
Jerry Micco: Shortstops aren't easy to find, but the Pirates likely will try in this draft with either the 9th or 14th pick. Barmes seems to be slowly leaking in the field, though his bat has picked up some. Mercer is intriguing, but not sure he can play short every day. He's more a second baseman. But you've hit on a sore point for the Bucs and they have to resolve it in some way the rest of the season since a draft pick will be years before he comes up to the big club.
barry: Kasrsten, is he a 3 million $ bust?? Hasn't pitched well since aug 2011??Has had arm problems since.
Jerry Micco: Certainly looks like he's not going to be around for at least half of this season. Be a shame, too. He's a nice guy to have on the club for spot starts and bullpen work.
Ken: Jerry, Root does it's fair share of Pirate promotion and propaganda, but it crosses the line when we hear things like "Charlie Morton was on the verge stardom before he got hurt". Can we at least some accurate, critical analysis sometime? Root's angles can be inaccurate and insulting to serious baseball fans.
Jerry Micco: I'm not sure who works for whom at ROOT, but I believe Greg Brown and Tim Nevrette work for the Pirates and the others work for ROOT. So you know going in you're going to get a bit of the home team angle. And Morton was doing very well before his injury. On the brink of stardom? OK, that's a stretch.
James_Pittsburgh: Did you read Tom Verducci's recent article about the use of relievers? I think it shows that there is too much group think in Major League Baseball. Also, I think that if Clint Hurdle was smart, he would try to hold Jason Grilli out of future games that the Pirates are winning by three runs in the ninth inning. The Pirates are in a pennant race and need to keep Grilli and Melancon fresh for key situations.
Jerry Micco: I did not read Tom's piece, but maybe I'll check it online. I've heard Hurdle say there are certain days when Grilli will not pitch regardless of situation. He's trying to manage the bullpen and is cognizant of how much work those guys have done. But the situation you describe in your statement is exactly spot on. Those situations you should leave to the Vin Mazzaro's of your bullpen.
barry: Morton last time had trouble with batters batting left. Do you think the coach has helped him with that problem??
Jerry Micco: I think pitching coaches work with pitchers all the time. They have 4 days between starts, so I hope there's some video and bullpen work going on. I'm sure it is.
James_Pittsburgh: With the Pirates budget restraints, does Neil Walker become a salary causality this offseason or the next? Jordy Mercer can become the second baseman and the Pirates can use the money they are paying Barmes and Walker to land a shortstop. I am all for keeping Walker, but the Pirates are not the Phillies are the Yankees and do have a tight budget.
Jerry Micco: I think Walker is playing for a contract extension this season. Last night's performance didn't hurt him. But I've thought the same thing. If they think Mercer can play second and put up Walker like numbers, which in my mind are in the 15/75-80 range for HR/RBIs, then you could let Walker go and try to sign a shortstop. But I don't think they plan on letting Walker go. Just a hunch, nothing more.
John T.: Jerry, when will the Pirates stop signing and using over the hill players like McDonald and Contreas at the expense of younger and better palyers. How can Hurdle say they have the best 25 players on the team when they send Morris down and keep a wasked of Contreas?
Jerry Micco: Well, the Morris demotion lasted a day, so there's that. Sometimes, veterans are great pickups because they are experienced and they usually come cheap. Sometimes it works out (Melancon, Liriano) and sometimes not (McDonald, Contreras).
The Chief: On the NBA front looks like the Pacers are giving the Heat all they can handle. Are LaBron and his mates in trouble?
Jerry Micco: I don't think so, but the Pacers will give them a fight to the end. I just think Miami is too good and has the best player in the game anchoring them. It may take all 7 games, but Miami will make it to the finals.
Guest: Complaint Department: It's obvious that some writers are taking calls during chats and one in particular can't conceal contempt for the participants and the chat itself. Not very professional. Can this be addressed?
Jerry Micco: If you want to email me specifics at firstname.lastname@example.org, I can try to answer. And sometimes, phone calls are business calls that need to be answered. We do our best to set aside time for chats to interact with readers, but if there's an important business call, we at least want to see if we can call back or they can call back. As for contempt, that's a word that's overused. How about this person has short, snappy answers because he has so many questions it's hard to get to all of them.
