Bob Smizik chat transcript
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Bob, in the long run, today's announcement that the IOC did not get the slots license will go down as the biggest sports story of the year for Pittsburgh. Yes, I know the Steelers won the Superbowl.
Bob Smizik: Yes, I agree it will be one the biggest sports stories of the year. How big remains to be seen in terms of what this will mean to the future of the Penguins.
PirateApologist: Hey Bob, is there an official slots license press conference?
Bob Smizik: Not one that I am aware of. I suggest staying in touch with post-gazette.com for full coverage.
bye_bye_pens: How can the state turn down $300 Million in free money to build an arena? As Paul Steigerwald reported a year ago... the fix was in. Do you find it odd that many of the speaker of the house were guests at the super bowl last year of the slots license winner? My prediction. The penguins leave town, win 3 or 4 Stanley Cups, and then about 10 years down the road the state will build a new arena (with all taxpayer money) and TRY to lure a professional hockey team back to town. Outrage
Bob Smizik: All the know-it-alls in the electronic media were saying the fix was in for Station Square winning the slots. Forest City was supposed to be the politically connected group. So the people who said the fix was in were dead wrong -- not right as you are suggesting. How they could turn down $290 million is simple. They believe, in the long run, the North Shore casino is what's best for Pittsburgh. This is not what's best for the Penguins but what is best for the region.
CaseyStew: What now?
Bob Smizik: The local politicans have to get to work to implement Plan B. I believe it can be done.
se_ya_pens: What chance do you give the pens staying here now
Bob Smizik: The Penguins have a very good chance of staying. I would be shocked if they left. Plan B can work. A positive to this news is that the asking price of the team will significantly decrease. That will bring back more bidders. This is a great hockey town. There are owners out there who want the Penguins and want to keep them in Pittsburgh.
KansasCityPenguins: How is a free arena not best for this region?
Bob Smizik: For discussion purposes, let's say the North Shore casino -- which definitely was the best location -- brings in $30 million a year more than the IOC would have. In ten years, the $290 million is made up. And the casinos will be here for more than ten years.
Joker: Bob- Is the fix in with the slots? Barden, even with 7.5 million for 30 years leaves a lot of money to be raised publicly. There's no way that will happen because the public already feels burdened by PNC Park. Agree?
Bob Smizik: The money does not come from the public's pocket, as I see it. It comes from the hockey team and the slots money. That can be done. By the way, no one is burdened by PNC Park and Heinz Field. I'd be interested in you telling me how you are budened -- taxwise -- by those facilities.
jimmy_g: Hi Bob. Knowing that you have always liked to stir things up a bit, what do you think the odds are that Bill Cower will leave at the end of the season as you suggested today in your column?
Bob Smizik: I think it is 70-30 that he will.
DeanD: Don Barden has pledged 7.5M over 30 years for a new arena. Did anyone get that in writing or can he back out of that pledge?
Bob Smizik: I don't know if it is in writing, but I would be shocked if it were not. He was handed a fortune today and I can't believe what he promised is not just in writing but in concrete.
KansasCityPenguins: Why should whoever ends up owning the Pens keep them here (and contribute towards a new arena) when another town will build one for them?
Bob Smizik: Because if there is a new arena the NHL won't let the team leave. That is precisely why Balsillie got out.
jimmy_g: The North Side location may be a blessing in disguise. The geography is much better with more land available and no significant residential neighborhoods. The only real problem may be its nearness to the Carnegie Science Center. What are your thoughts?
Bob Smizik: I always felt the North Shore was the best location. I did not know if overall it was the best but the Gaming Commission, which knows a lot more about this than any of us, did. That's good enough for me.
smpjcu: Do you support the notion that the Pens should have to pony up the dough just like the Pirates, Steelers and taxpayers? Bob Smizik: Why not? The Steelers paid about 40 percent of Heinz Field, the Pirates a little less than 20 percent of PNC Park. Of course, the Penguins would have preferred a free arena. But since that is not to be, they have to come up with the money.
PirateApologist: Bob, forgetting the Penguins for a second, I agree with you that the North Side is the best location for the casino. It has accessibilty to nearly every part of the county.
