Jerry Micco's sports chat transcript: 3.26.14

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<b>Poll Question:</b> Opening Day is Monday. How many games will the Pirates win this season: <b>Answer #1:</b> 92 or more (5%) <b>Answer #2:</b> 88-91 (45%) <b>Answer #3:</b> 84-87 (25%) <b>Answer #4:</b> 81-83 (10%)<b>Answer #5:</b> Less than 81 (15%)<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> Hello everyone and welcome to the weekly chat. I'll be back at noon to open things up, but feel free to vote in our poll and to submit any early questions. I'll be back in a bit to officially open the chat. See you soon!<p>

<b>Jason Thompson:</b> Jerry is there a Gaping hole at 1B for the Bucs after Lambo has clearly flopped? Does NH make a last minute deal for a 1st baseman?<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> I get the sense that if there is a deal to be made for a first baseman, that Huntington will do it. It was not a good free agent market for first baseman this season. The Lambo experiment was worth it, but he could not hit well enough to earn the job. Travis Ishikawa is at best a stop-gap as an occasional player vs. right-handers. I think Gaby Sanchez is the everyday guy unless Huntington can pull off a deal. Pickings are slim, though.<p>

<b>Guest:</b> Jones Drew coming back for another visit. Bouchette says the Steelers would make a mistake signing him. Tomlin clearly wants another RB. Is this all a smokescreen and the MJD signs with the Steelers?<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> Ed is around the team all the time, so you can trust his judgment. My sense is that Tomlin is not lying when he says they want a veteran RB, I'm sure he does. But MJD says he wants to start and wants $4 million a year. The Steelers can't afford that kind of money. LeGarrett Blount visits tomorrow and won't cost nearly that much. Different player, more of a bruiser. MJD is more complete as a back, but he's a smaller player and maybe doesn't have a lot of tread left on the tires.<p>

<b>Wild Bill:</b> NFL is a true team game and the Steelers really played well after their bad start. They finished strong, have filled many holes with good verteran players, and have gotten younger. Am I the only fan in Pittsburgh who sees this team as being really solid for the next few years?<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> No, you'd have some company, but I'm not sure I'd say they are solid. I still think they need D-Line help, and they need WR help badly. The secondary needs a couple of young CBs, too. And, again, they have one RB under contract. Still a lot of work to do by the front office and they don't have a ton of cap space to do it.<p>

<b>Guest:</b> I don't see Evans dropping to the Steelers or maybe even Benjamin. Isn't taking a CB a risky pick, i.e Morris Claiborne and Dee Milner.<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> I agree with your assessment of Evans not dropping that far down the draft board. And CBs, like QBs, can be risky round 1 picks. This is a draft deep in both CBs and WRs. But you can't wait forever to pick one or the other. I think the Steelers need to take one in both the first and second rounds. I think Darqueze Dennard will be there at 15. He's the CB from Michigan St. Kelvin Benjamin, to me, would be a reach at 15. Big receiver, drops too many passes. If I were going WR in round one, I'd look at Odell Beckham Jr. from LSU if I was in the 15 spot, then wait and take a CB in round 2.<p>

<b>Chunkles:</b> Jerry, I know the lines have not been steady all year but to me, Rob Scuderi, so far has been a bust. I dont recall one game this whole season where he has made a difference and justified his signing.<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> Scuderi missed several games earlier this season with a broken leg, so he really has been behind the curve all season. And he does not look good now. Looks slower and not physical at all. He still gets the job done blocking shots. But he's not the classic puck-moving defenseman Dan Bylsma likes. I think they miss Letang and Martin big time. If those guys are playing, guys like Scuderi get less ice time.<p>

<b>TD:</b> The Steelers have 5 picks in rounds 5-7? Percentages say only one might become a solid starter one day. Why not trade regular picks (not comps) for an extra 4th or use 4th and 5th to get a third this year? Steelers could use playmakers and a they say a 3rd this year could be like a 2nd.<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> Or those two fifths could be like two fourths. I think the Steelers could very well do what you are saying, trade those picks to see if they can move up in the fourth round, or see if they can move into the third round. And you correctly point out they cannot trade the comp picks. But it's a deep draft. Maybe their thoughts are they need to see players and need special teams help, too. But what you propose is not a bad idea and one I'm sure Kevin Colbert and staff have thought about.<p>

