Pirates Q&A with Dejan Kovacevic
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Stop right here, take a look at that schedule for the next nine games and decide if you really are strong enough to go on ...
Q: Dejan, how long do you figure it will take before Jeff Andrews gets tossed under the bus?
I know it must be difficult to deal with the million-dollar arms and 10-cent heads, but the performance of the pitching staff up to now has been horrible, and somebody has to be held accountable.
Barry Kaiser of Tucson, Ariz.
KOVACEVIC: Somebody does have to be held accountable, and every pitching coach at every level is judged by the performance of his top starters. Spin Williams used to say that his fate would be tied to Oliver Perez, and he was right. Jim Tracy and Jim Colborn wanted no part of having their fates tied to Perez, so Perez was demoted with a clear branding that he simply would not accept proper instruction and, before long, he was traded.
There can be success stories such as Zach Duke and, for the most part, Phil Dumatrait, and the back end of the Pirates' bullpen. Paul Maholm is doing OK, too, except for the whole one-bad-inning bugaboo.
But Andrews will be tied to Snell and Gorzelanny, no question about it, fair or not. It will take a lot more time to evaluate than 11 weeks, but that will be the criteria. The only way it would not be the criteria, one would think, is if Andrews turns everyone else onto the staff into Cy Young candidates and clearly illustrates that Snell and Gorzelanny are the problem, not him.
That said, to take your initial question, Barry, no, Andrews is not going to get thrown under the bus, particularly if you mean by his pitchers. There is no chance of that, from what I know. They are fiercely loyal to him and, just as striking, they seem to feel just as down about the impact their performance is having on him as what it is having on the team and themselves. That was the kind of loyalty Spin Williams had drawn.
From there, I would rather take your question separately with each pitcher.
Gorzelanny is getting better. I know that my rather upbeat assessment of his outing Wednesday hardly gibes with his line in the box score, but he did things in that game that he had done in no other. I thought that going downstairs afterward, and what I heard in the clubhouse only reinforced it. Moreover, Gorzelanny also seems to have a very healthy attitude about what needs to be done, as well as a clear target on how to achieve it.
I just have no idea.
His attitude has been fine, too. He is keeping his cool, but he still has enough of that edge that you know one truly good performance might be just enough to restore the all-out angry, cocky version capable of double-digit strikeouts.
But much needs to be done on the pitching front, and that surely will begin with getting everyone on the same page: The Pirates sound confident that his arm is fine and that his mechanics are fine. Snell talks about not having much on his fastball and needing to learn how to pitch again. These are ideas that are 180 degrees divergent, obviously. And a large part of the pitching coach's job is to ensure that any such straying is short-lived.
A final point here: Snell and Gorzelanny each is coming off what qualifies as a breakout year. They made it. They put themselves in the position of rotation fixture and, in Snell's case, there even was long-term guaranteed money. No matter how impeccable an athlete's character, no matter how great their internal drive, history shows there tends to be a pause-and-exhale period upon arrival. And it might be that simple concept, above all else, that explains this whole thing.
(Oh, and the A-word sneaked in this one time because it seemed to applicable to something a bit more relevant than benching someone.)
Q: Hi, Dejan, any theories on our yearly struggles in interleague play? I know you've discussed this a bit before, but I'm wondering if we're mainly worse away in interleague where our pitchers don't hit and so we need another productive bat that we just normally don't have.
Chris Luccy of Greensburg
KOVACEVIC: I had a moment Wednesday night, just after watching some other random White Sock swing freely and hit a baseball very far, where that very issue crossed my mind. I started thinking of all kinds of variables, including the DH, the emphasis on relentless offense, the de-emphasis on defense, how the American League pitchers are more hardened by facing these lineups regularly, how much higher the payrolls are in the AL East ...
And I stopped and decided that the Pirates probably are just playing better teams. Maybe Baltimore. For sure, Chicago.
Let it serve as a reminder that there is a huge difference between being a game or two under .500 in the National League and competing with these monsters.
Q: Two items are constantly mentioned in chat sessions and in Q and A, by both yourself and us, the angry, pitchfork-carrying mob: One, the Pirates' starting pitching is terrible. Two, the Pirates have some players they could trade.
So, by that rationale, maybe we can assume that young pitching will be one of the priorities the Pirates will seek at the deadline. But, given the trends of baseball recently, aren't most teams likely to hang on to young, blue-chip arms? If I'm the GM of another team, nothing the Pirates are willing to give up impresses me, so much as to give up my own young talent, especially young starting pitching. Do you think this causes or even forces the Pirates to go the route of quantity of prospects over quality?