James_Pittsburgh: Here is the link to Tom's article. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mlb/news/20130528/closers-struggling-chris-perez-jonathan-papelbon-mariano-rivera/
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, there will be no decent free agents on the market this winter. Here is your list of free agent shortstops this winter: Alfredo Amezaga (36)
Clint Barmes (35)
Yuniesky Betancourt (32)
Willie Bloomquist (36)
Jamey Carroll (40) - $2MM vesting option with a $250K buyout
Alexi Casilla (29) -$3MM club option with $200K buyout
Stephen Drew (31)
Yunel Escobar (31) - $5MM club option
Rafael Furcal (36)
Jerry Micco: So you may see a situation where Mercer plays shortstop in Winter ball and all of spring training to at least be serviceable at the position. If they want his bat in the lineup, that's the least disruptive way to do it.
The Chief: St Louis appears to be bringing up Michael Wacha to help their depleted pitching corps. Belive he was the Cards first round pick last year. is he Stephen Strasburg or David Clyde?
Jerry Micco: Gosh, that's hard to say at this point. There are very few Strasburg's. Very few. I guess we'll see how Wacha does. But the Cardinals are absolutely on fire.
Chunkles: I recently saw a special on the 83 NFL draft and it was what it was, Elway was a SC surfer punk and Dan the Man was the typical Aww shucks Pittsburgh Kid. It still pains me to believe that the Rooneys, such great football minds, would pass on Marino. Bradshaw, IF he would have stayed healthy had about three years left in him. What was the future at QB? This was a major blunder. Yes, they eventually went on to win two more Super Bowls with Ben but I think Dan could have got them 1 or 2 if he were a Steeler. What a disappointment.
Jerry Micco: Seems the Steelers passed on Marino because they thought Dan needed a change of scenery from Pittsburgh. Rumors dogged Marino through his days at Pitt and maybe the Steelers thought there was some fire to them, I have no idea even though I watched the special twice. And it made sense to take Rivera if you weren't taking Marino. Tragic end to his career, but I think he'd have been a very good DL.
praveen: What a ridiculous schedule for the eastern conference finals. NBC could have still gotten two weekend games(assuming the series most probably goes at least 5) if they scheduled a Thursday -Saturday Game 1 and 2. And they would have still avoided concert conflicts with the arenas. Now Games 6 and 7 scheduled to be back and back? Doesn't NBC pay very little for the rights?
Jerry Micco: NBC just signed a pretty good rights agreement with the NHL, that has actual money in it. It's nothing like the other 3 pro leagues, but very good for the NHL and NBC. I'm trying to remember if the second Pens-Wings Cup final had back to back game 6 and 7. I can't recall, but I thought it did. And TV will always be the final say on these things. They pay the freight.
Mat: Hello Jerry. What is your opinion on fighting in hockey? Should it be banned?
Jerry Micco: I think it's such a part of the sport at the NHL level that to take it out could take out a part of the game. However, I don't think it would completely turn off fans if it was gradually done. For instance, make the penalties/suspensions more strict for fighting over a couple of seasons and then ban it. If you notice in the playoffs, outside of the Ottawa-Montreal series, very few fights. The game can be played without fisticuffs, but I think the league needs to gradually curb it back, which it has done before.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, if the Pirates can get Clint Barmes to sign for $2 million, I think we will see him in a Pirates uniform in 2014. He will be the veteran utility infielder.
Jerry Micco: That could happen. I could see that. For that price, that's really peanuts in today's baseball. And Barmes can play SS or 2B.
James_Pittsburgh: Do you see the Los Angeles Kings or Chicago Blackhawks stopping the Penguins? I don't think the Bruins have a chance.
Jerry Micco: I could see the Blackhawks have a better chance to do that than the Kings because Chicago can score and his terrific depth, much like the Penguins. I think they are similar teams. The big question for me in this series and what I'll be watching: Can Vokoun hold up at this level? And will we see Fleury's return?
James_Pittsburgh: I know it is too early to ponder this, but what do you think about the early speculation of Fluery being traded in the offseason? It is a big risk, but with the salary cap being reduced, Ray Shero will have to make some hard decisions.
Jerry Micco: They do get to unload one veteran salary as part of the CBA, so they could do that without a trade. I really don't see him being traded. I think the Penguins want to keep him because in the long run, they still see him as a franchise goalie. And if you think good shortstops are hard to find, try finding franchise goalies. Not very easy.