<b>The Chief:</b> Jerry, hi hope you had a good week. Your thoughts on Mark Cuban's statement regarding the NFL imploding in 10 years.<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> I like Mark Cuban and think he's a really smart businessman. I think Mark Cuban wishes the NBA would implode like the NFL. I think that was a bit of wishful thinking on Cuban's part. The NFL will only die if people see real issues on the head injuries and see that toll rising at an alarming rate. If that becomes a bigger issue than it is, then people will turn away from the sport. But right now, they can't get enough of it.<p>

<b>The Chief:</b> Jerry, your thoughts on the Pirates this year, how many wins?<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> I think they will have a steadier offense, but I'm not sure they'll have the starting pitching they had last year. A lot of "ifs" in that rotation. I'm comfortable with the bullpen. If I were voting in our poll, I'd probably put them in the 88-91 category, leaning hard on the 88 part of that equation. I think they are a borderline playoff team as a wild card. Now, if their starting pitching comes through and they hit even better than I think they can, you can see them get to 91-92 wins. But they'll be competitive this season.<p>

<b>Guest:</b> Steelers keep trying to hit on starters through the draft, Wallace/Sanders lost at WR, Keenan Lewis lost at CB. Tomlin said Wheaton needs to step up this year. How can you continue to try to replace your starters through the draft when you let so many leave in Free Agency?<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> That's a hard thing to do, which is why you groom guys to play for other guys. Example: Wallace's replacement was Sanders. Lewis' replacement was Cortez Allen. Sanders' replacement will be Wheaton. None of those guys are rookies. Now, are they better than their replacements? Haven't proven that certainly, but generally you don't draft to replace veterans all the time. Except for Le'Veon Bell, who was better than Rashard Mendenhall was his last season here.<p>

<b>Skip:</b> Can you tell me where the Pirates blog has gone? It used to show up on the Sports page and it's no longer there. Also, can we expect any enhancements in the blog software. It's been 6 months and hyperlinks posted in the comments are still not live. It's just frustrating - the PBC blog used to have hundreds of comments per day from very intelligent baseball folks, and they have since packed up and left.<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> The Pirates blog is alive and well. It is on our blogs page. If you go to the top of our home page, place your cursor on Sports and check the drop down menu, you'll see a listing for blogs. Pirates will pop up there. As for the listing on sports, that's a glitch we are working on. For the life of us we cannot understand why the icon has dropped off that page. We are working on it. We have asked our commenting company about hyperlinks, which they do not support, to work with us on it. No progress on it yet because it is their software. We are well aware that we lost folks on that blog. We changed our software in October, a business decision we made for the future. But Bill Brink and Jenn Menendez are active and update the blog several times a day. And you an access it as I told you above. We're hoping a new community populates it. I wish we'd get the old community back, but that ship has sailed. We can't bring back what used to be, we have to build a new community. The same great coverage is there, though.<p>

<b>KP:</b> This is going back a few years, but Jerry do you have any thoughts on why QBs have gone from the backpedal to the sideways dropback? It seems to me that with the speed of LBs and DEs, the backpedal would make it quicker to read defenses and unload the ball. Many of the great passers of the era used it.<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> I guess that's what these guys are learning with the quick passing offenses that are so popular in high school and college these days. And QB coaches may be teaching them that this is the best way to handle it.<p>

<b>The Chief:</b> Jerry, the Penguins appear to right back where they were a year ago: a five hundred team the last third of the season. When you look at the Penguins compared to the Bruins, Blues, Ducks can you honestly think they have a chance to win the Cup?<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> I think the Penguins are a Cup contender, but I would not make them the favorites for the Cup. To me, they are not the best team in the East and if you can't win your conference, you can't win the Cup. The West is so loaded, they will knock themselves silly reaching the Cup final. The Penguins will have to get by the Bruins to win the East. Or if they have to play the Flyers at some point, they are going to have to show they can beat that team in a playoff series.<p>

<b>Doug:</b> Hi Jerry - any word if the Steelers put the "bumblebee" uniforms back into mothballs and we'll see a "new" throwback this year?<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> No word. I believe the bees are still humming along.<p>

<b>The Chief:</b> Jerry, what Final Four do you got after this weekend's Tournament play?<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> My Final Four: Florida, Michigan State, Arizona, Louisville.<p>

