Pirates Q&A with Dejan Kovacevic

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Bruce Hanahan, aka Bruce the Drummer from Marlboro, Mass., writes in with an ode to the video posted in this space yesterday ...

"Andy Smith of Squirrel Hill, you made me cry. I have recently become very good friends with a woman who lived in Atlanta in the early '90s and watched that game from the other side of things. She started describing the excitement, the people pouring out of their houses screaming, yelling, crying, kissing their neighbors, setting off fireworks in the streets, the absolute joy, after watching Sid Bream chug around third and slide home.

"Meanwhile, up in Massachusetts, some poor soul, a lifelong Pirates fan, born a month after Maz's homer, walked two miles around his neighborhood (luckily it was a mild fall night, because he had neglected to put on his jacket and shoes) muttering curses that would have made a sailor blush.

"She told me the story, by the way, as we sat watching the Ryan Doumit pinch-hit three run homer game."

Q: Now that the 2007 MLB season is over for the PBC (Bay strikes out), do you think the Penguins (Davis gets picked off) should be considered a favorite in the Eastern Conference (Hawpe homers) next season (Helton homers)?

David Wallowicz of West Chester

KOVACEVIC: I think (LaRoche strikes out) that it is way too early (Davis goes right back into the field with no threat of being benched ) to engage in such negative talk (Francis becomes latest to pitch without a bead of sweat).

Q: Is it only me, or can't anyone else see that the Pirates just aren't that good, talent-wise? The players and manager keep saying that they're better than this, but could it be that all these hard-to-take losses are happening seemingly one after the other because the Pirates are playing to the level of their inferior ability?

Think about it: Only three regulars or semi-regulars have averages over .260. No player has 15 home runs 3 1/2 months into the season. Even the efforts of their best pitchers are ruined by one pitch in the wrong place to the wrong hitter, or a key error at the wrong time by their inconsistent defense. In my opinion, expecting the Pirates to be any better, to paraphrase Meat Loaf, is like looking for a Coup de Ville at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. There aren't any there, and the Pirates just aren't that good.

Am I missing something?

Larry Piotrowicz of Erie

KOVACEVIC: The Pirates would have to prove you wrong on the field, Larry. They have not done so.

It is entirely possible that management was overly optimistic -- or hopeful -- about key pieces such as center field, catcher and third base. At the same time, though -- and this is the genesis of the team's complaint that it should be doing better than it is -- the facts will show there are several everyday players achieving well below their career norms.

Q: Dejan, how do the Pirates improve for next season? I see the biggest needs being No. 1, center field and, No. 2, catcher. Without upgrades in those two areas, I feel that the offense in 2008 will be at the bottom of the league. The problem is that I don't see the Pirates having the depth to pull off a trade such as they did last year to obtain Adam LaRoche.

Eugene Sinicki of Polish Hill, Pittsburgh

KOVACEVIC: It is not about trades, Eugene. It rarely is with teams at the Pirates' spending level. It is about producing talent internally or signing it internationally. It is about imagination, about ingenuity. It is about the Oakland Athletics' talent evaluation, the Milwaukee Brewers' excellent judgment and prudence, and the Seattle Mariners' creativity in going overseas, including the Far East.

I write this all the time, but way too much emphasis is placed on trades.

As for your needs list, I would agree with those, but I also would not assume that the rest are filled by pennant-caliber talent. Third base, for example, remains below the industry standard in terms of production and power.

Q: You wrote in the Wednesday Q&A of Bob Nutting that "he certainly understands that $17.5 million that was spent last year -- Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa, Sean Casey, Roberto Hernandez -- has left the team with Brian Rogers." Didn't the trade of Hernandez (along with Oliver Perez) bring Xavier Nady? Still not worth $17.5 million, but worth mentioning.

Derek Werner of Mars

KOVACEVIC: I have laid out this part of the equation several times before, but it bears repeating: If one assumes that the Perez-Nady portion of the deal has been a wash -- and that seems pretty safe for the time being -- it also would be safe to assume that the 41-year-old reliever was no more than a throw-in. Clearly, Omar Minaya was not going to give up a productive and popular outfielder for the 41-year-old reliever.

The other thing that should be included into what the Pirates received for that $17.5 million is the sum of the contributions of those four players while in a Pittsburgh uniform, even if the numbers will show those were largely negligible.

Until tomorrow ...


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