Pirates Q&A with Dejan Kovacevic
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Lots of Qs here today, and some time to kill on the sidewalk while the security guy at Shea waits to let me in, so ...
Q: Hey, Dejan, I really enjoy your work on this beat. An objective view of what appears to be wrong with the Buccos speaks at a higher volume than any rant.
You often speak about the Pirates' tendency to trade players at their lowest value. Given the opening in the infield, why don't the Pirates seize this opportunity to potentially showcase Jose Castillo? From his comments earlier in the season, I am sure he would love to show he is worth trading for, and the Pirates would be shopping a current starter, rather than a guy playing behind a career minor-leaguer.
Hank Watson of Arlington, Va.
KOVACEVIC: Be sure, Hank, that Castillo has not changed his mind. He wants to play, or he wants to play elsewhere.
I still have no answers for this, as the Pirates' insistence is that this is just a case of Matt Kata playing his way into the lineup, and that seems difficult to absorb based solely on the team's own stated description of its makeup and goals.
But yes, your point has merit: If nothing else, if Castillo were to take the field and go on a tear something akin to his May of last season, be very sure that -- especially this time of year, with scouts and assistant GMs fanning across the country to watch baseball -- someone would notice. And it all it would take is one team to say yes.
Q: Seriously, when is Jeff Manto going to be fired? Your article Tuesday about the offensive underperformance by virtually the entire team is damning. How can the PBC just stand pat?
Brad Bender of Philadelphia
KOVACEVIC: There never has been any indication that Manto's job is in jeopardy, Brad. Dave Littlefield made public his confidence in Manto -- the only member of Jim Tracy's staff who was a Littlefield internal hire as opposed to a Tracy choice -- back in May, and there has been no change in sentiment, to my knowledge.
Regarding coaches in general ...
I always say that nothing reflects better on a manager or coach than when a team or individual players perform above their previous norms. This is why you see so often, in all sports, that the manager or coach of the year is someone who led a dramatic turnaround rather than simply the most successful man.
Conversely, then, it must also be true that nothing reflects worse on a coach or manager than when a team or individual players perform far below their previous norms.
Does that make this season's offense Manto's fault? Of course not. But, if the Pirates' regulars were all hitting 40 points above career marks rather than below, we all would be singing his praises. It has to run both ways.
Q: I am 17 years old and do not recall the two words Pirates and winning in the same sentence. I follow them somewhat closely and attend a few games. After getting Adam LaRoche, many fans were excited, including me, but I knew that it wasn't enough to push the Pirates over the hump.
I attended one of the Rockies games recently and it seems the fans are growing restless and frustrated. Do you see their attitude changing over the course of the season?
Jason Loutsenhizer of Murrysville
KOVACEVIC: I get the sense that the attitude of the Pirates' fans will change when they start winning, Jason. (There, by the way, is the sentence you were seeking.) I further get the sense that the attitude of the Pirates' fans -- those who follow the team the closest -- will change when they change much about the way they do business from the top down. No question, there is great dissatisfaction with just about every aspect of the franchise.
And, as the following Q -- one that offers a rare show of confidence in the man at the top -- underscores, that has to begin with Bob Nutting's critical hire for the CEO vacancy.
Q: May I be the first to say that I think Bob Nutting is going to turn this ship around in the next two years? I like the man's character. I think he's finally stepped into the role of the managing partner. I think he'll get a solid CEO. I think he'll can Dave Littlefield. He might even can Jim Tracy for the sake of changing the scenery.
Either way, I do think he will make people accountable, and this team will start to play better. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
I think his opinion and take on this whole thing is that 2007 is his first year "in charge" of making the baseball team good. He may have had a say in dollars and cents in the past, but now he is holding himself accountable for a good product. He's using this year to evaluate the folks making decisions. He's starting to make chess moves. I think he may have played a role in helping Kevin McClatchy make a decision to leave.
You will start to see more accountabilty, and you will start to see results. I'm sure of that.
Matt Nee of Dearborn, Mich.
KOVACEVIC: The evidence that I have, Matt, backs your views on Nutting considering this to be his first year in charge. And I have written at length that he seems to be taking steps toward accountability, though most of them are out of the public -- and my -- view.
But, as I also have written, the proof comes in the action, not in the words.
If Nutting wants to talk about accountability in regard to Latin America, flying to the Dominican Republic and checking things out is a vital first step. But more important is the scope and quality of the facility and program that emerges from the study. And even more important than that is whether the Pirates will become a serious player for talent in the region. That takes money, the kind they have yet to spend there on signing bonuses.
Closer to home, if Nutting wants to talk accountability, he has to examine and evaluate -- openly and objectively -- all facets of the team's baseball and business operations. And the reason that I include business in the equation is that, even if ownership's primary motivation is profit, as so many charge, perhaps a new CEO could produce a business model that could illustrate to all concerned -- if such an illustration is necessary -- how a greater investment in the product can translate to greater attendance and greater profit.
The Pirates do get revenue-sharing money, and it does rise as the team's internal streams fall. But it is not dollar for dollar. Trust me: If the Pirates lose a dollar at the gate, they are not getting a dollar to replace it from Major League Baseball.
Thing no. 45 that makes Pittsburgh great: Our poor, lonely Block House.
While Point State Park undergoes its massive face lift, it remains open. Really. No, you cannot access it by the Hilton. Nor can you even get onto the Fort Duquesne Bridge bike ramp to go over. But it is open. What you have to do is go to the little parking lot over by the PG building, then follow the signs that lead to the Fort Pitt Museum, which also is open, by the way.
Once you get to the Block House, you almost surely will have the place all to yourself, except for the lady who now is the caretaker of our city's oldest structure.
Some people have Mecca.
Others have the Pyramids or Stonehenge.
We have an old munitions depot the size of your kitchen that once was deemed so unimportant that a warehouse was built over it.
Still, it is our shrine and, solely because of that, I always have treated it as such. The family and I are regular visitors, always getting the full tour (which takes about 30 seconds), and always take care to explain its significance within the scope of Pittsburgh's enormously underappreciated role of opening the West to American expansion and, in a more critical way, of making sure that no one ever had to find a French derivative of yunz.
Anyway ... when you go, ask the lady about the trees outside the building, and see if she brings up how these trees allegedly have genders. I know nothing about trees, but I never have heard of plant life coming in he and she forms, so this was all new to me. She tried to explain it to me, and it zipped right by me like a Buddy Carlyle fastball. Maybe you will get a clearer version.
Until tomorrow ...
First Published July 24, 2007 7:14 pm