Pirates Q&A with Dejan Kovacevic
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Less talk, more Qs as I pack up for Nashville's airport, which has the curious coding BNA. Anyone know what that represents? I know NAS is taken by Nassau in the Bahamas, but what could that B mean?
Anyway, back to PIT as soon as I am done typing here . . . .
Q: Hey, DK, just when you thought the Pirates might be willing to take one of those low-cost risks by taking Indians outfield prospect Brian Barton in the Rule 5 draft, they do it again. Does this organization have some kind of obsession with relief pitchers? They drafted them in the last two amateur drafts and twice in the Rule 5 draft, first with Victor Santos and now with Evan Meek. No matter who is in charge, they always seem to go the safe route.
Don't you think it is essential for small-market teams to take a low-cost risk once in a while to succeed?
Jeff Michalski of Mount Washington
KOVACEVIC: Market size has little to do with it, Jeff, and no term in baseball is more incorrectly cited than that one. But I hesitate to get started on that subject, so here are a couple responses . . . .
1. Lumping current management in with the old, as so many readers are doing in the email I get, is patently -- and obviously -- unfair. Even if they make the same mistakes, throwing them all into one pool is illogical.
2. Might the Pirates have taken the safe route with the reliever? Certainly, a lot of readers, including yourself, thought so. But Meek hardly fits into the Santos category. He is young, throws bullets and has a history of control issues. Not exactly safe.
As for Castillo . . . . I was really surprised by the lack of mail about him. Maybe one or two. I understand it was not exactly a revelation that the Pirates cut him, but it was still news of the franchise giving up on a player that many in baseball see as having a legitimate chance to do very well in the majors.
At any rate, I might take the opportunity here to acknowledge that, for whatever negative impressions are conveyed of Castillo -- many of them, unfortunately, accurate -- that my own experience is that he is a good kid who really needs to be in an environment of accountability as well as responsibility. To say that he handled being on the bench poorly is an understatement. But it also says something about his character, I think, that he never accepted the idea that he should not be playing every day.
Q: Dejan, can you explain to me why the Bay-to-Cleveland deal fell apart?
I don't understand why the Pirates would let Cliff Lee's involvement stop this deal. I think Kelly Shoppach would have been an upgrade over Ronny Paulino. With a full season worth of at-bats, his production, along with Franklin Gutierrez's, would have made up for Bay. And it would have been a defensive upgrade at both positions. The Pirates would have control over Gutierrez until 2012.
And, with so few starting pitchers on the market, it seems that the Bucs could have traded Lee if they didn't like his salary, which seems like better value than Matt Morris's.
Matt Lobb of Philipsburg, Pa.
KOVACEVIC: No one has given a definitive answer on this, obviously, but an official with a third-party team shared what I thought was an excellent -- and educated -- bit of speculation: The Indians likely wanted Pittsburgh to take on Lee's $10.5 million contract, largely to offset most of what they would have to pay Bay. The Pirates preferred, for various reasons, to have a prospect so that the deal could have some upside and, undoubtedly in such a scenario, to save money.
I repeat: That was speculation.
As for why the Pirates and Indians each seemed to react rather brusquely to mentions of the Bay talks Wednesday: As a longtime baseball insider told me yesterday morning, when things fall apart that swiftly and that hard, it almost always means that one of the two teams thought they had a deal done and the other decided at the last moment it wanted more. In this case, the insider said, he was guessing that Pittsburgh changed course, judging by the Indians' rather strange denial that any talks went on at all.
I will go a step further, this on my own: If the Indians confirm they had talks with the Pirates, then they also are acknowledging publicly the five players who were involved. Well, Cleveland is expending no small effort this offseason to move Lee's salary even as their officials are putting out word that he somehow will be hard to get. If Lee's inclusion was the point of contention here, that makes him look like a throw-in, which de-values him in other talks.
Q: Dejan, first off, welcome back and love the show. Or Q&A. Well, you know what I mean.
Second, it is my contention that Bob Nutting is making a mockery of Major League Baseball by taking advantage of a publicly funded ballpark and MLB revenue-sharing streams while at the same time not even attempting to field a competitive team season after season after season. To me, it violates the very foundation of what professional sports are about.
My question is: After hanging around the Winter Meetings scene for a week, do you ever get the sense that MLB or peer owners, executives, etc., are getting fed up with Bob and his game enough that we could possibly ever see him pressured to give winning a legitimate shot or be asked to sell the club to someone who will try?
Kirk Doel of Clinton, Pa.
KOVACEVIC: The Pirates really do not get discussed at these things, Kirk. Not any aspect of them.
If anything, the ownership that is the focus of most of the kind of ire you describe is Florida's, particularly after making two super-high-profile salary dumps here.
The Pirates surely are lucky that the Marlins and Tampa Bay have lower payrolls, or they surely would have more of a national spotlight shed on their spending, especially with what we are seeing happen in Kansas City, Milwaukee and now Cincinnati.
Yeah, market matters.
Thing No. 63 that makes Pittsburgh great: This item, unfortunately, needs to be placed in the past tense, as Candy-Rama closed its final Downtown store Nov. 14.
And that development most definitely is not great, so please pardon me in advance from straying from the general theme of these things.
I took the kids to Candy-Rama -- and went there myself as a child -- more times than I could count, and those trips were highlighted each year by the annual pre-Halloween splurge where they picked out the candy that would be distributed from the house. And, of course, the setup within the store made this the ideal place, with the children being able to reach up into those rickety white bins and ram as much sweetness as possible into the plastic carriers.
These are the places that make us what we are.
This year, when the children and I went to check out, the store manager at the register told me about the imminent closing. I was in disbelief, largely because I knew it was the last operation, but even more so because the new skyscraper going up across the street surely would lead to a boom in business.
Turns out that was the problem. As the manager and, later, the store owner explained, their comfortable little niche in that corner of Fifth and McMasters, with the $600 rent and quiet but steady clientele, is on the verge of giving way to things that are much bigger and about five or six times more expensive when it comes to rent.
I wrestled with this one for a while, especially because of having the extra brain space freed up by the lack of baseball in my life. And there were no easy answers. Few would dispute that the new buildings, residents and, in the case of the new skyscraper, the sustaining of local businesses is vital to the city.
But at what cost?
Local historic preservationists regularly thrust themselves in front of wrecking balls to save abandoned buildings. But, when a real, breathing civic institution was on life support, not a peep was heard.
That business took up a space roughly the size of your kitchen, and no one in any public or private entity stepped forward.
I have never met Morgan Kelly of Squirrel Hill, who penned this letter to the editor for our paper Nov. 20, but it merits a fresh link here. Scroll down to the second one.
Until Tuesday . . . .
First Published December 7, 2007 12:00 am