<b>Kevin Young:</b> Jeanmar Gomez should not be traded. What can Vin Mazzaro or Bryan Morris really garner for NH?<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> Morris might bring more than Mazzaro, but the Pirates would rather keep Morris because he's younger and has better stuff. And Huntington may have to trade one of the younger pitchers, like a Gomez and/or Morris to get a decent left-hand hitting first baseman. Has to decide if giving up pitching depth is worth it. That's why MLB GMs get paid big bucks...and get ulcers.<p>

<b>JamesinNYC:</b> Who's on first, start of the year?<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> No question it's Gaby Sanchez and probably against right-handers, too.<p>

<b>Debbie Downer:</b> Jerry, you lose AJ Burnette. No way Melancon or Grilli can duplicate last year. All the magical wins last year can't possibly happen again. I see a 72-90 season.<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> I don't see them having a losing season, but I don't see them winning 94 games, either. I think between Rodriguez, Cole and Morton you more than make up for Burnett. If Liriano stays healthy and pitches anywhere near last year, the rotation will be fine. Remember, the rotation on Opening Day last year was Burnett, Wandy, Sanchez and, Locke. Morton, Liriano and Cole were all added later in the season.<p>

<b>Guest:</b> Pirates going to trade for another backup SS? Didi Gregorious? Is that a SS or a Greek belly dancer?<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> Sounds like a special ticket night, Greek belly dancer night. Gregorious is supposedly a guy with a nice upside, but he'll take a starting pitcher like a Gomez or a Locke to get him. The Pirates are concerned about the future at shortstop.<p>

<b>The Chief:</b> OK Jerry, time to look in your crystal ball at the 2014 Pirates. Who is the biggest surprise and who is the biggest disappointment?<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> Surprise might be Charlie Morton. I think he's finally got things straightened out and can win 14-15 games. He's the forgotten guy in the rotation, but if he can do that, the Pirates will be fine. Disappointment might be Mark Melancon, who seemed to fade down the stretch last year. If that's the case, look for Morris to step into that role.<p>

<b>jd:</b> jerry, your thoughts on Marte extension?<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> Great deal for the Pirates. A smart deal for them. Marte could be a special player and if that's the case, they got him for a good amount of money. I think eventually he's a 5-hole hitter who can hit 20 HRs and steal 40 bases. Drive in some runs. And we know his defense and arm are plus-plus. These are the kinds of deals the Pirates absolutely have to make.<p>

<b>jd:</b> Your overall grade on Pitt BB season? I thought they did better than expected.<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> I give them a solid B-plus. I think they did better than expected. Take away the cupcake non-conference schedule and they did well to win 11 ACC games. But they did play well down the stretch and in the ACC tournament, knocking off North Carolina. And I don't think anyone thought they'd beat Florida. I thought they'd play them closer, but Florida is not a No. 1 seed for nothing. And they lost some close ones this year, particularly to Syracuse.<p>

<b>Guest:</b> The last 10 games of the season mean virtually nothing to Penguins, do you see any reason that Coach Blysma does not rest his regulars for the playoffs ?<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> I think the Penguins would rather go into the playoffs playing well rather than resting guys and playing poorly. And a lot of their guys are getting rest because they are hurt. I think they have to play well and play sharp to become playoff ready. Maybe once they clinch a spot he might spot a guy a day of rest, but until then, I say play guys and go in with some momentum.<p>

<b>Drew:</b> Jerry, I don't understand all the criticism that the Pens have been getting recently. Of course their recent play is nothing to be happy about but it seems like everyone is out to get Bylsma and have him fired. To me he's a great NHL coach (and olympic coach at that) and he's one of those guys who after you let go, i'd have a feeling that we'd want him back very quickly. What are your thoughts on canning Danny B if we don't win a Cup this year?<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> I think with all the injuries the team has had you can't say they were a complete team at any point in the season. Bylsma never had a chance to compete with all his guns loaded at one time. So on that count, you have to give him some latitude. But what I'm seeing now, more and more, is very undisciplined play and that lands squarely on his shoulders. I guess that concerns me more than losing some close games through a rough stretch. They also won some tough games against good teams, too, on the West Coast swing. It's a mixed bag, but if they go out in round 1 of the playoffs, I think Ray Shero will have something to think about.<p>

<b>Jerry Micco:</b> OK folks, time to get back to some other stuff. Thanks for all the great questions and for taking the time to chat with me today. I always appreciate you doing that. We'll be back next Wednesday at noon, and I hope you'll join me then. See you next time! Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco

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