Less talk, more Qs as we try to clear the slate of non-trade topics before heading to Nashville ...
Q: Dejan, isn't it wonderful that the Pirates selected a new manager with no major-league experience and that he, in turn, chose a coaching staff with no major-league experience? Looks like we fans are in for another five years of minor-league play.
What do you say?
Rudy Filek Sr. of Morgantown, W.Va.
KOVACEVIC: Actually, Rudy, you can extrapolate that to just about every off-field decision the Pirates have made in recent months, from the hirings of Frank Coonelly, Huntington, Russell and all the way down.
Did they go the cheap route? Not with Coonelly, from what I understand, but the rest surely came in at well below market levels.
Did they decide to go with people they felt might be hungrier and have more invested in proving themselves? That is possible, too. History shows us that people who have failed in Pittsburgh in the past 15 years have not gotten second opportunities elsewhere, so the urge to succeed in this go-round should be enormous for all involved. The same way, that element surely scared off people who were more experienced at the top level. Like it or not, your PBC is seen as a graveyard by many across the industry.
All that said, to bury any of these individuals before they have the first chance to succeed or fail strikes me as wholly unfair. I had a couple people tell me yesterday they hold new hitting coach Don Long, in particular, in the highest esteem. Everybody has to start somewhere.
Q: Good to have you back, Dejan. How significant is the hiring of Chuck Tanner? Both as a Pittsburgh legend and as someone familiar with the new GM from his time being a Cleveland scout, he seems to be a good fit for his role. What ways will he be utilized?
Rick Lang of Upper St. Clair
KOVACEVIC: Be very sure that there is an element of nostalgia involved in the hiring of Mr. Tanner. And, as was raised in a Q&A near the end of this past season, there is no shame in that. Successful teams across sports utilize prominent figures from their past, not only for the experience they bring but also for the natural emotional investment they have in the franchise. The logo, the uniform genuinely means something to them, and that can carry over.
But it bears reminding here that the Cleveland Indians, widely hailed as one of baseball's best-run franchises, were employing Mr. Tanner for his baseball acumen and not for any symbolic reason. That says something. He is 78 now, so it is unlikely he will be doing a whole lot of globe-hopping, but he will be part of the inner circle that contributes to major personnel decisions, and he will be assigned to various types of scouting.
And, finally, that Pirates beach hat he always wears will be reflective of his employer.
Q: Dejan, welcome back. You have been missed.
Does it only make sense to me to pursue Andy LaRoche in a trade? I've seen that the Dodgers have put him on the market, and I wonder if his presence here would not only improve this team on both sides but also, perhaps, force his big brother to show up in April and May?
John Sample of Greensboro, N.C.
KOVACEVIC: OK, one trade Q ...
If the Pirates were to pursue a trade for Andy LaRoche, John, one would hope it is on the grounds that LaRoche was the Dodgers' minor-league player of the year in 2005 and that he has shown good power and patience at all levels and still is only 23 years old.
The big brother needs no extra motivation to produce in April and May, judging from my many talks with him on that subject.
There are two things to consider, I think, when looking at making such an acquisition for third base: One, has Jose Bautista been given enough of a chance to prove he is (ital) not (end ital) a productive starter at the position? There is power and patience there, too. Two, one of the Pirates' best prospects, Neil Walker, plays third base. No need to create a backlog at one position when so many are starving for depth.
Until tomorrow ...