Poll Question: With their offseason moves thus far, are the Penguins better than they were following their Game 7 loss to the Rangers? Answer #1: Yes (22.2%) Answer #2: No (44.4) Answer #3: No change (33.3%)
James Pittsburgh: Could the Pirates consider a shortstop at the the deadline? Clint Barmes would be released?
Jerry Micco: I think they might look at a backup shortstop, but with the way Mercer has improved at the plate they seem to be happy with him as an everyday starter. Barmes as a backup doesn't hurt them, but if you can improve that situation and maybe find someone who can hit a little better off the bench, why not make that deal?
Andrew: Not sure how much better the Pens became over the past week. Albeit with limited cap room, they really just shuffled around. Ehrhoff could be an asset to trade during the season I suppose, once all are healthy. Do you see any more changes before then?
Jerry Micco: Maybe some minor moves unless they get wowed by an offer for someone like Paul Martin. I think they want to sign some of their restricted free agents like Sutter. I think any major deals they make likely will come at the trade deadline. Ehrhoff was probably their big splash in free agency.
James Pittsburgh: What move would you like to see the pirates make this month?
Jerry Micco: Get a little stronger in the starting rotation and that may mean dealing one of the starters or demoting one. I get the sense that Liriano isn't going to be the same even after returning and while I had great faith that Morton would be a big winner this season, I'm not sure he can shake out of the funk he's in. While I like what Locke and Worley have brought to the table, I'm not sure they can sustain that over the second half. A proven veteran starter would be a really nice get.
StoshFromPitcairn: Dr. Jerry - when I watch the US Men during the World Cup, I experience the same initial optimism turning to loathing dread that I only experience during Pitt NCAA tournament games. Is that normal?
Jerry Micco: It usually is for some Pitt NCAA games, but it's for the same reason. The talent level, while it's getting better, just isn't at an elite level. US soccer is now to the point that it expects to make the World Cup every four years. Not that long ago that wasn't a given. Now, you see it getting out of group play a couple of WCs running. Now you want to see it get past the first knockout round, which is much harder because you are with the elites by and large. Shows the sport is growing, but has a ways to go.
Chunkles: Jerry, I think Good Ole JR. should have not revealed that his job was only for 2-3 years. Now fans already want to push him out because of who he dealt and what he got in return. I like the moves. The Pens needed an overhaul and he did just that! I just wish fans would give the guy a season before they start bad mouthing him.
Jerry Micco: I like Rutherford, and I think most media do, because he's honest. I'm sure the Penguins higher ups didn't want him to say that in his first press conference, but hey, he's been around a long time and I don't think he cares all that much. But he's going to do what he's going to do and this is what he thinks is needed to move the team deeper into the playoffs. Obviously, what they had before didn't work. So why not try to get some grit and new faces to go with the old. And he's done that. Yes, give him a shot. Because ultimately, he's all the fans have at the moment.
James Pittsburgh: Jerry, will liriano released or traded at the deadline?
Jerry Micco: Depends. If there are takers and the Pirates can get a prospect or two for him, maybe they deal him. His deal is up at the end of the year and he certainly won't be resigned. So I'd think if they can get anything for him they will.
StoshFromPitcairn: After this World Cup, are we going to be forced to go through the "Soccer has finally gained a foothold here in the US" spiel that we have had to digest numerous times in the past after beating Colombia back in '94, to the women's Gold at the World Cup in LA in '99, and various other time? Is there enough true interest in the sport - and not just spectacle of the World Cup - to have an occasional River Hounds chat?
Jerry Micco: Would you like to see a Riverhounds chat? I can see if Sam Werner's up for that. I think the interest in the World Cup was high. Just like interest in Olympic sports spikes when the Olympics are on TV. I think soccer has grown in our country, but it is not coming close to rivaling football, baseball and basketball. Those are our big 3 sports. But there's reason to cover something like the World Cup as the huge event it is. We are giving it a page a day, most of the time, and will continue to give it that type coverage to the end.
Ross from eie: Hi Jerry, Just think how good the Pirates would be sitting right now if the Brewers didn't own them. Time to make a move for a pitcher or two
Jerry Micco: Right. When you are 3-10 vs. the team atop the division, that's how you dig yourself a hole. As I stated earlier, I believe if I had to add one part to this team at the deadline, I'd go out and spend money on a starting pitcher. I want a Cliff Lee or some type of guy like that down the stretch to pitch vs. St. Louis, Milwaukee or Cincinnati when it's on the line.
Jerry Micco: TSN Canada's Bob McKenzie just Tweeted that the Penguins have signed the Flyers Steve Downie. Talk about a guy with, uh, grit. One of the league's tough guys. We are working on verification.
