Dejan Kovacevic's sports chat: 3.10.11
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Dejan Kovacevic: Good morning to one and all. About to get started with an aim of having me out of your life by the time Pitt and UConn tip off at noon ...
pghboyinca: It is now March 10th and Sid is still not cleared for workouts beyond some unspecified light stuff on his own. Could you imagine a scenario that would make sense for the Pens to even seriously consider bringing him back if something magical doesn't happen in the next week? It would take a minimum of 2-3 weeks to get back into game condition after being inactive for that long and the risk factor would be enormous. I get the feeling that the players already know or sense that they will be without him.
Dejan Kovacevic: Taking your hypothetical, if Crosby were cleared today, yes, it would probably take at the very least a couple of weeks for him to regain a full -- and safe -- level of conditioning. There is a month left until playoffs, but we are talking about the Stanley Cup playoffs here, a grind unlike anything in sports. That requires exceptional fitness.
It's looking less likely, one could say, but I've been consistent in saying that none of us knows anything about this other than 87 and his doctors.
JAL: When does "too early to worry" in spring training end, or does it ever end. Thinking specifically about Correia who hasn't looked very good in 3 starts. Should more be expected by 3rd start or is it too early to worry?
Dejan Kovacevic: It was about halfway through spring training last year, if I recall, that I angered an awful lot of readers by pointing out in rather blunt terms that the Pirates I was watching looked terrible and looked as if they could lose 100 games. Well, I was wrong: They lost 105.
My basis at the time was that the Pirates were very sloppy defensively, couldn't really pitch and struck out a ton. The more I saw, even in Grapefruit play, the more I was convinced. Well, even that didn't prepare me for the team finishing last in fielding percentage, ERA and batting average while striking out like crazy.
Do spring results mean anything?
As far as scores go, no, almost never.
Do general traits and trends mean something?
jimb056: Now that WVU is out of the Big East Tourney, What kind of NCAA seed do you think they will get ?
Dejan Kovacevic: The Mountaineers didn't do themselves any favors with that loss to Marquette, but 20-11 should still be good enough for a decent seeding, especially given the Big East's prestige. And I'm sure it won't hurt that the memory is still fresh of the Final Four appearance.
pghboyinca: I am wondering how anyone could look at this years Pirate team with any sense of optimism? Outside of Avarez, Walker, Cutch, and Tabata what is there to like? The pitching is abysmal, the bench is a joke, and the other starters would not start for almost any team in baseball. I see 100 losses as a certainty. Give me a scenario that says that we can ein even 75-78 games.
Dejan Kovacevic: I'm with you on the lineup. Very interesting in the top four, plus a platoon I really like in Garrett Jones/Matt Diaz at No. 5, and not much else at all.
The only scenario I can produce that results in the dramatic win increase you cite -- and remember, you're talking about almost 20 wins there -- is if the starting pitching somehow, mystically makes some mad jump. I'm not seeing that.
Another factor: I see a lot of the teams in the Central as having improved, notably Milwaukee with its pitching. The Pirates already were awful within their own division, and that's a trend that would have to change to match your win increase. Don't see that happening.
Arriba Wilver: Kind of off-topic, but when are you going to change that photo at the top of your blog? It looks like it was taken in the restroom at Sheetz. ;-)
Dejan Kovacevic: Why does everyone hate that picture? Actually took it in my living room one late night before I knew our Web people needed it. But yeah, it did kind of end up like Pitt-coach-for-a-week Mike Haywood's mug shots from Indiana.
OK, I'll look into it!
pghboyinca: Ike Taylor, will he be wearing a Steeler jersey next year?
Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, because both parties are interested in that. The Steelers might not have enough cap room to go nuts on a free-agent corner, but a long-term deal could suit a player who very much wants to stay.
One reason you don't see a ton of player movement in the NFL is that players become very comfortable with their coaches and systems, and vice versa. Ike and the Steelers are no exception.
Arriba Wilver: So when are you and Paul Zeise going to appear together on the Sports Showdown? THAT would be something to watch. (full disclosure--I watch it every week anyway).
Dejan Kovacevic: We did just three weeks ago, and it was about as much fun as you might expect. That's a fun show to do under any circumstance.
pghboyinca: I agree with your assessment on the Pirates and we are now in year 4 of the Coonelly/Huntington era. At what point do we need to see results that actually are measurable before they are replaced?
Dejan Kovacevic: If you go by the Cam Bonifay metric, it would be year five.
No, seriously, that depends on your view of the state of the Pirates they inherited. Mine was that the system was nearly bankrupt but that the major-league rosters had pieces that could either keep the team competitive or be parlayed into real, live prospects. Very obviously, neither of those options occurred with any meaningful level of success.
On the other hand, the drafts have been encouraging, the system is at least middle of the pack, and there is half of an everyday lineup.
Arriba Wilver: Do you think it would be a good thing for Pitt to win the conference playoff in the Big East, or would it be better to have a couple days off before the NCAA's?