Bob Smizik: Thanks for the support.
smpjcu: Did Balsillie back out knowing his chances to move the Pens were slim?
Bob Smizik: There has been no official explanation as to why Balsillie backed out but it is pretty much agreed he learned he could not move the team and therefore had no desire to own it.
mtw: Bob, do the Bucs have any chance of signing Suppan? I know Dejan needs to write about something, but I'd say the chances are slim to none.
Bob Smizik: I can't imagine they have anything more than the slimmest of chances of signing Jeff Suppan. Personally, I hope they don't sign him. He's not enough of an upgrade for the money he is asking.
CaseyStew: I think Bill Cowher deserves the right to retire for a year or two then get the big payday with another team for a few years. He has earned it. He will never get the huge chunk of change with the Rooney's. My questin, boos or applause on his first trip back to Heinz with the, lets say, Cleveland Browns?
Bob Smizik: I would applaud him if and when he returns to Pittsburgh. Whether that is the case, I don't know. I still haven't figure out why the fans boo Aramis Ramirez.
jimmy_g: Many Penguin fans have been blinded by the "free" arena idea. Harry Truman once said that there is no such thing as a free lunch and the Lower Hill location would have come with a heavy price including traffic congestion, neighborhood disruption, etc.
Bob Smizik: The free arena was great for the Penguins and I don't agree if you are suggesting there was some drawback to the IOC plan. It was win-win for the Penguins. If there were drawbacks, they were in the location, which never struck me as being a good one.
KansasCityPenguins: Is it possible Balsillie backed out because he sensed IOC was not going to get the slots license and he did not want to contribute money towards an arena here when he could get a free one in another town? Sounds like a solid business decision to me.
Bob Smizik: I think he backed out because he couldn't move the team. He knew when he negotiated the deal there was a chance IOC would not get the slots license.
desertboy: Your reaction to PITG getting the slorts license and its efect on the Pens?
Bob Smizik: If the Gaming Commission thinks it's the best site, I will take its word for it. As for the Penguins, it's not good news. It's hard to beat an almost-free arena. But as I said earlier, this will drop the price of the team and that will bring in more groups willing to bid. It's not good news for Mario Lemieux and his partners, but it opens the door to more people. The price of the team will drop at least $25 million because of today's decision.
PirateApologist: What possible reason do the Pirates have for signing a 38 year old pitcher from Japan? Even with a minor leauge deal, it seems like a sorry attempt to show the fans that they are tapping into different markets.
Bob Smizik: I don't think they operate from such a public relations standpoint. Granted, this guy doesn't look like much. But it's possible he can help them. I doubt he cost them much. It's a better deal than signing Burnitz and Randa and trading for Casey.
smpjcu: If Cowher "retires" and in 2008 he is coaching some other team, the Steeler fans would hate him for that, especially if he coached the ridiculously pathetic Browns
Bob Smizik: It is the right of the fans to hate him. From my perspective, it is also his right to leave if he wants. He has done a great job for the Steelers and he should be appreciated, not condemned.
KansasCityPenguins: What is your opinion of Dave Littlefield's work this offseason? Why did the LaRoche deal not happen?
Bob Smizik: I give Littlefield a B+ this season, merely for not being involved in the ridiculous salaries being doles out. I don't know the answer as to why the LaRoche deal feel through. For all I've read and heard, though, it's not dead.
jimmy_g: I think that the Pirates' better option now is via trades for a RH pitcher or LH power hitter. It's time for Littlefield to be more aggressive and maybe package Mike Gonzolez and Jose Castillo to fill at least one of the teams needs.
Bob Smizik: I think both players can be had. It's a question of finding a team that has a player the Pirates need and will be willing to accept Castillo and Gonzalez in return. None of us has any idea how aggressive or unaggressive Littlefield has been.
MPM: Why did it take so long for Balsillie to realize that the league was going to make it difficult for him to move the team?
Bob Smizik: He might only have recently put his cards on the table. Or he might have thought the league was not as rigid as it showed itself to be on insisting the Penguins stay in Pittsburgh.
