Pirates Q&A with Dejan Kovacevic
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As was mentioned a week ago, this sole Q&A for this All-Star week will be a special one, if only because it will be the last in this format.
The Q&A will be contained within the new PBC Blog, and what that will mean is this:
1. It will be updated more frequently.
2. It will not be limited to Tuesday-Thursday anymore. It can run whenever a Q&A situation comes up, though that does not mean it will be everyday.
3. More game-specific situations get addressed. Since about 75 percent of all the mail I get is moaning about manager's decisions or events related to the game that night, this might keep things more timely.
4. As there are comment sections for all aspects of the blog, so will there be one for the Q&A portion. More chances for you to voice your feelings, share your stories, whatever to subjects raised in the Q&A.
5. Each Q&A portion will be labeled with a tag that says Pirates Q&A at the bottom. One click on that tag, and every Q&A portion magically shows up, in effect turning the entire blog into a bottomless Q&A. (I really like that part of this.)
Also, the Pittsburgh stuff will be there, too, as its own entity. As with the Q&A, it will have its own tag so that all the Pittsburgh stuff shows up with a click.
The process for submitting Qs will be no different. There will be the same link included in each Q&A portion, taking you to the same form, still requiring all the usual full name and current city of residence.
Anyway, if you have not already found it, go do so right now, then come back. And bookmark it while you are there ...
Q: Dejan, given that the Pirates seem more interested in trading Xavier Nady than Jason Bay, I am wondering whether you sense a willingness on the part of management to pursue a long-term deal with Bay in the offseason? If so, what kind of numbers would it take to get it done?
Ted Schroeder of Point Breeze, Pittsburgh
KOVACEVIC: Yes, Ted, I get the sense that the Pirates would be willing to broach such a deal. And, as I have mentioned a few times before, that is a change of heart.
Before I get to your other point, allow me to sidetrack: I find it interesting and maybe a little telling that management is open to shifting its thinking as situations dictate. That probably is not a bad thing.
If you look at it just from the Bay standpoint, neither they -- nor potential trade suitors -- really knew what they had in the guy as recently as this offseason. Was he washed up? Why so many awful swings? Was he having vision problems? Did he not care anymore? (Sounds like a recitation of a lot of Q&As from last year, actually.) But now that they have rather solid evidence that Bay's trouble was mostly his knees and, possibly, that he needed to click with a hitting coach as he very clearly has with Don Long, the Pirates now can step back and ask themselves to reassess whether or not Bay is more valuable to them in the current roster or as a trade piece.
Moreover, they can take an objective, first-hand look at Steve Pearce and ask themselves, if they traded both Nady and Bay, would Andrew McCutchen and Pearce be enough to make up for that loss? The very last thing the Pirates want to do is trade outfielders to get other outfielders. They want pitchers.
Anyway, to your other point: Because Bay's salary for next year -- $7.5 million -- would have represented his final year of arbitration, the market for 2010 and beyond will be set by his free-agent value, and that might take it up to the $12 million annual range.
Before you gasp at that, bear in mind that neither of Bay's fellow outfielders would be making much at all. Nate McLouth will get a decent raise through arbitration next year but nothing exorbitant because this is his first year of performing at this high level. And McCutchen will get major league minimum, roughly $400,000, his first three years in Pittsburgh. A total of $14-15 million for a major league outfield is not exorbitant spending.
Q: Dejan: From your recent reporting, you indicate that you expect Nady and Damaso Marte to be traded by the deadline, but not Bay. The Pirates have not garnered much from past deals for relievers at the deadline? Do they really think they can top the two No. 1 draft picks compensation alternative by dealing him now?
And, why not deal Bay now that his value is near an all-time high?
Looks like the new regime is already falling back into the failed McClatchy/Littefield mold of being afraid to make high upside deals for prospects for fear of further alienating the fan base and clubhouse.
Richard Ray of Hightstown, N.J.
KOVACEVIC: Very rare is the Q&A issue that divides the readership almost right down the middle, as this one does.
I offer for your consideration ...
Q: After watching Jason Michaels' game winning homer, all I can say is GO GET A PITCHER!
