Jerry Micco's sports chat transcript: 7.17.13

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Poll Question:

The Pirates (56-37) have 69 games left starting Friday in Cincinnati. How many of those games will they win?

Answer #1:

50 or more (0%)

Answer #2:

45-49 (11%)

Answer #3:

40-44 (56%)

Answer #4:

35-39 (22%)

Answer #5:

30-34 (0%)

Answer #6:

Less than 30 (11%)

The Chief: Hi Jerry, hope all is well, been awhile. Are you surprised that suspensions from the Biogenesis PED will not be handed out during the 2013 season?

Jerry Micco: No, not really. I think there's a lot of murkiness surrounding that entire operation and by the time you name all the players and they get a chance to appeal, the season would be close to over. There's still a lot to look at in this case. And punishing offenders in 2014 is just as effective as doing it now, I believe.

Ralph_LA: Which of the Pirate pitchers are surprising you this year?

Jerry Micco: There are a couple: Francisco Liriano and Jeff Locke. Between them, they are 16-5, and to me have been the stars of 2013 along with the bullpen. Liriano was taken off the scrap pile, broke his non-pitching arm in the offseason, and was at best considered a fifth starter. And he's been masterful thus far. I didn't think Locke should even be in the rotation to start the season, but there he was and he's totally different from what he was during his other short stints in the bigs. I applaud both. And Pirates fans should, too.

Guest: I'll ask the obvious question why is Inge still on this team, and the same could go for McKHenry, they are becoming automatic outs at the plate?

Jerry Micco: Inge fills a role as a utility guy and Hurdle likes his locker room presence. McKenry has been the top backup for 2 years, and a lot of folks were outraged at signing Russell Martin when you had McKenry already on the team. But things have changed. Neither is doing a good job with the bat this year, and I suspect that Inge will be gone at some point in favor of Josh Harrison. I think McKenry stays.

The Chief: Can't quite understand why the Pirates did not sign Jeff Francouer to a contract. He has hit double digit HR in every year of his career.

Jerry Micco: I think the Pirates were happy with what they had in the OF. They wanted to give Snider a long look, and I think they thought a platoon with Tabata with a dose of Garret Jones thrown in, would be a viable option. In hindsight, sure, Francoeur would have been better. But there's no sense having guys you either traded for or signed long term (Tabata) unless you intend to use them.

Teke: Do you think Cliff Lee could/would veto a trade to the Bucs? I'd give whatever takes to add Jimmy Rollins and Lee.

Jerry Micco: A lot of money that the Phils would likely pick up, but they'd want top prospects. I'd not make that trade of rentals for top guys. The Pirates will need those guys down the road. Unless you can get a player you can lock up for a couple of years or more, why gut the system? If you can get a Cliff Lee, and I don't know if he'd come here but the Pirates are much more attractive these days, see if the Phils will take B-level talent. Don't think they will, but worth a shot.

The Chief: Are you surprised that the Penguins did not sign any of their "rent a players" they acquired at the deadline?

Jerry Micco: No, possibly with the exception of Murray. They did keep Jussi Jokinen, who has another year left on his contract. None of those guys really contributed all that much. And in the playoffs, they contributed even less. No sense signing them at this point in their careers.

Ken: Jerry, the 1971 all star game intros are on youtube. That would be 22 hall of famers on the field at the same time--young and old, including the Great One of course Since it's 40 years ago, tv and the PA are screwed up, but an incredible last glimpse into baseball's golden age.

Jerry Micco: I grew up in the 60s and baseball at that time, to me, was at its best. Some of the greatest players ever were still playing. Clemente, Aaron, Mays, Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks, Kaline, Yaz, and on and on. To me, it was the golden era of baseball, from 1964-1980. A joy to be a fan back then.

Guest: How can Steeler fans root for a guy like Pouncey with moral judgements such as that hat? Do these young players not think at all, he had to take the time to go to an embrodier kiosk in the mall and make those up. Disgusting.

Jerry Micco: I think our Ron Cook surmised it best in his last couple of columns: these guys make bad judgments; don't think first; then apologize. After a while, that gets old and people will start to turn on them. This is strike two for Pouncey on the PR front, and I can't think the Steelers front office and coaching staff was pleased with this last stunt.

