Q: Dejan, is it time to let the Pirates off the hook for spending that last $11 million this year? I do not see what they can get that will be of significant help to this year's team, and that money might come in mighty handy when it counts. Maybe they could bury it under second base in a capsule that says DO NOT OPEN UNTIL 2009.
Jamie Martin of Salina, Kansas
KOVACEVIC: You might have read, Jamie, that Bob Nutting acknowledged on the final day of PirateFest that the team just might apply that money toward a mid-season trade rather than anything that is out there now, while also stressing that such a decision is up to Dave Littlefield. That, along with other vibes I have picked up, have me believing this is the way this is going to play out.
As for letting them off the hook ... well, there are all kinds of discussions and debates about the team's finances, and we certainly have enough of those here that a rehash is not in order. But I share your view, obviously, that accountability -- to the paying public as well as to those who put on the uniform and want to know that ownership is doing all it can -- is extremely important in terms of establishing some credibility. I also agree about the importance of 2009. I strongly suspect that, even if money goes unspent now, not many will find fault with ownership so long as key pieces are kept from leaving as free agents.
That, of course, is a long time from now, but it did not stop a somewhat similar question from coming on the same day ...
Q: Hey, Dejan. I know it's hard to judge the volatile market of baseball contracts, but just how much money do you think it will take to keep this team together when it comes around to the 2009 season? I think a conservative guess would be the $70 million-$80 million range.
Jon Vitullo of Clairton
KOVACEVIC: Well, first, Jon, I think the emphasis on 2009 is after that baseball season, not before it. Every significant player on the current roster is either signed to that point, has a club option or has his rights retained through arbitration. After that season is another story entirely.
I think Jason Bay alone will blow your figure out of the water. If Chase Utley is a $15 million-a-year player -- as he will be for the final four years of the seven-year deal he just signed with the Phillies -- then ... wow, what is Bay?
And what if any of the four young pitchers blossoms? If Gil Meche is getting $11 million a year, what might Ian Snell get? And where will the other three be in arbitration?
I am not going to come up with a figure for you, but I will advise anyone who wants to give it a shot to be sure to include Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Brad Lincoln into the mix as regular contributors who would be making close to the minimum wage. Probably Brian Bixler, too, in some capacity.
Q: Dejan, I just wanted to say that I completely agree with your thoughts Monday on Jack Wilson. There are certain guys on our professional sports franchises that are just plain Pittsburgh guys. Hines Ward and Alan Faneca come to mind when thinking of the Steelers, and Jack Wilson clearly stands out when thinking of the Pirates. His leadership is crucial to the Pirates turning the corner, and his work ethic and tenure with the team give him every right to speak his mind and take control of the clubhouse.
Doug Chrisner of Point Breeze, Pittsburgh
KOVACEVIC: You know what, Doug? It is clear to me now that the initial wave of Wilson e - mails I received over the weekend did not reflect the overall feeling of the readership, and it was that initial wave that prompted my response yesterday. But when seeing the overwhelming sentiment in favor of Wilson that came in the past 24 hours, combined with our online poll that showed 65 percent supporting him, I see now that I might have been smarter to wait a day or so before addressing it.
There certainly are enough people in our town who have paid attention to our other two professional franchises over the past decade and know and understand the personality of a winning team.
Until tomorrow ...