The PBC may not win the division but the team and the fans need to see management make an effort to improve the pitching situation and make the second half interesting. The players deserve it.
David T. Bollman of Economy
KOVACEVIC: One more supporter on your side, David, before I jump in ...
Q: Dejan, let me throw some numbers at you: Slugging Percentage No. 6, batting average No. 5, RBIs No. 4, total bases No. 6, runs scored No. 5. These are the PBC's current rankings in the National League in offense.
We rank dead last in every meaningful pitching stat, so I won't bother to bore you with those.
Call me crazy, and its OK if you do. But, based on the offense and better defense recently, shouldn't the PBC be in contention right now if upper Management was making some kind of move in the past 45 days to get a solid starting pitcher or any pitcher who can last more than four innings and keep his ERA below 6.00 and try to win now or at least make a run for it, something that hasn't happened in 15 years?
Joel Weiss of Rockville, Md.
KOVACEVIC: No need to call you crazy, Joel. There is much praise for what new management has done this year, tangibly and intangibly, to improve the Pirates, but let there be no question that they should at least share -- along with previous management -- blame for the disastrous pitching we have seen this year.
A reasonable forecast for Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny would have been that they might take a step backward, given several firm areas of predictability. From there, the staff was going to lean on Paul Maholm, a highly uncertain Zach Duke and what was left of Matt Morris. One easily could have expected that this called for greater reinforcements than the various Ty Taubenheims who were acquired for Indianapolis. Moreover, one easily could have expected that this should have been the last team in the majors to go into spring training with five virtual locks for the rotation.
Being fair, if people are going to praise Neal Huntington for the bench and for Tyler Yates and other moves, the pitching has to fall under the same umbrella.
Same with the coaching. If we are going to praise Long, the common denominator with the pitching is Jeff Andrews, who, although there have been some bright spots, particularly the mechanical adjustment for Maholm last month, has not achieved to the level that upper management hoped.
Anyway, as to the general topic of now vs. the future, I wrote about that plenty in the general coverage yesterday. But I will add this here: I get a lot of feedback from readers about getting "one pitcher" or "one horse." To which I respond: If the Pirates added CC Sabathia to this rotation, you then would have Maholm, Sabathia and three question marks.
Thing No. 100 that makes Pittsburgh great: (And who will not appreciate such accidental symmetry with this final old-fashioned Q&A?) The 2100 block of the Strip District.
The most frequent requests to this forum, though almost always unpublished, have not been related to baseball but to the Pittsburgh feature, and it usually has gone like this: Me and my so-and-so are coming to the city for such-and-such time for only a day or two. What is the one thing someone there would recommend other than the usual Incline, Point State Park, riverfront fare?
So, consider this the answer ...
Drive or walk into the Strip, anywhere between the 2000 and 2100 blocks between Smallman and Liberty, and just get lost. Go anywhere. Left, right, up, down, into alleys, over the main drags, even in places where you think there could not possibly be any interesting. You will find no fewer than four of the region's five best coffee places. That includes La Prima, the very best I have found anywhere in the country, and that means the main store on 21st Street as well as the open-to-the-public warehouse where they roast the beans right in front of you. (Best smell on the planet, even when you live a mile up river and it makes its way to your front porch each day around 4:30 when the bulk of the roasting is done.) There are enough Italians in the place, speaking the native language and complaining about soccer, that the ATM across the corner offers Italian as one of its language options. And there are other coffee places, too, including one that claims to have the widest selection of exotic -- and expensive -- coffees anywhere in the city on the corner of 21st and Smallman. It is called 21st Street Cafe, and it recently claimed to sell a pound of "the very best coffee in the world" for $50. Yes, someone bought it. (Not me.)
One also can find the best, freshest foods at Pennsylvania Macaroni and other adjacent markets, one of the neatest restaurants anywhere in Kaya, the alley-bound Enrico Biscotti, the used-book depository Bradley's right across the street, the homemade soups at the mini-grocery Alex's International, and ... honestly, I could list pretty much everything within a stone's throw.
Nothing I write here will do it justice. Check the site, set aside some time and go for yourself. It is quintessential, indispensable Pittsburgh, and I miss it more than any other place when away from home ...
First Published July 18, 2008 12:00 am