Dejan Kovacevic's Pirates chat transcript 06/10/08

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JWW: Obviously Adam LaRoche has not turned out to be the offensive weapon most people expected (a foolish expectation in my opinion that was based on a single really good half-season with Atlanta). The idea that Laroche + Clemente Wall = Gold! hasn't exactly panned out and I fail to see any reason why it ever will. What are the chances he gets traded before the end of the season?

Dejan Kovacevic: First off, greetings to one and all, especially those of you who roasted outside to watch that wild game and wrote afterward. ... No, of course, LaRoche has fallen well below expectations, but the idea of trading him at low value -- as often has been discussed here and in the Q&A -- makes zero sense. No one likes to see productive players traded, and everyone wants to see non-productive players traded. But it makes zero sense.

Quinones: It's great that the Bucs are feisty this year. How about a little bit of chin music for Soriano and Pujols the next time we play the Cubs and Cards?

Dejan Kovacevic: That feistiness -- as with many other positive traits of these Pirates -- has yet to work its way into the starting rotation. For the most part, they have either held the team back or been mere passengers, though that seems to be changing.

PirateApologist: Hello, Dejan. Excellent coverage on the draft. I am really excited about the Tanner Scheppers pick. It is a risk, but it could pay off. And you mentioned a compensation pick if they don't come to terms. This brings me to my question: At what round do the compensation picks end? If the Pirates don't sign their 21st round pick, I don't imagine they get a 21st round compensation pick next year.

Dejan Kovacevic: I appreciate that about the coverage. First year I did the draft on this beat, and it was interesting. The comp picks, once you get past the second round, turn into sandwich picks, meaning between the third and fourth round if a third-rounder it is lost. Not sure how deep they go off the top of my head, but it is not infinite.

PirateApologist: How fast is management going to shoot Brad Lincoln up the ladder?

Dejan Kovacevic: In speaking with Lincoln last week, he sounded pretty eager to move up ... well, right about now. But he and everyone else involved sound as if they are -- correctly -- prioritizing that he just pitches and stays healthy for this calendar year. The more important level assignment will come next year. ... No question, he has exceeded expectations in Hickory, though.

smyers: Dejan, the Pirates have been hovering in the 2-5 games under .500 region for almost a month now (which shouldn?t feel as good as it does), yet the attendance on Saturday was one of the lowest for a Saturday in PNC Park history. Why do you think when the club is showing so much heart are the fans not responding?

Dejan Kovacevic: Could be those 15 years of losing that came before it.

James_Taipei: With Tom Gorzelanny's and Ian Snell's recent struggles what it is with the Pirates development of pitchers? It is not only the bad number one draft picks but the Pirates cannot seem to have a pitcher pitch well in back-to-back seasons! Any chance your staff could run an article on that?

Dejan Kovacevic: All kinds of apples and oranges in that question, James. If you want to fault current management or the current coaching staff for the backward steps those pitchers have taken this year, that would be more fair and accurate than throwing all kinds of draft and development issues into the mix.

restovich: I REALLY enjoyed Colin's game day blog from yesterday's game. Will he be doing it any time in the near future? I also like his insights, will he be helping you and doing more Pirates coverage?

Dejan Kovacevic: I hope so. I enjoy having that as part of our coverage, just as I enjoyed reading Seth Rorabaugh's terrific stuff during the Stanley Cup run. ... It helped, too, that Dunlap's timing involved a game with all kinds of subplots.

gerardsmith: Looks like Nady is a shoo-in for a July 31 trade with the Mets barring further injury; however, with the Indians tanking and his continued failure to hit in the clutch, will there be any suitors for Bay and who might they be?

Dejan Kovacevic: Why would he be a shoo-in for a trade with the Mets? I have written often that the Mets have but one prospect of worth to give up -- a pitcher whose name slips my mind -- and are not willing to do so. Both sides seem to feel a deal is unlikely.

andy: Have you noticed anything that might hint that either Snell or Gorzo might be on their way to breaking out of their slump and getting back to their 2007 form? It is easy to imagine this team 3-4 games over .500 if they each had an ERA even in the mid 4's rather than the astronomical figures they have been putting up to this point.

