Nashville is good. Been here many times because it became a stop on the hockey tour in the late '90s, and enjoyed every visit. One of America's more interesting cities.
Even if you are not into country music - I am not - you cannot help but get engrossed in how much it means to the people here. It is, quite literally, the lifeblood. Take a walk down Broadway, from the Predators' arena down toward the Titans' stadium, and you can find a live act in virtually every door. Combine that with a streetscape amazingly reminiscent of Carson Street, and it is an experience unmatched in the country.
Being in Nashville again prompts three wholly unrelated stories ...
1. Seven years ago, I spent a week with the Penguins and Predators in Tokyo and got to know many good people on the Nashville side, as well as share many unforgettable experiences.
And, somehow, all these years later, every time I see the word Nashville, I think to myself how the Japanese pronounced it "NASH-VEER." Which I am sure is much better than my attempts at pronouncing some Japanese words.
2. A few years back, I went to a Sounds game, back when they played at the rickety old park with the huge guitar above the outfield fence. Somehow, I got tickets immediately behind home plate. Most of the game was a bore, at least until this giant, smooth-looking man stepped to the box. He looked every bit the star, from the stature to the swing. It was amazing to me that he was a Pirates prospect. ... His name? Try to guess. I will give it up at the end.
3. Covering the NHL draft in Nashville a few years back, I remember spending the better part of a night sitting in my car in the hotel parking lot, trying to pick up bits and pieces of the KDKA broadcast of the Pirates-Indians game. Randall Simon hit the winning home run in extras. Those of you who remember that game have some idea how long I sat in that car.
Q: Dejan, I just finished reading your article from Sunday's paper (Pirates look to move Nady, one way or another) detailing the Pirates' decision to either trade or non-tender Xavier Nady. To say the news frustrated me would be an understatement. While maybe not a star, Nady seems to be a solid major-league player who has value.
Did Neal Huntington catch the let's-announce-our-intentions-in-advance-so-as-to-devalue-a-player's-worth-before-we-trade-him disease from Dave Littlefield?
Marc Hatten, Curwensville
KOVACEVIC: Be quite sure, Marc, that Huntington did not "announce" any such thing.
Rather, it was something that I heard about earlier in the week as being discussed even beyond the Pirates' realm. I waited until later in the week to even think about publishing it and decided to do so only when a source I have trusted implicitly over several years confirmed it. Empthatically.
From there, I asked Huntington on Friday -- two days before the story ran -- if he intended to tender his arbitration-eligible players, singling out Nady. He responded by saying that he plans to tender them "at this point," and he chose not to address Nady specifically. That is fine. It certainly is his right at GM not to advertise his pending moves.
But, as the daily coverage mentions, the Pirates flatly denied yesterday that a non-tender for Nady ever was considered. Again, it was emphatic.
Bottom line: No matter what the Pirates did or did not discuss internally, as the original story noted, a non-tender was going to be very much unlikely in any scenario because there is no way a team would not trade for Nady.
Moreover, if Jason Bay is traded, the chances of Nady being moved plunge to close to zero, from what I understand. The Pirates would enter next season almost forced to play Steve Pearce every day. Pearce might well be able to handle it, but entering the season like that might be deemed too shaky.
Q: Welcome back, Dejan. I've been a big proponent of trading our "name" guys such as Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson for a while now. Unless we're going to win by 2009, we're going to lose those guys to free agency, anyway, so we should deal them for as many A or B level prospects as possible, assuming Neal Huntington and the boys have a better ability to judge talent than Dave Littlefield.
My question for you: How would the fans react to this kind of move? My feeling is that the fans might be more willing to accept those moves than people realize, but I'm sure you have a better pulse on how fans would react.
Chris Luccy, Greensburg
KOVACEVIC: The general public and the people who follow the team most intensely, very clearly in my experience, are two distinctly separate groups.
There is no doubt in my mind that a trade of any of the players you mentioned would be enormously unpopular with the general public, particularly in view of the rancor and mistrust that already exists toward ownership. A salary dump will look like a salary dump, no matter the return. Joe Q. Fan is not going to go running to baseballcube.com to look up the incoming prospect's stats.
Still, the return will dictate some of that. If the Pirates can trade Bay or Nady for legitimate prospects, the public might have an easier time following. But, if it looks or smells like a salary dump, that will be another matter.
As to your point about judging talent, bear in mind that the "Neal Huntington and the boys" to whom you refer as being the prime evaluators are almost entirely the same as they were under Littlefield. That is not to pass judgment on them one way or the other. Just pointing out it is not a new group, as you suggested there.
Q: Well, let's give credit where credit is due. The Pirates ownership's decision to not jack up ticket prices for the Yankees series next season, when they easily could have and still sold out the series, is commendable. As is keeping ticket prices the same for 2008.
The section 142-144 seats at $17 a pop is still the best entertainment value anywhere in Pittsburgh. Now if the Buccos could only get a leftie to hit the ball into those seats ...
Larry Zalewski, Mt. Lebanon
KOVACEVIC: You were not the only one to write praising the team for the sixth consecutive ticket freeze, but there were only two or three.
If you want to give credit where deserved, it should go to Frank Coonelly. My understanding is that this was his call.
Until tomorrow, when the Pittsburgh feature will return, I offer you the name of ... J.J. Davis. Yes, him. Goes to show how much appearance, size, tools and all that can mean.