Dejan Kovacevic: That debate comes around a lot this time of year, and my feeling is that it's just excuse-making among those who try year after year to explain why Pitt falls short in the NCAAs.
To Jamie Dixon's credit, when a group of reporters (including myself) asked questions on that front Monday at the Pete, he did nothing other than stress who it's "the best tournament in the land." That's the right approach: Win the thing, heal up and move on. It would be a tremendous achievement for these Panthers and this senior class to be Big East regular-season and tournament champs.
Ryan: Assuming Maholm, Ohlendorf, Correia, and McDonald are locks, how do you see the 5th starter's job shaking out? Morton and Lincoln have done well. And we'll see about Olson.
Dejan Kovacevic: It's going to be Morton. He's out of options, and Lincoln is not.
The spring competition, in this case, means nothing except that they wanted to see Morton do well enough that he could be taken north. Besides, Lincoln's struggles in the second half last season probably would reflect a need to get it all straightened out in the minors for a spell.
Dave: If the Pirates finish with an abysmal record, does Huntingdon's strong drafts give him enough to deserve to stick around?
Dejan Kovacevic: I think so. One reason, in my view, that the Pirates' upper guys -- Coonelly and Bob Nutting -- have avoided any sort of numerical emphasis on wins is that they don't want to have any concrete measure at the major-league level by which to judge Huntington. They like him. They like what he's done in the system.
If you see palpable progress among some of the system's key prospects -- most visibly, one or two of the pitchers in Class AAA making the leap -- I think you're going to find their rationale for keeping Huntington.
Arriba Wilver: What do you think about the high strikeout rate the Bucs seem to be having? Too early to consider it a problem?
Dejan Kovacevic: They have too many hitters who are not good at hitting.
JAL: Any idea why the Pirates record got worse last season after they upgraded 3 positions? Pedro was better than Any at 3rd, Walker much better than Aki at 2nd, and Tabata much better in left yet the team lost a higher pace.
Dejan Kovacevic: They could not pitch, and they could not catch the ball. You can put out the '27 Yankees' lineup and not win without those other two facets.
Dave: Is Anthony Rendon still the consensus #1? And if the Pirates pick him, does Pedro or Rendon go to 1st when Rendon hits the majors?
Dejan Kovacevic: Rendon still is the consensus No. 1, but it's no more universal now than when I went to see him in Houston last month. UCLA's Gerrit Cole had an awesome game last week in pitching six perfect innings, then going the distance on 101 pitches. TCU's Matt Purke, a lefty, is up there, too.
Yes, I could see Alvarez moving to first.
Doug Mahoney: You have someone in town visiting Pittsburgh for the first time, but only for the afternoon -- where do you take them that's not PNC Park?
Dejan Kovacevic: Easy. Duquesne Incline. We not only go up there, but we also visit the recently-opened mechanical room underneath. Costs only 50 cents and you can see all the ancient wheels and pulleys that move the cars. It's awesome.
All that, and it's the best view of the most beautiful urban landscape on planet Earth.
Dave: Is Taillon the only Pirates prospect with the look of a true #1 starter in the future?
Dejan Kovacevic: No. Luis Heredia has that makeup, as well, but he's 16.
James_Taiwan: Do you think that NFL owners are brave enough to let things wind up in court and then they will be forced to open their books?
Dejan Kovacevic: I don't think this will get to that point, and not just because NFL lawyers had to have mapped out what can and cannot be adjuticated in court. The owners are going to put a shiver into the players, lose a little bit of camp, then get what they want.
And you won't miss any football other than Oklahoma drills in Latrobe.
Dejan Kovacevic: The Pitt game has tipped off. I have two predictions: 1. Panthers will win easy because they can shut down any single player, even Kemba Walker. 2. This game will last at least 1.7 seconds longer than the Rutgers-St. John's fiasco yesterday.
One more Q today ...
Dave: I read that Matt Cooke story in SI. What does the national media have against Lemieux? Rediculous criticism, considering that the Islanders employ like 5 Matt Cookes.
Dejan Kovacevic: Depends on the "national" you have in mind. It's Canada that long has failed to adopt Lemieux in any significant way. Even when his goal won the 1987 Canada Cup in Hamilton, all you read about was Wayne Gretzky's rather routine drop pass to Lemieux. This goes back to his junior career, and it's never stopped.
I'm not Canadian, so I can't say how much of this is the English-French thing, but it seems unimaginable that it's not a factor.
And the SI piece was written by Mike Farber, who also is based in Canada, mostly in Montreal, if I recall correctly.
James_Taiwan: Dejan, I don't think that the Panthers will win easily today!
Dejan Kovacevic: Well, what do you say we go and watch?
Again, I remind that the conversation never stops, day or night, at the DK on Pittsburgh Sports blog on PG+. First few views of the page are free. Stop and give us a look.
Thanks to all for the participation.
First Published March 10, 2011 12:38 pm