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, and I would imagine you have, too, from watching their past couple outings. But that is the most disspiriting part in a way: Each has shown signs previously this season of coming out, only to regress.

charleston_charlies: I understand it is difficult to gauge a baseball draft, but are people in baseball talking about the Pirates draft?

Dejan Kovacevic: They are, if only because it was the Pirates franchise that executed it. But I caution against some of the excessive exuberance I have gotten from readers the past few days: A draft is only as good as the players who actually get signed. There is no question the Pirates willfully over-shot in some cases, in the event that they can sign guys. No way they will get all of them.

MoTownWV: With Chavez playing so well at catcher and LaRoche struggling, any chance we see Doumit at 1st or RF with Nady at 1st so Chavez can continue to handle this staff?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, nothing remotely like that being discussed. LaRoche is the first baseman.

Doug_Frobel: How many more HR calls do the umps need to get wrong before we finally get instant replay?

Dejan Kovacevic: If you asked Mark Reynolds yesterday, he would have agreed that there already have been too many. And that is extra in the case of stadiums such as Pittsburgh's, where fan interference not only is so frequent, but also where it seldom seems to result in an ejection.

RV: In watching Jason Bays since he's been with the Pirates I've noticed his penchant for sliders down and away. Meaning swinging and missing them for strike three very frequently. I don?t just mean last year, I mean the whole time he?s been here. Even during those first few very productive years. Currently, however, he looks like he has a more sound approach. He rarely swings at that slider down and away. This year, he suddenly realizes pitchers are going to throw that pitch to try and get him to chase. What?s happened this year as opposed to previous years? Is he just becoming a more mature hitter?

Dejan Kovacevic: There are all kinds of difference between the previous Bay and this one, and pitch recognition is at least as big a variable as his healthy knees. Some credit, too, should go to hitting coach Don Long, who might be the toast of baseball if it were not for LaRoche.

charleston_charlies: LaRoche is not playing well. He's been rested, dropped in the order... Obviously his value is very low, so trading him is not an option. Can anything be done to get him going?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, in fairness to LaRoche here, since there seems to be a piling on, anyone who has watched the games over the past week can see he is driving the ball with authority. On Sunday, that resulted in two singles and a double. And yesterday, he did not play. It is entirely possible he will render all this moot by the next chat.

Quinones: At 31-33, are you still under the same belief that the PBC will be blown up by the trade deadline, including your prediction of trades involving Bay and Nady?

Dejan Kovacevic: That does not come close to describing what I have written or, for that matter, what the Pirates have said. In each case, the scenario outlined was that, if the Pirates were competitive, they would add rather than subtract, and that any major trades would be on hold unless they were blown away.

James_Taipei: The Pirates pitching has been so bad since 1993 that only two pitchers have even had back to back ten or more win seasons with a winning record. Can you guess who those two pitcher were? Or maybe you can let today's readers guess.

Dejan Kovacevic: Francisco Cordova and Todd Ritchie. Am I right?

Quinones: What has been the main reasons for Bullington and Burnett not appearing in over a week...bullpen and mechanics?...the stretching out and improving effectiveness of the starters?...or is there something else?

Dejan Kovacevic: Seems like a combination of the starting pitching being better, as well as John Russell clearly having much greater trust in his other relievers. There was an eighth-inning situation yesterday with bases loaded and left-handed Miguel Montero at the plate, and Burnett was warming up. Tyler Yates stayed in the game and got the strikeout, but the situation might have called for the left-hander.

The_Mighty_Swashbucklers: What is Dumatrait's contract status? How long is he signed and is he arbitration eligible?

Dejan Kovacevic: He is a technical rookie. The Pirates retain his rights for the next six years. And this is one of the reasons I often write about not sneezing at giving 26- and 27-year-old alleged non-prospects a chance. If they do succeed, you still hold their rights for the same amount of time as you would a teenager.

Roy_Hobbs: Anything we should keep an eye on in the upcoming series against the Nats?

Dejan Kovacevic: They are missing most of their good players, as the Notebook mentions today. No one on the Pirates' side will -- or should -- say this, but these are three games they need to win.

Roy_Hobbs: If Gary Roberts had asked for "time" during Randy Johnson's delivery, do you think The Big Unit would have been the one leaving the stadium on a stretcher?

