Pirates Q&A with Dejan Kovacevic
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It has a quaint, fairly quiet downtown area, with nothing particularly distinctive about the skyline or anything like that. But it has this wonderful, world-class area down by this small river that snakes through the middle. Lofts and apartments line the water's edge -- no natural shoreline, either, just concrete against water like Venice -- and a long riverwalk and restaurants flank either side. Very interesting. I try to find someplace new each time I come and am rarely disappointed.
The ballpark? It is similar in too many ways to Phoenix's enormous, faceless airplane hangar, though it has somewhat more personality. But when ranking the indoor places, there is Houston and there is everything else.
And oh, man, is this place way, way too big. Not sure what kind of hopes they had for the Brewers when they built the place, but the upper tier of seats might be the highest of any type of performance facility anywhere in the world ...
Q: What would appear to be the difference in Gorzo and Paulino from March to April? Both have flipped their spring trainings, one for the better, the other not so much.
Bob LoCicero of Frederick, Md.
KOVACEVIC: First, Bob, not sure I agree that Ronny Paulino is still in the flip mode. He has been looking much better at the plate lately and, in the Tuesday game at St. Louis, looked like his spring-training self for the first time in seriously driving the ball.
Each case is different.
With Gorzelanny, he was spraying the ball early in spring, then might have started to feel the pressure when Shane Youman and Sean Burnett were outpitching him. Coincidence or not, he seemed to settle down -- his pitching, too -- once Jim Tracy came right out and said Gorzelanny was going to be part of the rotation. From there, Gorzelanny started well against a Houston team that might not have hit stride at that point, then did an outstanding job twice against the Cardinals.
While on the subject, Tracy took an awful lot of criticism for making that choice, some of it accusing the Pirates of willfully taking something other than their best team north. Some of that criticism was aired by readers in this forum, and I want to make clear that the only reason I have not published anything here that praises management's move is that I have received not one such submission.
Sorry if that sounds preachy. Not my intent. Rather, I try to be fair when expressing viewpoints, and it seems that this matter was too skewed in one direction.
As for Paulino, the response to the next question might answer it best ...
Q: I know the dangers of reading too much into a small sample, but I notice that, before the game against Milwaukee, five of the Pirates' six wins came when the temperature was above 65 degrees, while it was below 45 degrees in all six losses.
If there's anything to this, it has to be considered a good sign since it's only going to get warmer from here on out.
Did many of the players comment on the cold affecting their performance?
Anthony Resnick of Butler
KOVACEVIC: They did, Anthony, though they invariably are reluctant to make much issue of it because it sounds like -- and, to some extent, is -- excuse-making. The hitters, in particular, seemed really troubled by the cold temperatures and so much more comfortable in the warmth. The individual numbers, including Paulino's in the early going this season, will support that pitching always has the upper hand over hitting in the cold.
At the same time, ask yourself, too, if the Pirates' fine pitching in the early going might not have been assisted by the weather.
Q: Unlike the past few years, it appears this team can play on the road. Any chance we can get the schedule maker to make the Bucs the road team at PNC?
Tim Tolley of Columbus, Ohio
KOVACEVIC: I believe those guys are too busy planning world domination to engage in your frivolity, Tim.
Q: After hearing the announcement of the Pirates retiring Paul Waner's No. 11, a friend and I were discussing the other numbers retired by the club. Could you provide any further background/justification into the retirement of Billy Meyer's No. 1? Not to discredit his five-year tenure as manager but, with a record of 317-452, aren't there other Pirates managers who would also seem like logical choices?
Jonathan Longwill of Indiana, Pa.
KOVACEVIC: Meyer really should be Exhibit A as to why franchises, especially those with a century-plus of tradition, should be careful with retiring numbers and the like.
The historical accounts are that he was very much a respected figure in his day and a very good manager, despite having worked in some of the ugliest seasons in the Pirates' lore. (No, not the past two.) His tenure included the awful 1952 team that lost 112 games, after which he was replaced, but he also oversaw a couple of impressive turnarounds.
Another factor: Meyer was quite ill for much of his time as Pittsburgh's manager, and he had a stroke in 1955. Two years later, he died at age 65.
The Pirates were the first baseball team outside New York to retire numbers, and Meyer's was the first, in 1954. Honus Wagner was next, two years later, so the sympathy factor seems to loom an awful lot larger than performance.
And once it happens, what can a team do? Should the Pirates un-retire it? It would seem to serve little purpose and have little impact, other than to offend the descendants of the man.
Thing No. 31 that makes Pittsburgh great: If you have young kids or simply remain at young at heart and want to visit the toy store of your dreams, steer clear of the suburban carbon cutouts and check out S.W. Randall on Smithfield Street, Downtown.
It is right across from the old Gimbels building -- do we ever refer to anything by its current name? -- and housed in an old Victorian tall-skinny building with a doll-house facade. Hard to miss. If that does not suffice, look for the excellent year-round toy-train display in the window.
Inside, it is almost all wooden toys, model miniatures and lots and lots of Thomas fare on the main floor, puzzles and a comprehensive train department on the second, and a doll department on the third that is not to be believed. Even if you are not a 7-year-old girl, it will blow your mind. All handmade, all magnificent.
Best of all is the people who work there, year after year. Unlike the high school kids manning the registers in the suburbs, these are expert adults who are real enough people that they will have no problem telling your kids -- sternly -- to be careful with their stuff.
It is a true Downtown treasure, but one I very rarely hear mentioned by anyone.
Until tomorrow ...
First Published April 18, 2007 6:15 pm