Phil: I remember, maybe soon after he retired, feeling sorry for Noll because he hated the limelight, but he said publicly that the rumors scared the Steelers away from Marino. Period. He came under fire from Marino himself.
Jerry Micco: I don't recall that, but I will not dispute what you say. I also realize Marino's senior season wasn't as good as his junior season, but everyone could see he was a terrific QB and should have been a top 10 pick. But sometimes things gets started and spread quickly whether they have basis or not. I wasn't around here for Marino's playing years a Pitt, so I can't even venture into that area.
praveen: In the 30-30 special on ESPN, I think the sticking with Bradshaw intertia factor played a bigger role with the Steelers not taking Marino over the shady rumors about possible drug use. Dan Rooney's brother (so many Arts, forget which Art he would be) mentioned that they loved Marino.
Jerry Micco: Art Jr., Dan's brother, said that. And I think that's part of the answer. They did think they had 3 good years of Bradshaw left and that likely played into the Marino decision.
Guest: Would you trade for Andre Eithier? Can this Pirate team be improved through a big trade?
Jerry Micco: Holy cow, what would the Dodgers want? Alvarez? I think Eithier is a terrific player despite a down year. He'd start every game in RF. I just don't see the Dodgers dealing him.
The Chief: Marion's senior season at Pitt should have been a National Championship, but I believe they ended up 8-3, very underachieving. I remember Marino begging the Steelers to keep him in Pittsburgh at his Dapper Dan acceptance speech!
Jerry Micco: And I'm sure they took a hard look at him. But it's still amazing that all those teams passed on Marino when they knew they were getting a very good QB. Of course, how many teams, how many times, passed on Tom Brady? But Brady didn't have Marino's track record in college, either.
Guest: As an ex-player does Hurdle have a bias to keeping veterans on his roster, like Contreras, Inge?
Jerry Micco: I think Hurdle likes proven guys, and he sees those players as proven. Most managers, unless they are thrown into a complete youth movement, would rather have veterans around than call-ups. I think most coaches in any sport would like to have that, or at least a good mix of vets and younger players.
Bill L: I, for one, wish we could get away from the Clint Barmes signing now and in the fututre. He grounded weakly into a double play last night. His offense is terrible. I'd like to know what game people are watching when they talk about him as if he is a gold glove canidate also. Last night he threw a ball wide of first base putting a runner on second base in a tight game. I think he should be demoted into strictly a reserve role.
Jerry Micco: I don't think that's going to happen, though I agree that his play in the field has slipped some this season. That, to me, was the reason to keep him in the lineup. I'm sure Barmes will be a storyline as the season goes on. If they keep winning with him in there, Hurdle will stick with him. Unless they think Mercer can do the job in the field, which I think right now is an iffy proposition.
praveen: Is Colbert's offseason strategy is simply to pray that the team does not get hit with a SINGLE injury this offseason? THey are lacking any quality depth in many key areas. They still have enough to make the SB as the league has very few great teams this year and all it takes is a couple of upsets. But they better be lucky enough to avoid injuries.
Jerry Micco: There is still time to add people to help depth. There will be guys released after minicamps and you'll see them scouring the waiver lines during training camp for guys who could be special team players. But if, say, Ben goes down, then they are pretty much kaput.
JamesinNYC: Brady wasn't even going to play if it hadn't been for the injury.
Jerry Micco: Exactly. Not hightly touted at Michigan, but showed he could adapt to the pro game and have a Hall of Fame career.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, what is your biggest area of concern when watching the Pirates? The Pirates are 8th in the National League in runs scored.
Jerry Micco: To me, it's all about pitching, though I'm a bit concerned no one in the starting lineup is hitting .300. That said, it's pitching and can it hold up. Especially can the bullpen hold up. It'll always be about pitching -- starting and bullpen -- to me.
praveen: Disco Dan - one of the most boring press conferences by a Penguins coach? He seems to have that perpetual diplomatic even keeled expression.
Jerry Micco: Just wants to get through them and get back to other stuff. Coaches, by and large, aren't great at press relations. But they know it's part of the job they are required to do.
Guest: Ethier is unhappy and so are the Dodgers, saw a report he was on the trading block and the Pirates are one of the teams who could be interested.
Jerry Micco: I'd be sky high interested if I were the Pirates. But what if the Dodgers said they wanted Cole or Taillon? Or Marte and one of those pitchers? The Pirates would have to give up quite a bit to get him. But I'd be very tempted to make that trade. I think.
