Pirates Q&A with Dejan Kovacevic

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As promised, reaction to the trade story that ran after the rainout Monday.

Q: Hello, we read your coverage daily, and reading about the "trade value" of Xavier Nady , Jason Bay, John Grabow and Damaso Marte makes me sick! We have few really good players, and I thought the new management wanted to win. So, how come when our players are getting into stride, the owners talk of their "value" in trades?

If Willie Stargell or Roberto Clemente were Pirates today, they'd have been traded the day after they showed their talent and we'd never had have them for our Pirates team!

This ownership is no different than others if they trade Nady, Bay, Grabow and Marte. Then, we'll be back to a minor-league team on the field except for Jack Wilson! What a horrible time for Pirates fans, this era!

Martha Andrews of Allentown

KOVACEVIC: One more of these, from a junior at Penn Hills High School.

Q: Dejan, just read your article, and I have a question: Why do the Pirates always trade their best players so that they can bring up minor-leaguers or for prospects from another team? Seems to me that, if you have a few good players, like Nady and Nate McLouth, they should stay here until the minor-league guys develop and can be brought up.

Over the past 15 years, I've felt that the Pirates are nothing more than a transient team: We get some good players and ship them off for spare parts, or we promote our minor-leaguers, and ship them off for prospects who seem to never develop.

Justin Calderone of Penn Hills

KOVACEVIC: The real reason I run these is that I think there is some conventional wisdom among the franchise's closest followers that the general public would welcome a total overhaul of the team. And I remind: The Q&A readership is far from representative of that group, based on my long-held impressions.

To Martha and Justin, the best I can offer for an explanation is through this rather long piece that ran as our main baseball preview for this season.

Q: Are the Bucs really destined to lose both Bay and Nady and not just one or the other? Are Andrew McCutchen and Steve Pearce really ready to step in?

At the risk of sounding like the last clown in charge of personnel, could the Bucs not trade Bay or Nady (not both) for a prospect at third or catcher where they need the most help? Someone who could be of value as early as next season?

Aaron Syster of Harrisburg

KOVACEVIC: I really see both outfielders as being highly likely to go, if not this summer, then soon after that. Whether McCutchen or Pearce is an answer -- McCutchen is the surer bet -- bear in mind that good trades will net other good players, perhaps even major-league ready players.

As for who the Pirates might pursue at which position, I would look at it more from the standpoint of pitching, pitching, pitching. They need all kinds of starting pitching at all levels of the minors. If any good percentage of that turns out to be capable, that can address various other, more specific needs as time goes on.

That will take longer, but ... hey, anyone kidding themselves into thinking this team -- the organization, as a whole -- is on the cusp of some great success is doing exactly that. I do see where the Pirates could benefit from having a promising tier of position players in Class AAA -- McCutchen, Pearce, Neil Walker and Brian Bixler -- and how that might parlay into remaining competitive in Pittsburgh. But there is very, very little starting pitching below the major-league level, and that is a far larger element when compared to successful franchises such as Cleveland, Colorado and others in the Pirates' model.

I have written this before, but it bears repeating this week: Very few people are going to like this, apart from those who have looked at how those model teams were built.

I will repeat this, too: None of the models or anything else matters unless the Pirates evaluate talent correctly. And, apart from Neal Huntington and a few others, the people making the baseball evaluations are mostly the same that worked under Dave Littlefield.

That surely will not lend to greater public confidence when such trades are made. Trades are not just made by GMs. They are made by the many people who lend scouting and advice.

Q: Hi, Dejan. One constant comes through every time you write a possible-trade story: The players always say they want to stay in Pittsburgh.

Is that feeling genuine or just the standard line?

If it is genuine, why?

Being from the area, I understand the attraction. But, given the small percentage of players who make it to the World Series, why wouldn't a player want to go to potential winner now over wanting to stay with a club that is rebuilding?

Joe Kenyon of Lindenwold, N.J.

KOVACEVIC: Players get comfortable with their environs, from the clubhouse to friends they make to people they get to know in the community. That tends to be a factor, whether the team is winning or losing.

Your two questions are tough to answer generally because every player is different, obviously, but I can try this way:

1. Yes, the overwhelming majority of these players give strong indications they would be happy to stay in Pittsburgh, though some of them throw in the caveat that they would like to see some signs that things will get better. They like what new management has to say, but management action -- such as the very popular Tyler Yates acquisition -- speaks louder.

2. Of course they are going to answer that question that way. Imagine the headline if they answered it any other way.

Thing No. 91 that makes Pittsburgh great, by Tim Cypher of Butler: We have our own language.

This past fall, I was sitting in the hospital waiting to get some blood work done and picked up a National Geographic magazine. As I flipped through pages, I noticed an article on different dialects in the United States. Sure enough, on the map was a distinct circle with Pittsburgh at its center and a titled "Western PA dialect." (I have the picture on my cellphone, if you want. It's kind of blurry.)

Let me tell you, as a guy from Western Pennsylvania who has attended four years of college in Chicago, we Pittsburghers have a distinct accent and, oh, boy, do I miss it. One of my friends threw out the term "jag" the other day and I asked him immediately where he had heard that word. He told me there was a radio show host where he was from in central Illinois that was well known for using it, and my friend thought he invented the term. Upon a little research, it turns out the radio host was Pittsburgh born and raised.

Finally, whenever I come back home during breaks from school, I never really feel at home until I go to eat a place in Butler called Burger Hut 2. My old youth pastor and I have an unspoken agreement that, every time I'm home, he takes me to lunch there. When we go in and the waitress greats us with a smile and "How yinz doin?" -- that's when I know I'm back in Pittsburgh.

KOVACEVIC: The true measure of any distinct language is its ability to create a word that no one else can match. And that, I always have found, is the beauty of the fairly harmless term "jagoff."

The unofficial Pittsburghese dictionary describes it as referring to an "unpleasant individual" or "jerk." But that does not do it justice, in my view. The full depth of the term is someone who is unpleasant and a jerk, but mostly in the process of constantly mocking something.

Example: Last weekend at PNC, a few Pirates fans were fed up with the home team and started a "Let's go Pens" chant. Well, one particularly obnoxious Philly fan stands up and shouts at them, "What are you, a bunch of Canadians?"

Total jagoff.

Now, seriously, try to find a match for that terminology with that level of meaning in some other language, including the King's English.

Until tomorrow.


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