Dejan Kovacevic: I would have liked Mientkiewicz's chances in the same battle. WWDMD?

bpnate: Matt Capps is having a fine season, as you have mentioned. Do you believe the Pirates will reconsider a long term deal, or has he just increased his trade value?

Dejan Kovacevic: It would not be a matter of reconsidering. The sides were open to a long-term deal even at the time this one was done in April. But a reliever is always tricky when it comes to anything longer than two years.

Doug_Frobel: Who was the guy asleep in the press box yesterday?

Dejan Kovacevic: No idea. Some Arizona guy. Snoring out loud, too.

jedinite66: Any chance of any more Buccos being sent down due to performance? LaRoche? Gorzo?

Dejan Kovacevic: What did you not like about Gorzelanny's performance over the weekend? Or LaRoche's, for that matter?

Doug_Frobel: Are you going to Baltimore this weekend? Beautiful city, you'll enjoy your stay.

Dejan Kovacevic: Been there many times to cover Steelers games, but no, Paul Meyer will be making that trip for us.

The_Mighty_Swashbucklers: Has Ronny Paulino's trade value fallen to much to be traded this season?

Dejan Kovacevic: Of course it has. Guy gets demoted, told to improve his conditioning, yes, that hurts.

jefft: Hi Dejan--Randy Johnson's comments yesterday were pretty stupid. Is that something the league can fine him for?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, it was not an open threat. It was looking back at a situation that already happened. And, as mentioned in the game story, it was not entirely clear whether he was being serious or not.

andy: Is there any one thing that this Pirates team has that the previous versions have lacked?

Dejan Kovacevic: The No. 1 thing is a consistently productive offense. And make no mistake: It is the offense, and not any staredowns or great quotes, that make the Pirates competitive and feisty and whatever other generous words anyone might want to use.

James_Taipei: No, the two pitchers with two 10 or more win seasons with a winning record are Denny Neagle 1995-1996 and Josh Fogg 2003-2004.

Dejan Kovacevic: Missed them both! Surprising that Cordova never did that. The guy was so good for a stretch there. So was Ritchie.

butthead: Do you think that sending Paulino to the minors was the message that this team needed to light a spark?

Dejan Kovacevic: Teams that do things like that to send messages, either to the public or internally, tend to be losers. A demotion like that had better come for a more meaningful reason.

BmoreBucco: So, Doumit is becoming a respected leader in that Bucco clubhouse?

Dejan Kovacevic: He is growing up. That is the best way to put it. More in this in the Q&A tomorrow.

epper: Think you need to add Sanchez to the list of disappointing seasons. Why is he getting a pass when LaRoche gets piled upon?

Dejan Kovacevic: Where are these passes everyone cites? When an issue is raised in this forum or the Q&A, it is addressed. No exceptions. Sure, Sanchez has been a disappointment, probably more so than LaRoche given that consistent production has come to be expected of Sanchez.

Roy_Hobbs: Jack Wilson seems to still be producing at a high level. If a team offers 2 of their 6 best prospects this trading deadline, do the Pirates bite, and if so, who takes over at SS?

Dejan Kovacevic: If any team offers the Pirates premier prospects for what they feel is fair value, from what I gather, they will not hesitate to move. Who takes over at shortstop or any other position would be secondary. The goal, as they often lay out, is to win a championship, and that only happens with a lot of high-end talent. That is not the current situation.

The_Mighty_Swashbucklers: Thanks Dejan for another great chat!

Dejan Kovacevic: I appreciate that, but how about we take two more since I had java issues early on?

bpnate: I was not impressed with Arizona this weekend. They could need a bat. Is this a likely destination for Bay or Nady?

Dejan Kovacevic: I believe the Diamondbacks gave up 72 prospects in the Dan Haren deal, so who would be left? ... No, Arizona did not look great, but there is the case of the bad division, as well as the not-so-small matter of having an extraordinary young talent such as Justin Upton looking lost all weekend. He will get it turned around.

WaipioHerb: Is 51 and 47 too much for the Pirates the rest of the way?

Dejan Kovacevic: Depends on if they stay competitive enough to be kept intact. All one can say right now is that this team is two games under .500 despite having some of the worst starting pitching in Major League Baseball. As someone above pointed out, just imagine if they were merely average. ... Heading to the yard. Q&A tomorrow.


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