Jerry Micco: Our Dave Molinari has confirmed: Downie signed by Pens for 1 year, $1 million. Says new assistant coach Rick Tocchet worked well with Downie when they were in Tampa together.
StoshFromPitcairn: I would be interested in a Riverhounds chat, but only if Stan Terlecki was somehow involved. I actually had to look up the name of the Riverhounds to ensure that there still was some form of pro soccer in Pittsburgh. Soccer is obviously just about on the tipping point in the US, though. And I actually like soccer.
Jerry Micco: Well, we've covered just about all of their home games this season, and previewed all of them. The MLS continues to be a good, solid league and that has helped soccer in the US. That, and some cable companies are airing Premier League games on a regular basis so more people can enjoy the best players in the game. I think the game certainly has more than a foothold (pun intended) in this country.
Dave Giusti: Jerry, Tampa Bay is making a run is David Price off the market?
Jerry Micco: Tampa Bay's MO is to move guys like Price for big-time prospects, but it usually does that in the offseason, not midseason. And I'd think it would not do that if it thought it had a chance to make the playoffs.
Guest: Why do fans get so upset when they find out Jason Grilli was a jerk?
Jerry Micco: Because most fans think athletes and coaches are the people they see in public. A lot of that is staged and it's what they want people to see. And even we in media tend to report that side of an athlete or coach because when we do an interview, that's the way they come across. But we also see another side of a player or coach occasionally, too. Since you see them every day. Is it germane to report that? Not unless it affects the team, so we generally don't, though we certainly would if there were a clubhouse brouhaha, etc. So when players or coaches publicly lash out, or things are found about about them that is the opposite of what is perceived, people are often shocked and disappointed. That's why you don't put anyone on a pedestal. They are human, with all the human flaws we all have.
Cam Bonifay Jr: Steve Pearce knocking the cover off the ball for the Orioles. Would he be a better alternative at 1B for the Bucs?
Jerry Micco: I don't think the Orioles would give him up for nothing. It's unfortunate Sanchez has lost a lot of playing time because the Pirates face so few lefties. I think he was playing really well when he got regular time, but they are pretty married to Ike Davis vs. righties all the time. I think that has affected Sanchez in a negative way.
Guest: Is Mario signing off on these JR moves or is he sitting with his hands tied and mouth taped shut?
Jerry Micco: Well, if it's the latter, sounds like he's been kidnapped for a ransom, which would be quite a story. However, I don't think that's happened. I'm not sure how the hierarchy is working, but I'm sure Rutherford is being given some broad leeway to build the team. He has quite a group of assistant GMs around him and they are all working together it seems.
StoshFromPitcairn: Thanks for passing along the info on Steve Downie. Seems like just yesterday Georges Laraque cross-checked him from behind headfirst into the boards. He's one of the more egregiously selective tougher guys in the league (and that hazing incident in Jr. doesn't help either). Not sure if this Pens supporter will ever grow into liking him.
Jerry Micco: I've always said that he's the kind of guy you hate until he's on your team. Kind of like Matt Cooke.
Bob Smizik Jr: Jerry what did you learn last week at the Sports writers conference or was it just an excuse to party? Did you meet the great Tom Boswell?
Jerry Micco: Well first of all, it was the nation's sports editors, but there are a handful of writers and college students in our organization. We are a big tent group. I'm way too old to party. The body isn't what it used to be, unfortunately, but I did enjoy myself seeing the men and women who I've had the pleasure of knowing most the last 30 years. People who like me took this track in journalism. Many of us grew up in this business together as sports editors and worked at smaller papers, then larger papers. We traded stories, ideas, laments, problems, etc. It's a fun, educational and soul-searching time for me. I always come out of it better than when I went in. Now I have to take what I learned and apply it to make the PG and PG.com better for our readers.
StoshFromPitcairn: Thanks for the chat, Jerry. I always enjoy them.
Jerry Micco: Thanks for stopping by. Can't do these without the folks who have questions.
Kobe oshi: More importantly Jerry Can Joey Chestnut repeat as America's greatest living athelete on the 4th at Coney Island?
Jerry Micco: Goodness. I cannot stand wet bread. It grosses me out to see them dunk hotdog rolls in water. Can't watch that. Not to mention seeing them whole swallow that stuff. Ugh.
Guest: Pirates final season record will be......
Jerry Micco: I said earlier this year that they'd win 88 games, and I'll stick to that. Will it be enough for the wild-card? We'll see. It'll be razor close.
Jerry Micco: OK folks time for me to get back to some other stuff. Thanks for stopping by and participating. I always appreciate the company. I'll see you next Wednesday at noon. Until then, have a safe and happy July 4 weekend! Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco
First Published July 2, 2014 12:00 AM