Nate Mattern of Bethel Park
KOVACEVIC: Well, you say that, Nate, and I remind that Detroit offered Jair Jurrjens for Jack Wilson just last July. And the Tigers were not blind to Jurrjens, either. Even at the time, I was hearing from the Detroit side that they really liked him and saw him as being ready for the majors very, very soon.
Now, you are correct that it is uncommon. If you look in a different direction, look at the tremendous price Cincinnati paid -- Josh Hamilton -- to land a superb pitching prospect in Edinson Volquez.
For the Pirates to get a Jurrjens or Volquez, as you also correctly point out, they probably will have to get very lucky given that what they have to offer is older and not as attractive as Hamilton. But one never knows. GMs, even good ones like Dave Dombrowski, can get a little irrational at deadline time because of pressure to address immediate needs. The Tigers needed a shortstop, and they wanted Wilson, so they made an offer that most in the industry considered exceedingly generous. (Never mind that it was rejected. Another debate for another day.)
As for quantity vs. quality, there will be some element to that. If they cannot get a team's very best prospect in a deal, they might take options B and C combined. But that, of course, depends on the player they are giving up.
Q: I'd say it's time to package Ian Snell, Chris Duffy and Nyjer Morgan (any whoever else you want) in a deal for a front-line starting hurler. Dealing Snell may sound harsh, but it's my opinion that, when I was a kid, teams quickly unloaded players whose performance soured.
John A. Quayle of Washington, Pa.
KOVACEVIC: I love it.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the king, the absolute dictator-for-life of no-soup submissions. In fact, this submission is so tragically soup-less that its sender should be required to cook soup for the rest of us for the next year!
Yes, these still come in.
And here is why they should not: Anytime a package deal crosses your mind, particularly one of those prototype take-all-the-players-I-don't-want-for-your-very-best-player examples like the one above, stop and turn the trade around 180 degrees.
Ask yourself how you would react if, say, the New York Mets called and offered three major league players they genuinely did not want (Aaron Heilman!) and asked for Nate McLouth. Then, picture yourself slamming the phone down on Omar Minaya. (But only after you give him the famously condescending "Omar, Omar," that Billy Beane delivered in "Moneyball.")
Thing No. 99 that makes Pittsburgh great, by Steve Maloney of Whitehall: The Andy Warhol Museum.
Few cities in the country -- or world, for that matter -- can offer a museum dedicated to one artist, in this case arguably the best-known artist of the past century. Even if you're not crazy about the seemingly repetitive nature of Warhol's prints, or if you're not wild about modern art in general, one has to be impressed by the physical space of the building itself. It was once the renowned Volkwein Music building, where my wife made regular sojourns for piano sheet music when she was a kid.
It draws art enthusiasts from all over the world, giving our city a certain international reputation for its art scene. And having another great gallery in the Mattress Factory nearby on the North Side helps that reputation, as does having shows like the upcoming Carnegie International.
Having attended a recent show there, I can vouch for the multitude of foreign languages being spoken by visitors there. And for those who moan that our city has little to offer its dynamic young population, the museum was chock full of visitors that night, mostly of the 20-30-year-old demographic. (It helps that the Museum is open till 10 p.m. on Fridays and serves alcohol.)
Finally, it has a great little gift shop, offering unusual items specifically relating to Warhol, as well as cool Pittsburgh-specific merchandise such as Pittsburgh skyline snow globes.
The Warhol is one of the first places I take out-of-town guests, and it never fails to impress. I hope it's not under-appreciated by long-time Pittsburgh residents.
KOVACEVIC: How do you write all that about the Warhol, Steve, and not mention the little cafe downstairs -- go to the steps just beyond the gift shop -- that has the L-shape, all-cowskin couch? There is no space quite like that anywhere.
Or the metallic balloons.
At any rate, your point about the museum's popularity with those visiting from out of town certainly was not overstated. Just a little while back, a visiting beat writer asked me about the museum's hours because he had heard about it and wanted to pay a visit. It is a question I get very often from those passing through. I recall, too, seeing advertisements for the Warhol's various traveling exhibits, one when the Pirates were in Seattle last year and another this spring in St. Petersburg as part of the Salvador Dali Museum there. (No small amount of irony in Warhol being exhibited simultaneously in the two oldest counties in America, those being our own and the other St. Pete.)
Anyway, judging from these figures, the place is not exactly lacking in appreciation.
I am taking off tonight, but I will be back for the rest of the Toronto series. The chat is Monday, Q&A the following day, as always.
Until then ...
First Published June 20, 2008 12:00 am