Will: In terms of possible dwindling of fan interest, do you think the NFL has a problem? Might be harder to convince people to be passionate about the late afternoon out of town game if Colin Kapernick has an obnoxious label, no?

Jerry Micco: I don't know what you're referencing as far as Kaeparnick goes, but the NFL has problems on a lot of fronts. It's still America's game, no question. Extremely popular. But, an offseason riddled by player arrests topped by the Hernandez arrest, will not sit will with fans. Add to that, the price of gameday is getting much higher. And more people are buying HD big-screen TVs, having snacks and drinks right there; a bathroom down the hall with no line and all the comforts of home while still enjoying a game. And if the weather's bad, all bets are off. The NFL knows this and is trying to combat it. Going to take some work.

Truther: Jerry, don't you think it kind of violates the intent of the sanctions by PSU playing a game in Ireland? Sounds like no lessons were learned, especially given recent comments by the BOT.

Jerry Micco: It's UCF's home game and they approached PSU about it. So maybe in your mind, the NCAA should sanction UCF for doing this. There is nothing in the sanctions, nor is it implied, that they can't play a game overseas. Every team in D1 can play a game overseas every four years. As far as the comments from BoT members go, I think they are reiterating what they said a while back: We'll do the recommendations of Freeh, but the guilt or innocence of people is for a court to decide. I guess we'll see how that goes.

Joe Nuxhall: Do you expect some fireworks in the Reds series? I think Dusty may set the tone for the reast of the season as the intimidator.

Jerry Micco: The Reds need to win this series over the weekend to gain some ground on the Pirates, who are in danger of putting them further back for the No. 1 wild card as well as the division. So I think Baker's main objective is to win the games. Now, will there be beanball wars, I don't know. Each time these teams play there seems to be some of that, so I suspect this will be the case this time. Tempers heat up as the summer temperatures rise. Gonna be a great second half of the season.

Truther: Jerry, am I the only one who feels a Pirate collapse is imminent? I am willing to bet money on this....

Jerry Micco: No, you are not the only one. I've heard from many fans about this concern. But I think if their pitching can hold up, there will be no collapse. It is the difference between this year and last, in my opinion.

The Chief: So will the Sports Illustrated jinx come to fruition on this years Pittsburgh Baseball Club?

Jerry Micco: The Grilli cover is a regional cover (Buster Posey is on the one for the west coast), so maybe it'll be a slight jinx. Is that possible?

Bill L: Not hearing alot of outrage over turning the ASG MVP award into the Lifetime Achievement Award, but no one eally distinguished himself last night.

Jerry Micco: There should be no outrage. It was a tremendous honor what they did for Rivera, who is the greatest closer of all time. And it's his last go-round. Classy guy who has always done the right things. Can't honor a guy like that enough. Even if you hate the Yankees.

The Chief: You have to be excited about Lefty's chances this week at Muirfield, but in the end do you think this will be #15 for Tiger?

Jerry Micco: I don't know if Tiger wins it this week. I'd love to see Phil win one, and his win in Scotland was a nice pre-tournament win, but he's not always done well at this tournament. I'm not picking Tiger. I think he'll lurk all week, but something tells me he won't be able to win. I'd give Phil a better chance, actually.

Brandon Inge: Jerry, just checking in on my All Star break vacation. I went fishing yesterday and fell out of the boat. Astonishingly I couldn't hit the water.

Jerry Micco: Did you catch a cold?

Chunkles: I read where with all the changes the Steeler team is going through that Pouncey would be one of the 5 players to step up and become a leader. Well, there goes that plan. The bad thing about twins is that if one of them is an idiot, usually the other is, as well. Mike Webster is spinning in his grave right now!

Jerry Micco: I'm not ready to toss Pouncey on his ear for the hat flap. But you're right, he's got some maturing to do. The players thought enough of him last year to make him an offensive captain. Let's see if they give him that chance this year. Or if the coaches make it clear that they'd not like that.

Guest: Who do you like this weekend? And do you think either of my two favorites have a chance, Tiger or Freddie Couples?