The Chief: Dodgers do have an abundance of outfielders , especially with Yusel Puig raking in the minor leagues. However the Dodger I would target is Dee Gordon, slick fielding shortstop.
Jerry Micco: I'm sure the Pirates are looking at a lot of shortstops. I don't think the Dodgers would trade Gordon, though. As I said earlier, shortstops, good ones, are very hard to find.
praveen: Looking back at old Bruins-Pens clips, i forgot how the Pens veered away so much from their black and gold color scheme and are more of an Anaheim type black and light yellow color scheme. We need to claim that black and yellow/gold throne.
Jerry Micco: I'm trying to imagine those unis in high-def. Yowza, time to get my shades on.
The Chief: Speaking of the '83 Steelers, could todays team be compared to that team. A group of aging veterans, coming off a great run of championships?
Jerry Micco: Could be. They are going to need a lot to go their way to make a big run this year. But someone earlier said the NFL lacks great teams, which I agree with. So if you can knock off Baltimore or Cincy twice in a season, maybe you snatch the division and then make your playoff run. NFL's funny like that.
Ken: Re: Not drafting Marino--remember they already had a #1 draft pick Mark Malone on the roster too, who turned out to be incapable, but actually had one good year in '84 and helped Stallworth get into Canton.
Jerry Micco: I had forgotten about that, great point, Ken.
Guest: How big a factor is Chara in this series, does he neutralize Sidney?
Jerry Micco: Chara will play Crosby tough as he always does, but I don't think any one player can neutralize Crosby. Not the Crosby I've seen this year when he's been 100 percent. Chara will certainly be a presence at both ends, but Crosby will be, too. I just think this is a terrific series with excellent teams. Be fun to watch and cover.
James_Pittsburgh: I think the Pirates need to add an veteran reliever. As I said last week, I would love to see the Pirates add a starter under contract for 2014 since they won't be able afford a decent free agent pitcher. I could even see Cole being used as a reliever in August and September if the current starters continue to pitch well.
Jerry Micco: Pitching depth will be huge because as I stated earlier, I am more concerned about pitching derailing the Pirates than the bats. So you might see a deal to get a reliever that can add the necessary depth.
James_Pittsburgh: You cannot compare the 1983 Steelers to the 2013 Steelers. I read that the Steelers have the youngest offense in the league as well as the oldest defense. Ben and LeVeon Bell will have to step it up as well as Antonio Brown and Weaton.
Jerry Micco: A lot of questions to be answered by this year's team, as I said earlier. Many things have to come together for them to make a run. Otherwise, I see an 8-8 team out there. Though I'm very interested in seeing how Le'Veon Bell does. RBs can usually have some impact as rookies unlike most WRs.
The Chief: Jerry, who you got on the Pen's third and fourth lines when the puck drops?
Jerry Micco: Well, the third should be Cooke-Sutter-Kennedy. My fourth is Adams-Jokinen-Morrow. With Bennett and Vitale ready to go for Jokinen/Morrow should there need to be a change.
Phil: Beginning to look like the end for Tabata? That team friendly contract won't be so team friendly when his salary gets increased to 4 million.
Jerry Micco: I believe you may be right. Hard to justify it especially if you don't see him doing a straight platoon with Snider in RF so he can get some sufficient ABs. Too bad, because I thought he'd be a great addition and maybe be the leadoff or No. 2 hitter then needed. Now, I'm not sure he isn't gone at the trade deadline.
JamesinNYC: Agree or not Steelers have a chance so long as Ben is healthy any given year. Was listening to Sirus NFL and they were talking about how the Saints were moving to the 3-4 and part of the reason was old 4-3 that the Giants used and they had was too complicated. But not too complicated for the Giants, same could be said for the Steelers system and shows that systems need understanding to work, and allow older players to use their smarts to stick around.
Jerry Micco: Team has played the 3-4 for what, about 30 years? It's ingrained in their philosophy so they are adept at playing it. And I think it's a more flexible defense that allows you do do more things. And a guy like Dick LeBeau is a master at that.
Jerry Micco: OK folks, time for me to head off to other duties. Thanks, so much, for taking the time with me today. Great stuff and as always, a great chat. I'll be back at noon next Wednesday for more. Have a terrific week and enjoy watching all the great events going on in Pittsburgh and around the country. See you soon! Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco