Jerry Micco's sports chat transcript: 9.12.12
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Jerry Micco: Welcome to the chat. I'll be back in a minute to start taking questions. In the meantime, please vote in the quick poll. Back in a moment.
kibab1979: Who pays the price? Hurdle, Huntington or both?
Jerry Micco: I don't think either one, though I wonder if Huntington will ask Hurdle to look at his staff to see if there needs to be some changes. It's hard to look at a team that two years ago won 57 games, then won 72 last year and will do better this year and fire a manager or GM. Just doesn't make sense to me. And they are still just 2.5 out of a playoff spot. I don't think they can make it, but they are still in that hunt.
Skot: Any word on Walker's return?
Jerry Micco: No, and with back injuries, you never know when they will feel better. It's been a huge loss in this lineup, that's for sure. Walker was really hitting well before this happened, and he generally kills the Reds.
The Chief: The Pirates have gone from contenders to pretenders to praying to St Jude for 82 wins. Are their prayers answered?
Jerry Micco: I think they can get to 82. At one time, I thought they could easily get to 88 or 90, but that's not going to happen. But it may not take 88 wins to get a wild card in the NL. Maybe 85 gets you there.
Dave: There seems to have been a change in the mental attitude of Pirates,i.e.making errors , base running mistakes, ets Got any ideas why?
Jerry Micco: Long season and some of those guys may not be holding up well under the strain of a playoff run. Last year, you saw the collapse in early August. This year, early September. And the pitching hasn't been what it was in June and July, either, so you wonder if you have some tired arms. It takes so much to make a playoff/pennant run, and right now, the Pirates seem to be fading instead of building up for the stretch.
The Chief: So does the NHL season start with The Winter Classic this year?
Jerry Micco: I've said all along that it would start on time, but I think I was very off-target with that prediction. I'm thinking no earlier than Thanksgiving, but no later than New Year's Day, so you may be right on the late end of things.
kibab1979: Follow up to my last question. Let's say they finish under .500. Doesn't someone need to go? If they suffer massive collapses two years in a row, it has to hurt attendance next summer because everyone will take a cynical view if they enjoy success again.
Jerry Micco: I don't think they'll let go of Hurdle or Huntington because then it signals that the year-over-year improvement wasn't good enough. It's going to take time for the Pirates to get better. Some players still need to develop. McCutchen has faded now two years in a row, but last year was worse than this year. Walker is being held back by injuries now, but he was headed for a second big year in a row. Alvarez is back and having his best season, but he's inconsistent. Maybe next year, that consistency comes to form. I think the players need to develop, and are doing so, but you have to be patient. I think stability in front office and manager's office are important now.
danvanderlee: Why does Hurdle think that just because we have the extended rosters that he has to play everyone?
Jerry Micco: He's looking for a spark, I think. Holt is a nice kid, can hit a little, but he doesn't sniff the field if Walker's healthy. Travis Snider is kind of the odd-man out in the outfield these days, and maybe Presley and Tabata give them the best chance to win. Marte is playing like a rookie, which should surprise no one. He has a lot of parts to match up, and he's trying to find the right combination. Shows how tough it is when you have a patchwork roster and a couple of star-type players.
Skot: Is the defense still the strength of the Steelers, or does the offense now have to carry the load? I know it was Peyton Manning, but it seems like the defense has trouble generating consistent pressure and opposing teams passing offenses have an answer for Lebeau's defense.
Jerry Micco: Skot, I sent a lengthy answer to your question, but seems like some technical difficulties. I don't see the answer. I'll shorten what I said: Yes, I have many more questions of the defense than the offense. I think you are seeing team figure out the schemes by and large. But we'll see if Sanchez/Tebow can do what Peyton Manning could do.
Guest: Seems like all the other teams have been moving up runners by stealing bases on the Pirates and then scoring at least a run. Why can't we try this more often? Are we that weak at the catching position, or have we forgotten how to get a runner in scoring position when you're down to your last resort since the hitting isn't doing well. I'd rather see a guy get thrown out trying to move up, than watch guys stand on the same base for the whole inning. Agree?
Jerry Micco: They don't know how to steal bases and are not very good at it. So if they do it, they are going to run themselves into outs, which can kill a bad offense. As for catcher, neither guy can throw out runners, and the pitchers are generally bad at holding guys. It's a hole in their team, and will need to be address for next season.
The Chief: Your critque of the Steelers performance on Sunday night please!
Jerry Micco: Offense gets a B- only because of the lack of a good, consistent running game. For as many Mendenhall haters as there are out there, would have been nice to have him for this game. Redman is not an answer, though Dwyer might be. Liked the long drives, but still red zone problems. Defense gets a D+. Liked the turnover, but gave up way too many third-down plays and really couldn't stop the no-huddle. Overall, that's a C performance and playing on the road against a good team, that grade means a losing effort.
The Chief: Ryan Ludwick's 25 HR and 72 RBI for 2.5 mill would have looked pretty good for the Bucs. Makes you wondeer why they let him go
Jerry Micco: Because he was lousy here for 2 months last season. He goes to the launching pad in Cincy, and he's a HR hitter again. I think anyone with power who can loft a ball could hit 25 in that park. At PNC, I think if your are a right-handed batter the deep gaps in leftcenter are not conducive to power numbers.
James_Pittsburgh: Is there any reason not to have Starling Marte in the lineup right now? He should play every game since he is part of the Pirates future.
Jerry Micco: Because he's not hitting very well and he's coming off an injury. His defense is OK, but he needs more work. And I don't think he's a total slam dunk to start up here next year, either. I think he has some holes in his swing and they'll have to work on that a bit more. I like him as a player and think he'll be a starter here maybe by midseason 2013, but he's not much better than what's out there now.
James_Pittsburgh: I don't see any reason to fire Neal Huntington. He isn't perfect, but no GM is. He continues to add pieces like Wandy Rodriguez and Travis Snider. I am not sure what people are expecting when the only free agents that will sign with the Pirates are below average veterans like Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes?
Jerry Micco: Barajas and Barmes fill holes where there is no one in the minors to come up and take a spot. They are place-holders. And McKenry, who is a really erstwhile and nice player, is not an everyday catcher. He'd be exposed for all his faults if you played him 130 games a year. Really nice backup and can play 50 games or so, but not an everyday guy. My guess is they'll either resign Barajas or go FA again in 2013.
JohnnyB: On the Steelers Sunday night, O line again was sub par with injuries. It's our achilles heal.
Jerry Micco: It is, especially losing the entire right side. I'd like to see Gilbert and Foster play an entire game Sunday. I think you might see a difference. Adams needs a lot of work and Legursky is really a back-up and nothing more.
The Chief: Does Pitt win a game this year, the Cincy game was flat out bad!
Jerry Micco: Gardner-Webb looms in 2 weeks, so they should grab that one. I think. Here's a thought: I think Pitt gives Va. Tech a good game on Saturday. They are a 10.5-point underdog, but I think they cover. For some reason, I think Paul Chryst will pull them together to play a solid game. They won't win, but they'll keep it close. I just feel it, no other reason to say that.
Skot: What does the future look like for Tony Sanchez? Last I heard that he has struggled since injury.
Jerry Micco: He has struggled at every level, and I don't think he's ready to come up here. Plus, apparently, he's has some maturity issues. Ever see his Twitter? Ugh. He's not a power guy and he hit something like .237 this year, so I think finding another FA to catch next year will be the order of the day. Or trade for a catcher.
csf: Your own high school is the 1st in WPIAL to 700 wins and no mention in PG?
Jerry Micco: It was the lead headline on our AAA roundup on Saturday morning. Not that I ordered that up, I leave those decisions to the editors who handle high school sports, but we did have a few graphs in the paper. And it's a terrific milestone for my alma mater. I was around for 18 of those wins. Didn't play much in my days, but was proud to be a Red Hurricane.
Ran: Is ND to the ACC a good move to the ACC, and might this signal a more complete football move if winning a conference is weighted in advancing to the NCAA football playoff?
Jerry Micco: Good move for both sides, but the ACC let Notre Dame go on football, which is what the Big East did. In my opinion, ND should be all in or all out. It actually benefits ND more than the ACC on the big money-maker. Now, at least they got a 5-game per season commitment from ND, but why not a full-blown commitment? And ND is tied into the bowl structure of the ACC, as I understand it.
Skot: Can you explain who the Buck and Mack linebackers currently are? I though Timmons played the role of roving tackler, but it seemed like Foote was doing more of that than taking on linemen.
The Chief: Do the Steelers get Tebowed this weekend or do they have his number?
Jerry Micco: I'm not the guy to ask. To me, they are just ILBs. Though Ed Bouchette or Gerry Dulac, which do chats on our pay site, PG+ could tell you. And you get 10 free clicks there, so feel free to participate in their chats on Tuesday and Wednesday. But to me, Timmons is kind of out of the picture most of the time. Thing is, he should be so disruptive inside, but he's not. I don't get it.
Jerry Micco: Sorry. Terribly slow system, so my last answer was to Skot's question.
Jerry Micco: I think the Steelers have to worry about Sanchez more than Tebow. I think Tebow has a package of wildcat type plays that the Steelers have seen before. I'd be more worried if Sanchez got a lot of time to throw and picked them apart. Now if they can get pressure on him,he's a very ordinary QB. And I think that'll have to be what they do.
Guest: Did you play with a guy named Bill Howley in your days as a New Castle Hurricane?
Jerry Micco: I did not. My older brother Dominick played with Billy Howley. Saw him throw a long TD pass to Howley once in a JV game. Funny I can't remember lunch yesterday but I remember that.
The Chief: Any surprises in the first week of the NFL season?
Jerry Micco: Didn't think Griffin III and the Redskins would be that good. Shocked me how they clobbered a good Saints team. Carolina was disappointing in their opener. Tampa surprised me with how well they played. They are like a Schiano-coached team in that they are defense-first. I thought Cincy would replace Baltimore as an AFC Central contender. I was flat wrong. The Ravens look great. And the 49ers, as I said last week, are going to the Super Bowl. Winning in Green Bay is tough and they did it convincingly.
Skot: In your opinion based upon what you saw week 1, can the Steelers overtake the Ravens?
Jerry Micco: No, and it wouldn't be all that close. See me by midseason, maybe my mind will change. But the Ravens were very sharp in their opener and the defense looks better than ever. And Flacco seems to be hitting his stride. They looked very tough.
The Chief: A lot of decent Free Agent Pitchers available in 2013. Names like Liriano, Guthrie, Maholm, Marcum; pitching has been the main reason for late season failures the past two years. Are the Pirates buyers?
Jerry Micco: Absolutely. I'd think Burnett, McDonald, Rodriguez are the for-sure starters. Karstens may be in that group, too. Morton won't be ready before the All-Star break, so you can't count on him. I think Correia's gone, but maybe they make a run to try to keep him for another couple of years. He's pitched well enough to be a No. 5 guy here. And at some point, Cole will be here. Maybe July, but I think we'll see him with the big club by mid-season.
Praveen: Do you think our last three first round defensive picks are disappointments? Timmons has no excuses and he looked bad this week. Hood's workout prowess did not translate to overpowering even one on one matchups. Heyward: I hope we cna see more of him to decide if he is as disappointing as the other two
Jerry Micco: Actually, I think Hood has gotten better over the past couple of years, but when you look at Steelers DEs, they are two-gappers and not expected to do more than stop the run. If they get a sack, it's a bonus. My pick for biggest disappointment is Timmons. I wasn't wild about the pick, but loved him 2 seasons ago. But last year and so far this year, he seems too easily blocked and doesn't make many big plays. And they need big plays from LBs. As for Heyward, give him time. I think he'll be OK.
Praveen: once Harrison is gone, should the Steelers go to a 4-3? What is so sacred about sticking with a 3-4? Steelers no longer have a monopoly on 3-4 talent. Another missing factor is except for Keisel, none of these 3-4 guys are able to deflect passes near the line of scrimmage.
Jerry Micco: It will be interesting to see how they draft, but if they decide to change that defense, it'll have to be in the offseason. Right now, they are set up personnel wise as a 3-4 defense. It will take time to transition guys into 4-3 players, but as long as LeBeau is there, it'll probably be the 3-4.
James_Pittsburgh: The Pirates really need to upgrade their starting pitching in the offseason. If you rely on a 36 year old A.J. Burnett to be your number one pitcher your team is going to have problems. Burnett needs to be the 2nd or 3rd best pitcher on the team.
Jerry Micco: But right now, he's the best they have. Though I think Wandy has pitched very well his last 3 outings. I think they'll have to rely on those two and hope McDonald turns the corner for them to be successful. And good starters don't grow on trees. My guess is they won't pay more for a No. 1 starter in FA because of Cole's promise. And they don't have enough to trade, unless they lose Alvarez, Walker or McCutchen.
Skot: Biggest culprit for lack of pressure...D-Line or Linebacking group? It seems to me that the D-Line, although not dominated, isn't getting much of a push either.
Jerry Micco: Not much of a push, but really not their job to rush the passer. LBs have to have a better game this week to beat the Jets. It's up to that unit to dominate on defense.
The Chief: Your thoughts on the steady diet of Thursday night NFL football we will be given this year.
Jerry Micco: I'm happy with football on Sunday and a game on Monday night. The occasional December Saturday game is traditional around the holidays. Thursday does nothing for me.
James_Pittsburgh: In response to the Chief's question. Will any decent starting pitchers be willing to sign with the Pirates as a free agent?
Jerry Micco: That is a legitimate question, but if they can have a winning season and if players see that they may be a player or two away from winning a division, they may take a closer look at the Bucs. Certainly more than they would have two years ago.
Praveen: What is it about everyone slumping oin this team in the final months the last two years? Why is it that Malholm all of a sudden is not tired in the second half once he is no longer a Pirate? I think this has to do with players taking their cues from management's lack of desperation to win in the second half. Not intentionally, but it makes it harder for them to gut it out ina crucial situation in a game late in the season and then things just add up to a loss.
Jerry Micco: That is a mystery to me, but you see this on some other teams, too. Players wear out sometimes and you need to rest them some. But in a stretch run, that's hard to do. It's a tough question to answer, really, but you do have to wonder why this has happened two years running. Now, it's a month later than last season, so maybe there is improvement. We'll see. While I don't think they are out of it yet, I think they have an uphill fight to make the playoffs.
moral compass: Ron Cook blasts Chyrst after two games but says O'Brien doesn't deserve criticism yet. Yeah, you don't have a Penn state agenda
Jerry Micco: Nor do you have any agenda. Right. I will say that reading story comments, that Pitt fans are extremely unhappy right now. I mean losing to a I-AA team will do that. I think Paul Chryst will make these guys better, but the expectation was they'd be no worse than 1-1 coming into this week's game. As for PSU, they didn't have much coming in and with some key guys leaving, are further decimated. But they should have had two wins in my opinion and didn't do the job. So you can feel free to criticize or praise them all you want.
Praveen: Bases loaded. no outs. not even close to getting a run in extra innings. Come on . that's not just wins averaging out to level of talent. That's lack of will. I don't buy the slump being merely a correction to the overachievement in the first half. It seems worse than that.
Jerry Micco: It's two poor ABs by d'Arnaud and Alvarez in that case. So it's young guys making mistakes that veteran players, good veteran players, likely don't make. I don't think the Pirates stopped having a will to win though.
Jerry Micco: OK folks, got to get back to some other stuff. Thanks for the terrific chat and all the good questions. I'll be back next Wednesday at noon to take more of them. Also, I'm handling the Steelers-Jets chat live from Heinz Field on Sunday. Look for the link on our site. I'll open around 4 p.m. Have a great week, and I'll see you next Wednesday. Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco
First Published September 12, 2012 1:57 pm
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