Jerry Micco: I think Tiger always has a chance. Freddie, I'm not so sure. You have to like some of the Brits: Justin Rose, Poulter, Westwood, Donald. All are capable and the latter 3 want that first major. I do like Phil this weekend, but I'd be surprised if he won it. He's playing better and maybe he can finally master a links course. How about this as a pick: Brant Snedecker. Always lurking, maybe he gets over the top. Rory will be there, too, I think.

Faldo: I'll give you Phil/Tiger/ and Rory or the field? Who ya got? I got Paddy.

Jerry Micco: I'll take the field and Snedecker. Of the first three you mentioned, though, any one of them can raise up and win this. But of those three, I like Rory's chances the best.

Will: Stupid and insensitive, yes. But I think I did alot of stupid things in my 20s during a night out, including wearing an offensive hat. I think Pouncey's mistake is being blown out of proportion.

Jerry Micco: The difference is you aren't paid millions of dollars to represent the team off the field as well as on it. Not to mention as a star, you represent the NFL. No question we all did stupid stuff when we were young. But most of us weren't millionaires with a public eye on us, either.

Guest: Also, kudos to Muirfield for pairing Couple, (Sir) Faldo, and Watson, that is a great group.

Jerry Micco: And will be a fun one to watch. A lot of history there and, I think, 14 or 15 majors.

Guest: How do you see the remainder of the season playing out with the Bucs. Will NH make that big deal for a bat and does Grilli hold up all year long as the closer?

Jerry Micco: The second half is tough. They start with a 10-game trip through Cincy, DC and Miami, then play the Cards 5 games in 4 nights in Pittsburgh. If they can get through those 15 games at say 9-6 or even 8-7, they should be excited. Ecstatic, in fact. Originally, I had them for 83 wins. I think now they can reach 88 or 89. Should be enough for a wild card. As for Grilli, I think he'll hit some flat spots, but overall should be fine. You may see Wilson or Melancon close a game occasionally down the stretch.

Phil: Could someone tell the networks that Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline and Chris Berman have jumped the shark? Way to bring the young demographic to baseball.

Jerry Micco: If that demographic liked baseball, they'd be watching the game, not worrying about a broadcaster or a singer.

Mark: Hi real tired of watching Inge, Gabby Sancheg, McKenry and Snider strike out.....they can't even make decent contact when a medium range fly ball possibly gets home a run....and magnified that much more when the team just doesn't score enough...its really as pathetic a bench as I can ever recall....and while the pitching has been superb there will probbaly be a stretch where the hitting must start carrying the team....I know these guys are likeable and have a good locker room presence, but candidly that does not wil games.....if the Pirates do not find a way to upgrade their bench I believe they will pay a heavy price for being stagnant...your thoughts...thank you!

Jerry Micco: No question the offense has to do more. But I'd rather concentrate on guys like Jones and Walker, who have had down years compared to 2012. If those two guys start to hit to capabilities, the offense is automatically much better. Is the catcher spot better with Martin over Barajas? Yes. Is having a Jordy Mercer available to play SS better than Barmes full time? Yes. Is having Marte in left an upgrade over anyone who has played there in years? Yes. There are some positives. Just need some of the starters to start hitting and the bench will take care of itself.

Doug Froebel: Would you leave Charlie Morton in the roation? Jenmar Gomez looks better. Maybe Gerrit Cole is the odd man out.

Jerry Micco: I'd leave Morton in. He's pitched pretty well since returning. To me, Cole may be the odd man out because the Pirates may want to limit his innings. And don't be surprised if Neal Huntington trades for a starting pitcher. I think in the long run, pitching is what will carry this team over the playoff threshold.

The Chief: Bigger loss to the Penguins: Matt Cooke in 2013 or Jordan Staal in 2012?

Jerry Micco: Staal, even though he had a down year. His youth and upside much higher. The Pens will miss Matt Cooke, but you can find other Matt Cooke's out there. Jordan Staal's are much tougher to find.

Guest: Steelers season ticket waiting list is backed up to 1995 still...what is taking so long for the Steelers to pony up and add more seats? And end this silliness of thinking the SGA should pay for it.