DandyDon: So Bob, your unbiased opinion -- who has the best moustache in Pittsburgh sports: Cowher, Wanny or Jerry Micco?
Bob Smizik: Micco
se_ya_pens: This could be Cowher's last game in pittsburgh. Do you think there will be a different reaction to him from the fans, pa annoncer, etc.?
Bob Smizik: I don't know that he is ever introduced. I don't pay much attention to that. There really isn't much chance for the fans to salute a coach. That will be particularly true if the Steelers lose.
smpjcu: So when can we start calling Doumit the next "Craig Wilson" now or should we wait until he hits 28 HRs and sits on the bench? Bob Smizik: The Pirates only wish he is the next Craig Wilson. He has a long way to go to achieve that role. I see him as a utility guy this season he at some point will get a chance to play.
worst_time_caller: What does Russ Grimm's role translate to as a job description?
Bob Smizik: He is the offensive line coach and is in charge of that group. His title of assistant head coach is mostly honorary and there are no duties that I am aware of.
worst_time_caller: What comes next with the arena? What's the timetable?
Bob Smizik: Plan B comes next and the politicians have to get moving on it. The fact the team ownership is in flux makes matters more difficult.
jimmy_g: Good answer on the mustache question, Bob!
Bob Smizik: No kidding
smpjcu: How much did you gag on your breakfast when you read that the Phillies wanted Gonzo for Lieber, straight up...and Littlefield demands too much?
Bob Smizik: I would not trade Mike Gonzalez for Jon Lieber.
hockeygod1331: If you could guess what Mario Lemieux is thinking right now, what would it be?
Bob Smizik: I think Mario wants out of this as fast as he can and he is wondering when he will ever get his money.
worst_time_caller: How do you like my screen name?
Bob Smizik: One of the best.
The_whistler: Will Mark Madden make good on his promise to leave town if the Penguins do as well? One can only hope.
Bob Smizik: Yes, we can only hope.
desertboy: Better in the long hual? The Steelers win out and the seon is viewed as a fluke or at least one loss showing deeper problems?
Bob Smizik: Winning out and making the playoffs is the best case scenario. There is nothing to be gained by another loss. They've lost enough to know where there problems are. I think the Steelers are better than they showed this year but not as good as they were in 2005.
KansasCityPenguins: Do you think there is a chance that the Rooneys will actually open up the wallet and pay Cowher what he would get on the open market?
Bob Smizik: I don't think the Rooneys will pay Cowher what Dan Snyder thinks he's worth. I think they will pay him what they think he's worth. I think the issue of pay has something to do with him deciding his future.
PirateApologist: What are the Penguins going to do with the 10 million dollar deposit they get to keep?
Bob Smizik: It will be a long time and many legal battles before they get to keep that $10 million. I guess it would go into a general operating fund.
PhillyMarty: Are the Pirates aware that the Philly media has suggested that Lieber's subpar performance last year is because he has recently developed the bad habit of not being able to push himself away from the buffet table?
Bob Smizik: I think the Pirates are pretty up to speed on LIeber. He doens't interest me and I hope he doesn't interest them.
jimmy_g: OK Steeler Nation, here is the worst case scenario. The Steelers win the next two and still miss the playoffs.
Bob Smizik: The worst-case scenario is losing the next two.
roninbuc: If the Pirates would be aggressive and offer enough to sign Suppan before Zito signs, then Texas or the Mets couldn't come back and jack his price up. Suppan not a #1 pitcher, but Kenny Rogers isn't either. Soup would be good for the young pitchers. I am more optimistic it could happen.
Bob Smizik: Teams have pitching coaches to work with young pitchers. What exactly did Suppan do for the young pitchers when he was here in 2003? Suppan will sign with the Pirates only if he has no other optiosn.
KansasCityPenguins: Pitt hoops. Overrated?
Bob Smizik: Pitt is not the second best team in the country, maybe not even the seventh best. They are very good and remind me of past teams. Great chamistry but not the go-to guy that great teams have.
