Pick your Pirates MVP through the first 112 games.
Andrew McCutchen (54%)
Francisco Liriano (7.5%)
Pedro Alvarez (0%)
Russell Martin (31%)
Mark Melancon (0%)
None of the above (7.5%)
Jerry Micco: Hello everyone and welcome to the chat live from Steelers camp in Latrobe. I'm opening up early for questions and for you to vote in the poll. But I won't be taking questions until my customary time at noon. But I'll be back then to get things going. See you soon!
Weegie: Jerry, any young WR's standing out to you up there? Is Plex a lock to make this team?
Jerry Micco: I've just been here an hour and the practice isn't scheduled until 1:55 p.m., so I can't give you that lowdown. I'd imagine Plex is the 5th WR and his main competition is Justin Brown, the rookie out of Oklahoma/Penn State. David Gilreath may be in the mix, too. What may hurt Plax's chances would be he can't play special teams. Brown may be able to do that as he was a solid kick returner at PSU and Oklahoma.
Gus: Not to belabor the point since he's gone, but having Inge on the roster instead of J-Hay most of the year, do you think it may have cost us a few games to have such a weak bat on the bench?
Jerry Micco: No, because Harrison wasn't exactly killing it in AAA. That said, Inge proved to be a near-total bust and Harrison in spurts plays pretty well. And he fills the Inge role, too. I like seeing Harrison on the roster, but if he plays once a week, that's plenty in my estimation. Use as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner, too.
Guest: I voted for Cutch, how can you not, he's the proverbial straw that stirs the drink. That being said, does he have a real shot to get MVP since he plays in such a small market?
Jerry Micco: According to Brovado.com, the gambling web site, he's the odds-on favorite to win the NL MVP. There isn't a knockout candidate as there is in the American League in Cabrera, so Cutch's name is near the top. Question is, can he win the NL MVP and not be the Pirates MVP? I think that's possible, thus today's poll question.
Ray Miller: Watching Locke pitch is excruciating with his pitch count, he doesn't pitch to contact, listening to Bob Walk and Greg Brown they seem to be whistling in the graveyard with their comments about Locke, saying he's doing fine. It looks like he's losing confidence with each batter. Do you see him being effective the remainder of the year?
Jerry Micco: He'll be effective if he can get ahead of hitters, which he's not done in his last 3 starts, and stays out of the middle of the plate. That's easier said than done, but he did it for the first half of the season just fine. They think his issue is mechanics, and they'll look at that. But he's not getting crushed in any games, so he'll keep going back out there. And if they need to work on the side with him and he has to skip a start, Jeanmar Gomez or Cumpton could be inserted.
Guest: Can the US Open and PGA Champ be help at Firestone?
The Chief: Jerry, hope all is well. It's been a very quiet Steeler camp, is that what a winning baseball team will do to Football Training Camp?
Jerry Micco: It certainly has had that effect, but there is still plenty of interest in the Steelers. In prior years, they didn't have much competition for fans' attention come August. But not this year. And they've flown a bit under the radar, which probably pleases Mike Tomlin. But when you look at our web site metrics, Steelers stories still outpace any others we do, including the Pirates, on almost every day.
Guest: What is Johnny Football thinking? This guy will be making millions, in a few years. His college days could be in trouble now.
Jerry Micco: But he's going to play in the NFL at some point, so that money will be there. Now is he an elite NFL QB? I'm not ready to say that. And the point is, he's not thinking and no one can seem to get him to think. So it does make you wonder what type player you'd be getting if you were an NFL team.
The Chief: Jerry, biggest surprise/disappointment so far at Steeler Camp?
Jerry Micco: I don't know if I can translate what you're asking, but if you're asking if Tiger Woods can be helped this week at Oak Hill by winning the Firestone, I'll say it doesn't hurt. Oak Hill is a US Open course that will be the PGA Championship venue. It'll be tougher than some PGA Championship spots because of that.
Jerry Micco: Really kind of early for that because they haven't had their first preseason game. But no question Le'Veon Bell has impressed the coaching staff immensely. Other than him, not hearing all that much.
Guest: What's your prediction on when we will see Lambo in the show?
Jerry Micco: I'm going to guess late August or Sept. 1. I don't think he's an immediate help even with the power numbers. Big jump from AAA to the bigs and if the Pirates front office thought he was ready, he'd be here by now. Maybe they are seeing some things that concern them, but I do believe at some point, he'll be on the roster.
The Chief: Jerry, your thoughts on how MLB has handled the drug issue. Have we finally seen the end of these guys cheating and do their respective teams have any guilt in the matter?
