Pirates Q&A with Dejan Kovacevic

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Q: Dejan, I know this is the Pirates Q&A, but I have a general baseball question: What is your take on the Hall of Fame vote outcome?

I don't know how to feel. Technically, Mark McGwire should be considered innocent until proven guilty and nothing was ever proven. On the other hand, his non-testimony in front of the grand jury was very revealing.

Regardless, he was one of the most exciting players of my generation, and whether he had been voted in or not, it's sad the way things have turned out since his retirement.

Mike Scheimer of Uptown, Pittsburgh

KOVACEVIC: First, Mike, let me point out in response to other emails that I am a long ways off -- seven years, actually -- from having a Hall vote, so take my opinion on this within that context. For those who asked, the current members of the Post-Gazette staff with votes are baseball writer Paul Meyer, football writer Ed Bouchette and columnists Ron Cook, Gene Collier and Bob Smizik. There also are some former members of our staff still voting.

As for how I feel about it ...

The McGwire testimony -- which was in front of a congressional committee, actually, and not a grand jury -- was about as damning as could be under the circumstances, I agree. But I really feel too much emphasis is placed on this and not nearly enough on some excellent investigative reporting by the New York Daily News that came out a few days earlier. Read that, and you might see why I roll my eyes when anyone says or writes that the only evidence against McGwire is his testimony.

Should suspected steroids users be punished by Hall voters? In my view, no, at least not in the strictest view of the term "punished." This is not about making McGwire feel lousy or trying to extract a confession or apology. Plain and simple, it is about following to the letter the notion that those elected to the Hall be held to the highest possible standard, not only of performance but also of contributions to the game. And, in that sense, yes, the voters should keep these players out of the Hall. The damage done to the credibility of the game by McGwire and others far outweighs his overall achievements, I think, as well as his role in the much-ballyhooed summer of 1998. (And please, can we dispense with the preposterous notion that McGwire and Sammy Sosa somehow saved the game that year? Baseball is not now, nor will it ever be, a game that needs to be saved from anything. It is a vital, inextractable part of the American life that would have found one way or another to rebound from 1994. The only thing that was killed by 1994 was baseball in Montreal.)

Sure, pitchers were juiced, too, and McGwire undoubtedly hit a bunch of those home runs off fellow cheaters. Two wrongs do not make a right. He cheated and, therefore, should be treated as a cheater. So should any pitchers who are reasonably identified as such.

A final thought on this: Willie Stargell hit 475 home runs, all with your Pittsburgh Baseball Club. And a great part of his legacy, as those of us who grew up watching him will recall fondly, was the tape-measure distance of so many of those shots. Remember the seat markings at Three Rivers for his upper-deck blasts? And in Philadelphia, too? Well, McGwire became known, in his heyday, just as much for his distance as his volume of home runs, and this bothers me even more than his brief hold on the season record. Why should Stargell, Babe Ruth, Josh Gibson and the like have their extraordinary legacies for majestic home runs be diminished in any way by someone who stuffed himself with chemicals?

Q: Dejan, did you get the impression from Dave Littlefield's comments in the Tuesday Post-Gazette that he is softening his stance on trading one of the four young starters? Public outcry or influence here? I would give up Paul Maholm in a sec for Adam LaRoche. We have enough soft-throwing lefties.

Ross Sacco of New York

KOVACEVIC: Yes, actually, I did see it that way, Ross.

Given that Littlefield does not divulge specifics of potential player moves, I try as best as I can to track when he cites something general that is a departure from the past. No, Littlefield never has ruled the starters untouchable, so that was not new. And yes, he did say stuff similar to that previously. But there was something extra to this one, some added emphasis, it seemed to me. Not sure how better to explain it.

Until tomorrow, by which point maybe someone can explain to me what this white stuff on the ground is ...


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