PhillyMarty: Is there anything that would forbid Mario from first moving the team based on a hand-shake agreement with a new buyer already in his pocket? Can the league deny the Pens the right to move any more than the NFL could not stop the Colts, the original Browns, etc?
Bob Smizik: Those are lawyers questions. It would seem to me, though, if they could keep Balsillie from moving the team they could keep Mario.
roninbuc: I still think LaRoche or maybe Kotchman from the Angels would a better LH power fit, but if the Pirates could get Cabera from the Yanks for Gonzo, couldn't Littlefield flip Duffy to Florida for Mike Jacobs?
Bob Smizik: I don't know if Cabrera is the answer. He is young and with a lot of potential but, unlike LaRoche, he's never done it. I would not take him even up in a trade for Gonzalez.
Baxter: Have there been any names mentioned of guys outside of the Steelers organization who might have a chance is Cowher leaves?
Bob Smizik: Kirk Ferentz, the Iowa coach, has been mentioned. He has six years as an NFL asst. on his resume.
PirateApologist: The Pirates should put their "Suppan" money in the till and save it for Freddy and Zach, etc.
Bob Smizik: I agree the money would be better used to pay the younger players when it comes time to give them long-term deals or when, in Duke's case, he hits arbitration.
PhillyMarty: I have to agree with Jimmy G. This team has holes that need to be addressed. Many teams have allowed themselves to be misled but late season success. Couldn't the Steelers fall into the same trap?
Bob Smizik: Who said they don't have holes. Of course, they do. They have seven losses. But losing some more games isn't going to change anything.
KansasCityPenguins: Do you think Joe Paterno comes back next year, or do his wife and friends convince him it is time to step down?
Bob Smizik: What friends? He'll be back.
hockeygod1331: Do you think Marc Andre Fleury is still the Penguins goaltender of the future?
Bob Smizik: Yes.
jimmy_g: The next game will tell a lot about how good Pitt Basketball team is or isn't. They were bound to have a game like the one at Wisconsin. How they respond against Oklahoma State will tell a lot.
Bob Smizik: A loss to Oklahoma State, unless it's a rout, won't change my opinion of the Pitt team. They are very good. They have a chance to win the Big East. They have a chance to advance beyond the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.
PirateApologist: With McCutcheon, Neil Walker, and their young pitchers, the Pirates may actually be in good shape in '08 and '09. But then they will lose Bay, Sanchez and others. Point blank question: Will the Pirates ever make the playoffs again?
Bob Smizik: The Pirates have a window of opportunity until 2009. That's when Bay's contract expires and players like Sanchez, Gonzalez, Nady, Grabow and Castillo, will be eligible for free agency -- if they dont' sign long-term deals. I think the Pirates have a slim chance of making the playoffs but I would not want to place a bet on that.
PirateApologist: Do you think that since the Steelers are still not mathematically elimated from the playoffs that league is a little watered down?
Bob Smizik: I would think the opposite. If the defending SB champs are struggling to make the playoffs, that would seem to me to indicate the league is strong.
DeanD: Fleury has been struggling lately. Should the Pens sit him for a few games?
Bob Smizik: It wouldn't hurt and they have a decent backup. Goalies are hard to figure.
jimmy_g: The heck with the playoffs, when are the Pirates going to have a winning season?
Bob Smizik: Same as above. They have a chance in 2008 and 2009. I doubt they can do it in 2007.
KansasCityPenguins: Do you think Mark Cuban will make a bid for the Pens?
Bob Smizik: Excuse me while I laugh hysterically. Cuban talks a good game. Just once I'd like to see him put that fabulous money where his mouth is.
jimmy_g: Hey, what happened to all the arena talk? Are Penguin fans in a state of shock?
Bob Smizik: I had not noticed the Arena talk slowing down.
jimmy_g: It could happen in 2007 if three other starting pitchers do what Ian Snell did last year.
Bob Smizik: Anything can happen. Pigs might fly some day. In my opinion, the Pirates will not break .500 in 2007. But that's what they play the season for. It's been a pleaure answering your questions. Jerry Micco will be back next week. Thanks.
First Published December 20, 2006 12:00 am