Jerry Micco: I give MLB credit for using what they could to suspend cheaters. I'm not sure I like the way they've handled A-Rod's case. It's going to allow him to play the rest of this season, and who knows, he may just retire at the end of it. All in all, though, MLB has done a pretty good job with this. Cheaters should get heavy suspensions.
Guest: How can the Eagles keep Cooper around? I'm sure there are players that are racist, but I'm guessing 99.9% don't wear it on their sleeve like that.
Jerry Micco: Riley Cooper is going to have a tough time in the NFL. Even if you think a certain way, especially if it's in a despicable way and you're in public, keep your stupid mouth shut. Cooper didn't, and that's going to haunt him for a long, long time.
Jason P: Do you think Le'veon Bell can be the full time starter or will we see a RB by committee again?
Jerry Micco: I think if Bell has a good camp, and he's having a good camp, he'll start and play the majority of the time. You might see Redman/Dwyer in occasionally and maybe Stephens-Howling/Batch on third down, but he's going to be the guy if he keeps proving it on the field.
Guest: Jerry, you buying or selling all this Cum-By-Ya stuff from our OC Haley?
Jerry Micco: I guess I want to see results on the field that weren't always there last season before I buy into all this. At some point, no matter what offense you play or how you call the plays, the guys have to perform. And if they don't, it really doesn't matter what you say or what the offense looks like. We'll see how it goes when the road gets a bit rocky.
Guest: Who was your pick for Pirates MVP? I went with Martin. The guy is a massive upgrade, calls a good game, makes runners think twice about stealing, and has decent batting numbers.
Jerry Micco: A couple weeks ago in this chat, someone asked me who the Pirates could least afford to lose in the 2nd half of the season. I said it was Martin. So by saying that, I'm saying he's the MVP. In my mind, he's made a huge difference on this team and you're post sums that up nicely.
Jason P: How much will we see the Steeler starters Saturday against the Giants?
Jerry Micco: I'm going to guess two, maybe three series and that'll be it. It's a game for the rookies and FAs to try to buy another week or so of camp time. To me, the first and third games are important in the preseason. The first is to see how the starters look in a small window, but more importantly, are there any rookies or 2012 backups who can show improvement.
yinzer in va: Jerry, I have no stats to back up this comment, but it seems that since the All Star break, the starters have been pitching into the 7th inning and beyond a lot more often, which is good. Have you or any of the PG staff also made that observation?
Jerry Micco: I've noticed they are going deeper, but Bill Brink or Michael Sanserino may have those stats. I think they are going deeper into games because it seems Burnett and Liriano are almost always locks to get in at least 7. Locke has been good in the past, but not in his last few starts. Cole is seldom getting in 7, however.
Jason P: Do you think Cutch can win the NL MVP?
Jerry Micco: If he can keep it up with the bat, he's got a very good chance. He plays a very good center field and he's not solidly above .300. And more importantly, his RBIs are now mid-60s and he could reach 90 with 20-25 HRs. All good numbers in the NL, where no one has really taken charge.
Guest: Do you see the Steelers extending anyone before camp breaks? Maybe Ryan Clark?
Jerry Micco: Maybe Clark, maybe Emmanuel Sanders if they can do a deal with him.
Jack Fleck: The timetable for Tiger and Jack and winning 14 Majors at the same point in life is eerie, that being said, Doesn't Tiger face a tougher task going forward with all the great young players?
Jerry Micco: The competition is much greater today than in Nicklaus' time, but Tiger has worked through that for years and still won his 14 majors. I think it'll still be tough for him to catch Nicklaus, but not impossible. And I'd think he's a favorite this week to win the PGA, a tournament he always has done well in.
The Chief: Jerry, with the tension that is building up between the US and Russia, and if things keep escalating as they are do you foresee a possible US boycott of the Winter Games?
Jerry Micco: No, I really don't. I think that will be set aside so the Sochi Games can go on with US athletes competing.
Drew in the burgh: Happy Birthday Sid the Kid! Looking forward to hockey season again Jerry!
Jerry Micco: Training camp starts in September, so it's right around the corner. Sid turns 26 today. Seems like yesterday he was this 17 year old kid, which was his draft age, who was going to save hockey in Pittsburgh. And he's not done a bad job of that, either.
Guest: I'm the only Steeler fan who thought letting Wallace leave was a mistake, I don't see anybody on that roster as a deep threat. If I'm the opposing safeties I'm playing up on the Steelers Smurf WR's. What do you think?