Jerry Micco: Have to ask them. Apparently they think it's a big enough issue to take to court.

Phil: I don't think Garret Jones has ever been affected by "the whipping boy" cycle, has he? Well, here it comes--if Jones doesn't produce in the next 15 games, he clearly is a glaring problem.

Jerry Micco: Yes, because he occupies a power position and isn't consistently hitting for power. No arugment there. Early this season, Sanchez was providing some power as a platoon player. But he's really nosedived and has a hard time hitting right-handed pitching. Still pretty good vs. lefties, though. But Jones is a key. He hit 25 HRs last year and has 9 now. Big, big dropoff.

Raul Mondesi: Jameson Tallion and Polanco are no guarantees to be stars. I'd trade them in a heartbeat for another bat at 1B or RF. Do I need to list in the last 20 yrs of can't miss prospects starting with Ron Wright.

Jerry Micco: But on a club that can't afford to chase big-time free agents, or sign a lot of guys to $100 million contracts, your farm system is too valuable to give away key parts. The Pirates have a very good farm system, which means there is depth. Give away some of the depth, not the cream at the top.

Guest: Do you think the Pirates have to go "all in" this year or do you think they can maintain this over the next season or 2?

Jerry Micco: It will depend on who they can keep and if the pitching holds up. They can do this for a couple of years, probably, but that window closes quickly. Have to have the young guys come through, and use your scouting department to find those fill-in guys to do the rest of the work. Guys like Melancon, Grilli, Burnett, Liriano. Seem to be able to do that with pitchers, but not so much with hitters.

The Chief: What do you think a demotion to AAA Indy will due to Cole's confidence in the long run?

Jerry Micco: It may chafe him a bit when it happens, but he'll get the point. Long-term, he's going to be a stud pitcher at the top of the rotation. And will it really do him any good to be here just sitting as they try to nurse him through X number of innings? Can't keep a guy taking up a roster spot if you aren't going to use him.

The Chief: The Player the Pirates can least afford to have an extended injury in the second half is............

Jerry Micco: Russell Martin.

Guest: Jerry did you have chat withdraws Wed at Noon while sitting on the beach sipping on a Pina Colada?

Jerry Micco: I'll let you know when I hit the beach and have a pina colada. Likely next week. Did you miss me?

Tom: seems like the penguins re-signed the core; why should we expect different results?

Jerry Micco: Because they will be infused with a bit more youth in Bennett and Despres, on a regular basis. And that core is as good as any team in the NHL. Big question: can they get Fleury to bring is regular-season success to the playoffs? And it's a big meatball hanging out there.

Dr Freddy Fu: What are the chances Troy and Ben play all 16 games this year?

Jerry Micco: I'd say 50/50 at best, knowing their track records. But for the Steelers to be much more than an 8-8 team, both need to stay healthy and play to their abilities. Especially No. 7.

Ken: Would you agree that MLB is in better shape than it was in or around 2000? Parity is better. Players seem to have more passion and aren't as arrogant. This generation plays the game harder--taking out a double play was a lost art 10 years ago--now it's back to some extent.

Jerry Micco: I think it's better, yes. Some of the young stars are a bit old school, almost. Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Mike Trout, Gerrit Cole, etc., are guys you can watch and enjoy (I hope) for years to come. MLB should be happy with its rising stars. But it had better keep an eye on PEDs and such creeping back into the game. That will ruin things in a hurry with fans.

The Chief: Murfield is one of three male only clubs of the nine Open courses in the British rotation. Will it ever lose its place?

Jerry Micco: Not likely. Changes comes slowly when it's a private entity. Augusta finally made some changes, but those took years. And I'm not sure everywhere a major is played on Tour that they aren't male-only clubs.

Jerry Micco: OK folks, looks like the witching hour of 1 p.m. has arrived, so I must be going. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to chat this week. It is always appreciated. I will be gone next Wednesday, maybe enjoying a pina colada on a beach, as I will be on vacation. But I'll be back on July 31 to resume our lunchtime talks. Until then, have a great couple weeks and I'll see you then. Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco



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