Jerry Micco: And without Heath Miller for at least part of the season, it's going to make things tougher on Brown and Sanders. That said, Markus Wheaton has very good speed and can get deep. He's a rookie, so there's room to grow there, but he can certainly run deep routes with some speed. And he may turn out to be a better all-around WR than Wallace, but he does not have his speed.
The Chief: Any update on when Heath Miller returns. With the current mediocre TE corps, do you se the Steelers adding a TE before the season begins?
Jerry Micco: No update on Miller, though I'd be surprised if it was before mid-October. Apparently David Paulson has impressed in camp. He's not Miller, but has shown some ability to get open over the middle and make tough catches. So he'll have to step up in a hurry. I doubt they'll get a quality TE before the season starts. They'll go with Paulson/Spaeth and await Miller's return.
Jason P: How has Troy looked in camp? I think his health, and explosiveness will really determine how well we do this year.
Jerry Micco: My understanding is Troy has looked fine in camp with no physical issues. But it's still early.
Ralph_LA: What's Heath Miller's status? Is he practicing in camp?
Jerry Micco: Miller is still on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Ray Fittipaldo, who is sitting nearby, tells me he's working with the training staff on rehab but has had no time of the field, and none is planned. He can do some light running.
Wally Mann: What a difference a few years make. The Steelers look like an 8-8 or 9-7 team at best and seems many are soured on the Pens playoff failures. Do you think the Pirates have a real chance of reestablishing themselves in this city to the #2 team instead of #4 or #5 after Pitt?
Jerry Micco: The Pirates and Penguins, as far as our metrics show, are Nos. 2 and 2A behind the Steelers. And certainly the Pirates putting together a great season gives them a boost. Pitt is always behind the pro teams as far as fan interest. Now, moving to the ACC and having a dynamic home football schedule should certainly help with fan support. But nothing cures low attendance like winning, as the Pirates are proving.
The Chief: Jerry, I know it is early in the camp, but who may be a surprise cut before the regular season starts?
Jerry Micco: Hard to say. Maybe Jonathan Dwyer if he can't beat out Ike Redman, as I see both as similar players. Redman would then be the No. 2 guy. And as I stated earlier, Plaxico Burress may go in favor of Justin Brown.
Guest: If I'm Chip Kelly when the Riley Cooper mess started I take a vote in the locker room, does he stay or does he go. Being the majority of the players are African American that should end the discussion.
Jerry Micco: But it's not a democracy, it's an autocracy, and Kelly is in charge of it. Players don't vote players on or off a team. I understand what he did is despicable and I'm sure a lot of players around the league don't like it. But Kelly's job is to win football games. If he thinks Riley Cooper can do that, and not become anything more than a distraction, then he'll keep him around.
Jeff Bezos: Any interest in coming to DC and running my Sports Department at the Post? Just think of being able to chat about the Nats and Caps.
Jerry Micco: Matt Vita, who is the sports editor at the Post, is a terrific journalist and runs one of the top departments in the country. I'm sure Mr. Bezos will be happy with him. And while my knowledge of the Caps and Nats isn't strong, I know that guys like Ovi and Bryce Harper will keep things interesting. And I'm perfectly happy in Pittsburgh, by the way.
The Chief: Not a real sports question, but curious as your take on the Washington Post being sold to the owner of Amazon. Good or bad for the newspaper industry?
Jerry Micco: Newspapers need patient owners who can weather the storm of what continues to be uncertain financial waters. I think Bezos buying the Post is a good thing because he's showing an interest in a media company and I'm sure there's going to be a lot of cross-marketing of Amazon on the Post web site.
Ralph_LA: With the better performance, is attendance at Pirate games up substantially and does that have a big impact on the bottom line? Do you get any insights into the Pirate finances?
Jerry Micco: It certainly has a positive effect on the Pirates bottom line and don't be surprised to see another bump in ticket prices after this season. It's a supply/demand thing. If the Pirates become a hot ticket, and they are right now, then you can charge more. That's good business.
The Chief: You surprised the Pirates did not make any kind of deal at the deadline?
Jerry Micco: Not really. I didn't see much out there that wouldn't have cost them some very good pieces. I think they did a good job to hold the line and thus far, that has proven to be a good plan. I didn't think it was much of a buyer's market anyway.
Jerry Micco: OK folks, time to check on some Steelers stuff here at Latrobe. Thanks so much for joining me today and for all the great questions. As usual, the hour passed quickly. I'll be back next Wednesday at noon for another chat hour. Until then, have a great week everybody! Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco